Brothers Tim and Bill Verwey from Devon set up a comparison site for marquees three years ago. Here, SME Magazine catches up with Bill – he’s the one with the guitar – to find out how the company is going
Why and when did you decide to set up MarqueeBookings.co.uk ?
In 2015 our sister was planning her marquee wedding and these were her main challenges
- It’s impossible to get answers to these questions online….
- how much does a marquee cost?
- how big does it need to be?
- what will it look like?
- and will fit in my garden?
I thought… wait a minute! You can book hotels online, order your dinner through an app and compare car insurance prices so why can’t you do the same thing with marquee hire. Hey presto! There is your light bulb moment (Oh! And I also put up marquees for five years as a student).
How has it been going so far? How did you get funding?
The first 18 months were hard. There was no roadmap as we were the first to take marquee hire online. Because we were the first, it meant we had to convince marquee hire companies that we could do what we were promising “offer them an online platform that secures them bookings, i.e. cash in their bank account and not just leads”.
Well, I am happy to say we have achieved this goal and now boast over 180 marquee companies on our books and that number keeps on growing. The funding was acquired on a fortunate set of events, would you have guessed it… rock climbing! A chance meeting while suspended mid-air led to a follow up meeting, which led to a pitch, then finally negotiations and funding.
What have been the major challenges?
For me, the main challenge has been always having to prove you can get the business off the ground. A lot of people, including yourself at times, don’t believe you can do it. That self-doubt can be a killer!
What are your business backgrounds? What did you do before setting up MarqueeBookings.co.uk ?
Before starting the business I worked for a German Electronics Manufacturer, but I had put up marquees for years as a student. Tim was fortunate enough to be living in the Canadian Mountains for two years prior.
What is it like working with your brother Tim?
Great! After 27 years we really know how to argue! Fortunately, we have been doing this since childhood so there is no bad blood after fights. In fact, really it boils down to passion, we both love what we do and have both always wanted to start a business.
Where do you hope the firm will be in, say, five years’ time?
Hopefully in the South West of France (a marquee hotspot)! We are product/solution people, we just want to make a platform that helps marquee companies grow their business. For our customers we want them to have an easier, more enjoyable booking experience. As long as we grow sufficiently to fund improvements to the product I will be happy.