Taking our Q&A this week is Andrew Banks, CEO of Venture Forge.
Why did you start your business in the first place?
E-commerce had been my passion for a number of years and I’d spent my entire career working in that field – mainly with entrepreneurial, small to medium sized businesses. In 2015 I was part of the founding team of a business that was ultimately sold to Matalan. That was a great journey the ultimately led to me running Matalan’s overall e-commerce business – but I all of a sudden found myself bored and stuck in a corporate role, so far away from what I really loved about e-commerce. So I decided to start Venture Forge, an e-commerce agency that blends startup to corporate experience and makes that available to other e-commerce businesses looking for high-growth.
What is your business motto?
We exist to help others become exceptional at e-commerce.
What advice would you give to anyone starting their own business?
Have a vision, be focussed, be opportunistic but most importantly get on with it and enjoy it. I first went self-employed in 2006 and haven’t looked back. Many people see being in a full time job as ‘safe’. I see it as exactly the opposite – in a full time job, in a large business, you’re only ever as safe as your notice period and you never control your own destiny. Running your own business certainly isn’t risk free, but at least you are in control of where you’re going at all times.
What was the biggest challenge you faced starting your business?
Balancing family and business. It goes without saying that my family are my world, and with two young and amazing kids it’s so difficult getting the balance right between working on that pitch that could accelerate the business and secure all our futures, or simply playing ‘I spy’ with the kids and watching them smile.
What do you enjoy most about being self-employed?
The freedom it creates and being in control of your own destiny. It’s a refreshing, rewarding and inspiring feeling.
What do you enjoy least about being self-employed?
Always looking for what’s next. I think a key trait of a successful entrepreneur is always looking ahead and wanting to do more and be better. Balancing this with the need to switch off and recharge is so challenging and something I often get wrong.
Which business figure do you most admire and why?
My wife, Sarah Banks. Sarah took a bold step after having our first child Jack to quit the corporate world and build a business around improving the world of fertility treatment, based on our own experiences having Jack. In the last five years Sarah has flourished – retrained, launched a business, travelled the world with it and improved the experience for hundreds of people going through IVF. All whilst having our second child Millie, holding the family together and being my rock on the tough days.
What achievement in your career are you most proud of?
Growing Matalan’s e-commerce business by £21m in 12 months. After selling our business to them, I was asked to take on this area of their business and given a huge challenge – no pressure!
Where do you see your business going in the next five years?
We’ve only got one thing in mind, and that’s our mission of helping others build exceptional ecommerce businesses. We’re already working with some of the UKs largest brands, but we’re most excited about the brands we’re working with that no one has really heard of yet – it’s there where we will make the biggest difference.