Patrick van der Vorst quit a well-paid job as a director at Sotheby's to launch ValueMyStuff.com in 2009. In retrospect, the Belgian antiques expert found the switch from employee to entrepreneur something of a culture shock: "I was very lonely," he says. "But I had the bug. It's something I was itching to do."
The business model behind ValueMyStuff.com is simple, yet brilliant; you wonder why it hadn't been done before. Users upload pictures of items they believe to be valuable, an expert reviews the images and sends over an approximate valuation - all within 48 hours.
The site has processed over 60,000 valuations to date, and an international roll-out in the USA, Europe, even China, beckons.
Smarta's not the only one with faith in the brand. Van der Vorst entered the Dragons' Den last year and came away with £100,000. Dragon investors Theo Paphitis and Deborah Meaden are both very hands on with the business. "They are a great sounding board," says van der Vorst. "I have so many ideas - they help keep me calm."
But it hasn't always been smooth sailing for van der Vorst. The first iteration of the website saw the fledgling entrepreneur undervalue the bespoke service: it cost just over £3 to submit a valuation query. But the mistake was soon rectified and, with valuations coming in at £5 a pop, mark up now stands at over 100%.
In this video, Patrick van der Vorst talks us through his Dragons' Den experience: the motivation behind applying for the show and the resultant Dragons' Den effect that saw sales pentuple -albeit for two weeks only. He also reveals the secret of a good Google ranking. Clue: he spends an hour a day on PPC, even now his business is two years old.
He also reveals some of the more interesting finds through the site. A 1920's unused golf ball was valued at £5,000 by van der Vorst's expert panel, while an unknown Monet chalked up a whopping £1.5m valuation. That such an item was submitted to the site shows the trust invested in the service. "People used to be surprised by the accuracy of the valuations. Now they expect it."
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