In the next of our Van Hero series we enjoy a walk on the beaches of Devon with John MacKenzie, co-founder of LEEMAC Design.
Names: John MacKenzie and Russ Lee
Company: LEEMAC Design www.leemac-design.co.uk
Main Business: Sign Making and Sign Writing
Location: Ilfracombe, Devon
Small businesses contribute 50% of the UK GDP each year, so it's great news that go-getters like John MacKenzie and Russ Lee are willing to take the plunge and set up on their own, launching sign writing company LEEMAC Design. Leaving a salaried job and branching out alone is a risk for anyone, the initial start-up costs for a new business can be massive. Having started in January though, LEEMAC Design is now flourishing, so much so that John and Russ have decided to invest in another co-worker - namely a brand new Ford Transit Custom!
Eye-catching sign writing strikingly advertises their firm and a rear magnetic panel enables seasonal promotions. With such an effective mobile advertising hoarding the pair believes that the new van will not just get them from A to B, but will also bring in valuable new business for their start-up. We chatted to John MacKenzie to find out a little more about LEEMAC Design and how the new van will be helping the business grow:
We're just coming out of the precipice of a recession. A brave time to start a new business?
Not really. We rode the recessional wave while we were working for other people so now is the perfect time to launch by ourselves. Many of our customers are in the local area, which is really picking up economically; people are starting to spend again so building a new business now makes perfect sense.
So, you feel the economy is picking up then? It's not just a London bubble that is seeing recovery?
I can only really speak for the my local area but our customers, many of whom are in the tourist trades - pubs, boat hire companies and the like - are definitely noticing business boom. People seem to have the cash to spend on their holidays again. Things must be looking up!
Is your business mainly local?
We get a lot of our business via word of mouth in the local area, yes - but we are by no means limited to local work. We recently did a big job for a company in Southampton. Having the van means we can easily pick up work in the wider area.
What made you choose the Ford Transit Custom?
We are in the image business and need a vehicle that would look good and reflect well on our company. Buying something second-hand that had seen better days was never really an option. The Transit Custom is a great design and the professional sign-writing which we did ourselves for the van really helped make it look the part.
The sign writing looks fantastic. Do you think it's helping win business?
Without a doubt. Vehicle graphics have got to be one of the most cost effective advertising tools available! Apparently a vehicle wrap will be viewed between 30,000 - 70,000 times per day*. We are certainly noticing a lift in interest in LEEMAC since the van has been on the road.
Why did you choose to lease the van rather than buy one outright?
First impressions count in our business so we needed a new van. It's sensible to keep some capital in the business so we didn't want to spend all our cash on a new vehicle. What's more, by opting to lease we have fixed monthly payments which we can factor into our business plan, there is no Tax or MOT to worry about and there will be no nasty surprise repair bills, which you tend to get with second hand vehicles. Add to this the fact that the van is 100% VAT deductable and it made sound business sense really.
The future looks bright then?
Don't get me wrong....it's been hard graft getting this far. Running your own business is no picnic but the satisfaction of being your own boss and flexibility it brings far outweigh any negatives.
It's now time for the quick fire question round....tell us a bit about yourself
Favourite Radio Station? Radio 2 in the morning followed by Radio 6 music.....the DAB radio in the van is great....no more dropping out of reception at a vital moment!
Are you a lager or bitter man? Lager
Favourite meal? Pizza
If you won the lottery what would you spend the cash on? A really fast car to go out for a spin!
Who do you consider a role model? I admire people who work hard and do well for themselves. Someone like Richard Branson.
If you could have one superpower what would it be?
Talking to animals! I'm a dog lover and I would love to know what's going on inside their heads....
How do you spend your downtime?
Running your own business means downtime is a luxury - usually spent dog walking on the amazing beaches we have here.
*Based on research by 3M