Craig Lappin-Smith (20 years old) is the founder of UniBulkBuy, a website that offers students the advantage of buying everyday essentials cheap and in bulk.
Can you tell us a bit about your education?
I grew up abroad, so the majority of my education was completed in Singapore, with a small amount of it also in Sydney. I went to a fantastic British international school doing the English curriculum at GCSE's and then the International Baccalaureate afterwards. I have now returned to England to study Business
at Durham University
What is UniBulkBuy?
UniBulkBuy is a company providing student houses with everyday essentials, cheap and in bulk
. We seek to save people time, money and hassle
by providing all kinds of mundane household items in large quantities, delivered right to your doorstep. One shop with UniBulkBuy can be enough to last an entire term (or even year), eliminating the need to constantly visit the shops for more toilet and kitchen roll, bin bags, toothpaste, body wash, dishwasher tablets... the list goes on.
How did you come up with this idea?
I am currently a university student myself, living in a house of five boys, and I was astounded by how quickly we finished everyday items. Simple things like wanting to wash some clothes, only to find out the laundry powder had just run out
, or washing dishes (albeit rarely) to discover the fairy liquid is all gone
. You end up going to the shops every few days just to re-stock mundane essentials and, inevitably, one person ends up buying things for everyone else. We aren't even a big house in relative terms; I have friends who live with eight, nine, ten other people, which just exacerbates the problem further.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I have tried to start a few businesses, but never before had any of them been my own idea and unique solution to a problem. The excitement of starting a new business is unparalleled
, but for many of my previous endeavours that was short-lived because I simply didn't have enough belief in their plight. UniBulkBuy was very different in this regard, for the first time, the idea behind it is one I have both pride and absolute confidence in
- leaving me with no doubt that I wanted to grow what was a thought of mine into a thriving business.
How are you funded?
Thus far, all funding has come from myself
. I have used wages from my part-time job, my student loan and personal savings where possible. This has constrained the amount invested in the business and, consequently, the rate at which it has been able to grow. I do not see this as a negative, it is important that I ensured my plan was viable and established a clear direction
before pouring money offered by others into UniBulkBuy. Having done this, I am now looking for funding from investment competitions, private start-up loans and government grant schemes
to really aid expansion for the next academic year.
What is your business model?
By offering everyday essentials in bulk, UniBulkBuy can offer far lower prices
than any supermarket. Not only are our customers saving the time and hassle of shopping, they are also saving a lot of money. Our store offers both individual products and Bundles
of the most commonly used items for different size groups - providing yet more discount.
How long did it take you to build this project?
I have been working on this project for about seven months so far, having started back in October 2014. Despite experiencing much success in 2015 to date, ultimately it has been a path of continual learning and improvement
, culminating in UniBulkBuy being taken to yet new heights for the start of the academic year in September.
In your opinion, what is the most important quality or skill for entrepreneurial success?
I am no expert but success is very difficult to achieve. It is easy to look at people who have accomplished huge things in business and be discouraged. They did not achieve that on their first attempt. It takes many bites of the cherry for something great to materialize.
If you could give a young entrepreneur a piece of advice, what would it be?
- your next idea will always be better than your last one.