'I want to level the playing field for businesses'
From his childhood on a Birmingham council estate to becoming a start-up entrepreneur, Adam Pritchard has spent his life smashing through glass ceilings.
At school he launched a magazine to give students a voice – even securing £10 investment from a leading bank – while the council estate football club he established in Winton near Salford now has 19 teams.
However, reflecting on his past through the lens of new venture Shopit, it seems a recent revelation to him.
“I had a wonderful childhood. Many lovely people lived on our estate, but it was rundown and there were also some dodgy types,” he told BusinessCloud, citing an example of a friend who later became a drug addict and went to prison for one of the most heinous of crimes. “It was a real Sliding Doors moment when I heard about that.
“It's different for those on the other side. Look at former Chelsea striker Gianluca Vialli: he grew up in a castle but had to battle against his success, find drive and commitment within him when he had things so much easier.”
At the age of 11, Pritchard won a place at grammar school and found himself among people with “certain expectations of life”.
“They took regular skiing trips and music lessons for granted. I was lucky if I got £5 pocket money – and I was quite happy with that! I’d just be out playing football all the time from the moment I got home from school.”
He earned the ire of some of his teachers when he used his magazine Outburst to call for the creation of a student council.
“I thought the kids were underrepresented in a lot of the decisions that were made in school. Several teachers would walk past me in the corridor and give me the 'eye'! But it got implemented – and it's still there to this day.
“It feels natural to me: I saw something that was wrong and wanted to make a change to represent these other people.”
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After graduating from university he worked at 3M. “I did a psychometric report there and it said I was a people's champion, which I thought was a weird line at the time.”
However it was borne out when he launched Winton Wanderers. “I lived on the edge of the Winton estate in a cheap house. While my university and grammar school experience made me a bit different to those people, my roots were absolutely the same,” he reflected.
“In the under-11s we had a tall lad called Alistair, posh kid. His parents were in the NHS, £100k-a-year jobs. They'd brought him to a local council estate football team to roughen his edges.
“The pitch was in the middle of the estate and there were literally kids kicked out of the doors at 8am by parents with a beer can still in their hand from the night before, saying 'go and sort yourself out – I'll see you back for dinner at six o'clock'.
“They were from completely different backgrounds, but they’d play football together in the park and didn't notice all those differences.”
It was a real labour of love before he handed over the reins and stepped away. “I was out raising money for the club, mowing the pitch, designing the kit... the idea of building my own football club was amazing! And running my own business at the same time.”
That business was his own agency, Project Octo, established in 2012. Pritchard has just wound it down as he says it was taking his focus away from Shopit, which is where his heart clearly lies.
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“It’s the world's first pay-as-you-grow eCommerce platform,” he said. “The way I've inadvertently built it and priced it, it helps out the younger businesses, the people who haven't got money in their pocket. It levels the playing field.
“My wife said to me: 'you're building the business in the same way that you're building the football club'. We give everything to everybody from day one. There's no tiered pricing.
“In tech, and eCommerce in particular, everything is geared towards having money up front. To build a Magento site you need 20 grand to start off with.
“Our pricing normally starts at around £8 a month, dirt cheap, but they pay for it as they use it. If they get a thousand or a million visitors, the servers get used and the cost comes into it. They can spend their early money on marketing campaigns, driving people to the product.
“It gives everybody with £8 in their pocket every month the opportunity to be successful.”
As for Pritchard, now 42, he feels that the culmination of his experience could see his own venture succeed.
“An investor asked me ‘why do you do it?’ Yes, I want to make money – but when I'm on my deathbed I want to know I've made a bit of difference in the world,” he said.