Home businesses generate £284bn of the UK's GDP, making them the true heroes of our economy. So to continue Smarta and Viking's celebration of these brave entrepreneurs, we tracked down Maria Hayden and Stan McLeod, co-founders of Bandwagon Gigs.
Names: Maria Hayden and Stan McLeode
BandWagon is an online platform that allows bands and musicians to find and book gig opportunities across the UK - venues and promoters post opportunities to the site, and bands can search and apply. It's a little bit like a dating site for bands.
We both worked as promoters, and Maria was a music manager. It gave us a great overview of loads of different aspects of the live music industry at the grass roots level. Stan is also a qualified podiatrist, working part-time in the NHS in Lambeth and in a private practice, which, for the moment, helps bootstrap the company.
We were both frustrated by the lack of transparency and communication in live music. If you don't know the right people, or aren't in the right area, it can be very hard to get in touch with promoters or venues other than emailing or posting a demo. We wanted to create a platform that broke down that invisible barrier, and diminished the sense of certain venues being a closed shop.
We operate on the tried and tested "freemium" model - bands and promoters can sign up for free and use the site, but if they pay, they get more features such as appearing higher in search queues and more flexibility to customise their profiles to best represent them and their music.
We knew that building a fully-fledged site was a long - and expensive process, so our first iteration was to set up a Facebook page. We went through Facebook, clicking "like" on all the venues and promoters that we knew were well respected. When they posted a status looking for a band or artist, we would share the post to our page, and our growing community. We quite quickly became the go-to Facebook page for gig opportunities.
So far BandWagon has been bootstrapped using our own savings - our budget is better spent on development than desk space. We now know all the best coffee shops in South London for meetings!
We've got a fairly large desk in our front room, and sit at either end - with Charlie Feathers, our cockapoo puppy - curled up somewhere at our feet.
The work/home divide can become a bit blurred, which means taking downtime can be a challenge. We'll often work all day, have dinner, and then find ourselves checking the site's metrics, or sending work emails at half past ten at night.
We try to set hours from 9-6 but generally we work from 9-11 every night including Sundays. It's not so difficult though; we love what we do, and we know that our hard work helps some very talented and creative musicians get further in their careers.
Taking Charlie Feathers for a walk, a big bowl of cereal, picking our playlist for the day (which consists mainly of BandWagon artists) and responding to user emails.
You have to be rigid with your time - the business is the priority but we do set aside time to ensure that household chores are completed and everything is in order. One of the most destructive things for effective work is the flat being in a mess.
It's a bit of a cliché but we are genuinely far too busy to get distracted. There's always something next on the to-do list that requires attention, and as BandWagon is growing faster and faster, the scale of that list only increases.
Working at the intersection of the technology and music industries means a hugely social life. We are constantly talking to venue owners, promoters, musicians, or going to events.
Absolutely, each day throws up new challenges. We are always working on new features to improve our user experience, some of our best ideas have come at time when we are not working. We're never far from a laptop and can generally be found, iPhone in hand, jotting down new ideas or responding to emails on the go.
I think it is far more common in modern working life. Often friends with established roles in large organisations are encouraged to work from home on occasion. We all work at an incredible pace in the digital age and employers are starting to recognise that they need to be more flexible with working hours and locations.
We are now spending a lot of time traveling to meetings, many of which are in East London around the Old Street roundabout and Shoreditch, which, is the centre of both the technology and music scenes. As the business grows it seems like the obvious next step for us to have an office somewhere in that area - but we're in no rush.
Spending more time with our dog and occasionally working in our pyjamas.
Trying to stop work and have downtime.
It would be nice not to spend so much time travelling to meetings. If we could pick up our flat and move it to Old Street that would be excellent.
For more information about BandWagon Gigs, click here.
Home Business Heroes, in association