Case Study: Chiconomise

“I always wanted to be my own boss”

Michelle Dewberry - Co-founder, Chiconomise

Michelle Dewberry - Co-founder, Chiconomise

It started with a bright idea

When I was on The Apprentice, Alan Sugar asked me what I would be doing in five years’ time, and I said: ‘I won’t be here working for you – I’m coming here to learn from you and then I’ll go off and do it myself.’ That was the deal – I would work for him, learn and then move on.

Chiconomise came from an idea I had while visiting the US – I got an email suggesting nice things to do while I was there. However due to the recession, I felt that the things this email was suggesting – like spas or expensive restaurants – were a bit too pricey for the average person. That got me thinking: wouldn’t it be nice to have a similar email with equally nice things to do, but all on offer at a price that people can easily afford? It was something that didn’t exist at the time, so I created it.

I took the plunge

I was nervous about setting up the business. I had been working as a consultant, earning a six-figure salary and enjoying a good life, so it was difficult to walk away from that and take the risk of starting my own business. Thankfully I have a business partner, who I can talk things through with, which really helps when you have tough days and are wondering, ‘Will this work?’ and ‘What are we doing?’

Thankfully we got through it and the business is doing well and expanding all the time. We want to become the central aggregator [a web site that pulls together deals from multiple online sources] for girls. We simply want to provide people with a great service that saves them time and money. We also have an email service, called The Daily Chic, which collates the best of all the deals already on the marketplace and sends them out to girls around the country. The idea behind it is that if you’re a busy woman and don’t have time to spend hours trawling the internet for deals, we’ll do the hard work for you and you can get the benefits.

Now I’ve got what I wanted

I love running Chiconomise, even if it is difficult at times. Our Relationship Manager at the Bank, Paul Jacobs, has been fantastic. We met with him right at the start and he’s made the whole process of setting up the business a lot easier – he’s really approachable and always on the end of the phone if we need him.

The best thing about owning your own business is the freedom it gives you. It sounds strange, because inevitably you end up working far harder than you ever would as an employee, but you enjoy it and want to do that work. However, my business partner has children, so if her son has a sports day, she has the freedom to take the afternoon off.

I know lots of people work for businesses that are struggling and their destiny is out of their hands. I like that my success or failure is down to me.

June 2011