Meet Deepak Tailor, the entrepreneur who has gone against conventional business wisdom by making a success of free products. Tailor is the Founder and Managing Director of Latest Free Stuff, the UK’s leading freebie site. Over the last 3 years the company has experienced extremely fast growth and this year was featured on the BBC show, Dragons’ Den. Tailor is also the author of the number 1 best selling book ‘How To Live For Free’, has been voted as one of the Top 100 Start-ups in the UK and is the winner of The Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2015. Here’s everything you need to know about this very special Rebelhead Entrepreneur…
Getting to know Deepak
Why did you launch Latest Free Stuff?
To change the industry. Before Latest Free Stuff existed, the majority of sites listed terrible offers designed to capture your details and sell them on to different advertisers all over the world. I wanted to change that by bringing in valuable samples from top brands. Whilst I was at university I created 70 small affiliate websites just to make £10 or £15 as beer money for student nights out; I spent a lot of time in the library and actually managed to build an income of £1200 per month. The most successful of all 70 sites ended up being the UK’s biggest sim card comparison website; it ranked at the top of Google and we had partnerships with the likes of Vodafone and EE. All sites were set up on the same server which I had bought before university for just $15. After graduating I went travelling and as soon as I came back got started on Latest Free Stuff, putting words into action and executing my plan to change the freebie industry. We started with Nivea as our first top brand and now have deals with brands including Estee Lauder and Vita Coco.
“Whilst I was at university I created 70 small affiliate websites just to make £10 or £15 as beer money for student nights out; I spent a lot of time in the library and actually managed to build an income of £1200 per month.”
What has been the most significant experience in your career?
Starring on Dragons’ Den; it prompted the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey. It was the first time I ever really understood how entrepreneurs work and how they are developed. A TV researcher from the show actually approached me, which is quite odd given they get around 50,000 organic applicants per year. They dropped me an email out of the blue in January 2014 and by April had asked me to to pitch. I was on cloud 9. I did go into panic mode at some points, but I didn’t want to be the person sweating with fear on national TV, so I did an incredible amount of preparation. After receiving a few offers from the ‘dragons’, I accepted an offer of £50,000 from Deborah Meaden in return for 10% equity.
How have you funded the business?
Before going on Dragons’ Den, it was completely self-funded without any investment. I bootstrapped at the beginning, despite not knowing what this meant since I didn’t live in tech city! I thought the only way to create a site was to do it yourself; I didn’t realise people would invest in something like this before you’ve even launched. I set aside £500 in my bank account to build a wordpress site. I didn’t have a background in coding or web development so the £500 was paid to the person who finalised the bits of the website I couldn’t do. That person built the site to the point where I could manage it from then on. I only went back to the developer after that if I needed someone to install new features or software. As it stands today, the site is fundamentally the same as it was when it first launched.
What’s the scariest decision you’ve made to date?
Employing my first member of staff. Before employing someone, there is very little risk in the business. If I screwed up I could blame myself and I always had the option of closing down the company or website; not much else could go wrong. Making my first hire made me anxious about rocketing costs since I was suddenly responsible for another person. I had no idea how the technical aspects worked in terms of ensuring all legalities were met. Although at the time it seemed like the scariest thing in the world, I can now say it was the best decision I’ve ever made. My first employee looked after all content so I could focus on the parts I had greater strengths in, which was the business side. I hired him almost a year and a half into the business when we were getting an increasing amount of traffic to the site. We were able to pay good wages and I figured out a system whereby even if the site crashed, I could still pay him for the next 6 months. He has now grown to become a Business Development Manager and I don’t know what I’d do without him.
“Although at the time it seemed like the scariest thing in the world, I can now say it was the best decision I’ve ever made.”
How do you deal with setbacks?
You have to embrace every challenge you face; there’s no other way to deal with it. If you make mistakes, figure out how to ensure they never happen again. Put systems in place so you always have a backup. One of my own setbacks has been that I’m one of the worst public speakers in the world. I returned to school to speak about my experience on Dragons’ Den and my old business teacher was there, who always told me “you’re the quietest student in the whole school”. It was true, I am still the quietest person in a meeting room today; I’ll be sat at the back of the room just thinking and making notes. However, I overcame this shyness by stepping outside my comfort zone when I featured on Dragon’s Den; I instigated a complete shift in my personality because I put myself in a scenario where I had no other option but to do so.
“You have to embrace every challenge you face; there’s no other way to deal with it. If you make mistakes, figure out how to ensure they never happen again. Put systems in place so you always have a backup.”
How does a freebie site make money?
We get approached by agencies and brands to run different campaigns. The last one we ran was with Flora who were giving away 20,000 free cholesterol guides with a coupon. They were offering to pay £1.20 per product so we featured the freebie at the top of the website. As soon as someone clicked on it, they were taken directly to the Flora website where they provided their details in exchange for the freebie. As you can imagine, by the time we got through 20,000 guides at £1.20 each we started to make good money. Internet companies are very cheap to run. The only real costs we have include staff and advertising. We’re making £350,000 in revenue per year and the net profit of the company is around £200,000.
How did you go about writing the book which became a no.1 bestseller?
I started with outsourcing the content. This meant I was only putting 1 or 2 hours in per week. It took 6 months from start to finish to produce. It was essentially a marketing initiative for Latest Free Stuff. I took advice from Daniel Priestly who expresses a need for entrepreneurs to be recognised as key influencers within their industry. I knew that publishing the book would take my company to the next level. It became a bestseller within 4 days. In the first week we sold 15,000 copies. We pushed it through our own website as well as partnering with lots of other bloggers and Facebook entrepreneurs. It went viral through social media and site owners. As a result of the book, not only has my profile been raised and my story shared, but I’m now working with lots of publishers who otherwise wouldn’t have known about Latest Free Stuff.
“The necessity of conducting market research has been drilled into people so much that it actually holds them back from going ahead and pursuing an idea.”
Rebel Wrap Up
What the one business rule you disagree with?
Market research. People will test and test and test and never actually do what they need to. The necessity of conducting market research has been drilled into people so much that it actually holds them back from going ahead and pursuing an idea.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken?
I uploaded a candle voucher from Ikea which you’re not allowed to do. I did it because I wanted people to link back to my site. It certainly worked; we got an incredible amount of traffic to the site and the voucher was downloaded 150,000 times. Months later I received a fine and from Ikea’s lawyers. I whittled the fine down but was still glad I took the risk because it ended up being a huge success.
What’s your definition of entrepreneurship?
Firstly, building a product that didn’t previously exist and secondly, building wealth.