Weekend entrepreneur juggles day job and burgeoning ecommerce business

A project manager by day, Tony Short, has found success with his supply of niche planning tools to the digital design industry

Tony Short
Tony Short

Going home to get down to business is not most people’s idea of fun, but for one North East entrepreneur it is starting to pay dividends.

Part-time entrepreneur Tony Short is a project manager for Durham-based digital and creative firm Leighton, but also runs Studio Alt from his Gateshead home, on evenings and weekends.

Under the Studio Alt banner, Tony supplies tactile non-digital agile planning tools for designers, including planning poker cards, sprint planners, post-it notes and sharpie pens.

With an interest in agile planning through his day-job, Tony realised a latent demand for these products which were largely unavailable from UK stockists, and launched his business in late 2013.

Talking to The Journal recently he explained: “I was playing about with Google analytics and was actually able to gauge demand before I had even bought any products by looking at search terms people were using.

“It quickly became apparent that digital designers were looking for physical aids to help them. There were about 150 people a month looking for agile planning cards. So, I bought a small batch of products from a manufacturer in the US, and was really pleased to see them sell out by New Year.”

Using his knowledge of Google Adwords to place Studio Alt in front of relevant searchers, and drive traffic to his website.

Tony has now spent eight months using the same technique to gauge demand before buying small quantities of product.

He has recently branched into selling moleskin notebooks and sunglasses manufactured in France. The business has accelerated to make 180 sales per month.

Studio Alt has become the only authorised seller of the agile planning cards in the UK, and Tony says the use of Amazon’s fulfilment services has helped to automate the process into a business which largely runs itself.

He added: “Now I buy the stock and it is routed to Amazon’s UK fulfilment centre. They take care of packaging, labelling and postage, as well as queries and returns, which means I don’t have to find room for stock in my house.

“In the early days I was making trips to the post office every other day, and this has really allowed me to scale up the business.”

The service eats some 25% of Tony’s profits, but has enabled him to increase volumes significantly without the need for warehousing.

Studio Alt is now selling in 26 of the 28 EU countries, including encouraging sales in Germany, Spain, and Italy.

Now, Tony says his ambition is to grow the business organically and offer other North East entrepreneurs sessions on his experience.


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