There is an ever-present need to keep costs as low as possible in business. However, optimising spending on the procurement of goods can be a challenge for businesses of all sizes.
Caerphilly entrepreneur Phillipe Mele set out to solve this problem for busy business owners, and in the process, his own business was born. My Procurement - a new, collaborative way for businesses to access better deals - uses a membership model to unlock the best deals for companies using the service.
My Procurement has been supported through Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme (AGP). The AGP provides targeted support for ambitious growing firms. The programme is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.
Here, Phillipe Mele explains his business model, his excitement for the future and how he was able to navigate through the pandemic and build a stronger business proposition as a result.
Tell us about My Procurement?
Well, I think our business is a really exciting one, it is something different which offers so much to small and medium-sized businesses out there. Of course, as the leader of this business, I might well be expected to say that, but being as objective as I can, I think it is all true!
We're based in Caerphilly, and here in south Wales, there's a cluster of innovative companies disrupting a range of sectors – whether that's in fintech or, like us, in a more service-based space. We're primarily an online procurement platform, and we save SMEs thousands of pounds by sourcing high-quality suppliers at pre-negotiated, lower-than-average costs.
We're growing steadily, and we plan to recruit more staff members in the next six months. We also plan to increase our offering to connect more suppliers to customers across various areas. We operate under a membership model, with customers paying a fee to access the strategic procurement service.
The business idea came to me when I was a buyer in the manufacturing industry. While I recognised that a consultancy business wasn't scalable, I knew there was a market for an easy-to-access strategic procurement platform.
Starting up was hard. Initially, we struggled to attract members and came to a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation. We needed members to attract suppliers but needed suppliers to make it worthwhile signing up.
We had to be dynamic and flexible in our approach to overcome this. So we focused on more medium-sized businesses, meaning orders were significant enough to attract better prices from more suppliers, which attracted more users to the platform.
With plans for expansion ahead, I think our prospects look bright. I'm proud that we've been able to pivot, react and be original in our approach to the many challenges we've faced so far!
What are your proudest moments in business so far?
I'm proud of overcoming the challenges posed by the pandemic – more of which later! But I think overcoming those challenges, working as a team, and growing as a business through those choppy waters, was proof that what we're building here is worthwhile. I am confident the company will be an even bigger success in the future. We're here to challenge, grow, and be a success story for Wales.
What challenges have you faced in business?
Covid posed enormous challenges for us as a business, like so many others out there. Many of our customers were from the aerospace industry, which was hampered by restrictions applied early in the pandemic.
Our three largest customers had to withdraw from the platform in this period, so it was a tough time, as you can imagine.
Many of our suppliers also placed staff on furlough, which disrupted the supply chain. To overcome this, we had to be reactive, proactive and innovative. So we refocussed the business and diversified the sectors we supported, changing our targeting to multiple industries, including manufacturing, horticulture, fabrications and utilities.
Since this tactical change, we've gone from strength to strength and increased our suppliers' roster and customer base. The crisis forced us to rethink things, take action and be assertive, and I think we have a more robust business model as a result.
If you were starting again, what would you do differently?
I'd have started up sooner – and worked on the project while doing my day job before launching. I think this would have been achievable and would have set me on this path a lot faster.
I think I'd also have diversified the client base sooner by looking for areas of potential growth. As I mentioned earlier, I had to rethink how to grow the business because of the nature of our USP. Settling into a niche can quite easily happen in the services sector.
How has support from Business Wales AGP helped your business?
We've had quite a few really helpful and supportive work packages through the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme.
It's allowed us to access specialised and bespoke support around specific business areas such as finance and IT support. In addition, we are accessing strategic advice on nurturing our growth as a business which has also been invaluable.
The advice and support we have received have been fantastic. I'd encourage any entrepreneur in Wales to seek out the support available, which can help your business grow and develop.
What advice and guidance would you give other businesses starting out?
● First, start as soon as possible – even if you have to work part-time while developing your concept.
● Identify how the value you can provide to others can be applied on a wider scale – this will enable you to be more resilient and give you access to a broader potential customer base.
To learn more about My Procurement, visit here.
The Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme is a pan-Wales programme part funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.