Carpet business on a roll thanks to tech
Sitting in the Grimsby carpet shop his family had run since 1945, then-23-year-old Myles Shaw was puzzling over a way to earn an extra £100 a week to support his young family.
He had tried buying and selling sim cards on eBay – buying 3,000 for £70 and then selling them on for £1 each – but found it was taking up too much of his time to package them up and post them out.
Already working 8am-6pm, six days a week in the carpet shop, he then tried selling car performance chips, making a decent profit, but found he was unable to answer the technical questions coming in from buyers.
“I was staring at a roll of carpet, the kind that every carpet shop would have had, and wondered why nobody else was selling this online,” he tells BusinessCloud. “I knew it was either a bad idea or just that nobody had ever thought of doing it before.”
His idea was to sell lengths of the roll as carpet runners – to be used in hallways, staircases or as rugs. Rolling out the carpet in front of him, he took a picture, uploaded it onto eBay, and sold his first length that night. “I thought it was a fluke but by the time the week was up I’d sold the whole roll for £450,” he says.
Fast forward seven years and Carpet Runners UK turned over £2m in 2017 and will roll out to 20 more countries during 2018, with Shaw targeting £10m turnover by 2021. From a business that started selling on eBay, he has used tech to his advantage ever since.
The company’s online profile soared almost overnight when he posted a photo of him and his three brothers – Harvey, Andre and Ben – on Facebook and used the platform’s boost feature to target the post at women aged 18-35. Their good looks and cheeky captions – like “Ladies, what length would you like?” – meant the post was viewed 4.2m times, and almost 60,000 followed their Facebook page.
Myles, second from right, with his brothers
Then came the Facebook live videos – the first, featuring brother Ben chatting about his day and taking questions, attracted 1.6m viewers and when he mentioned the brothers’ Instagram accounts, they too attracted followers in the tens of thousands. More live videos followed, more cheeky pictures, and the online orders came flooding in.
It’s been a whirlwind few years and no mean feat for a carpet shop in Grimsby. In that time, Shaw has won an entrepreneur of the year award and made the finals of business person of the year, when at the London final he was asked for a selfie by one of the judges whose sister followed Carpet Runners on social media. He mentors high school pupils studying business and has delivered several motivational speeches to year 11 leavers.
“The past year has been surreal,” says Shaw, whose business expanded to the US in 2017. “I’m earning more money than I ever dreamed of but at the moment I feel like I need to surround myself with secure people and know where I’m at, to keep my feet on the ground.”
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Back in the early days, after that first roll had sold, he ordered three more in different colours, with the same happening again. He was soon reinvesting his profits and setting his sights on new goals – the first being giving his then-girlfriend the wedding of her dreams.
By this point, he was flying around Europe looking for new designs, going straight to the suppliers the UK wholesalers used so he could reduce his buying price. He had 120 different lines on offer, was making £4,000 a week, but still working in his father’s shop six days a week – spending 7pm-2am every day listing carpet runners on Amazon and eBay.
It would have made sense to concentrate solely on his online business but, being one of the best employees his father had, he was reluctant to let him go.
“I knew I could make much more money if I did this full-time, but he said he couldn’t let me go because I was a big cog,” Shaw says. “He said if I got to £10,000 a week he’d let me go, which sounded to him like an unrealistic target, but I did that in six months.”
In this time, he also trained brother Harvey to do the job he’d be leaving and he was able to leave and set himself up in a small unit, working 16 hours a day.
Though it sounds arduous, he admits he has always been driven to succeed at whatever he set his mind to. His home town of Grimsby is one of the most deprived in England and, on the other side of the coin, he says some people always expected him to go straight into the family business. For those reasons, he has always been determined to make something for himself.
“I don’t follow football or any sport, I didn’t read newspapers or go on Facebook at that point, and I had to sacrifice my social life then to make sure the business did well,” he says. “And when I did 16 hours a day I was literally working every single minute.”
As the business grew, his dad, then approaching retirement age, suggested merging the shop and the website. With Carpet Runners UK and Grimsby Carpet Warehouse (GCW) now in his hands, he had the idea of a rebrand that would put the brothers central to the business’s persona.
“I’d worked at Sainsbury’s after leaving school and watched Justin King, who was the chief executive at the time, as the face of the business, so I believed a company needed to have a face,” he says.
He’d also started to enter business awards, one of which asked for evidence of social media activity to show customer engagement. That’s when he started “messing about with Facebook” and their profile soared. That first line-up picture was actually doctored – there isn’t a Carpet Runners shop – but it did the trick, as did the live videos.
“We never spoke about carpets, we just spoke about us,” he says. The GCW Facebook page originally had 81 likes, Carpet Runners UK was into the thousands from that first post.
“We found it crazy because nobody knew us, but we got good engagement because we were four brothers being ourselves, we’re quite handsome and people liked it.”
From that social media activity came increased orders. While he admits it may not seem the sexiest of trades, Shaw’s use of tech to promote the carpet business, and his hard work on the ground, has been instrumental in its success.
The US expansion came in 2017 and by the end of 2018 there will be 20 more countries buying from Carpet Runners. As in the early days, he is still setting targets, aiming for turnover of £10m by 2021 when he’ll be 35. When he summed up his seven years in business recently on LinkedIn, the post was viewed 470,000 times and he was getting approaches from chief executives and directors.
For now, he is concentrating on the flooring business, but as for the future the world is his oyster. He invested in 150 domain names across different industries and says he has always had an entrepreneurial spirit.
“It’s flooring I’m selling at the moment, but you could give me furniture, beds or ice creams and I’d put my all into it,” he says. “I was making £300 a week seven years ago and now we’re turning over £2m. It’s crazy to think that all came from one roll of carpet.”
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