Julie Tucker
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Creative entrepreneurs: Moonpig.com founder Nick Jenkins

It’s no secret that Nick Jenkins, the hugely successful entrepreneur behind personalised greetings cards company Moonpig.com, struggled through six years of hardship before turning his business around.

While freely admitting he thought many times that his company would go under, he persevered with a dogged determination, a firm believer in the philosophy that the tough moments make you appreciate the good ones more.

Eventually, his unwavering faith in his idea, and his belief in his own ability to make it a success, paid dividends when he sold the company to Photobox.com and joined the ranks of Britain’s multi-millionaires.

The 51-year-old former commodities trader from Droitwich Spa has been helping other would-be entrepreneurs start up their own business in a high-profile stint on the BBC TV show, Dragon’s Den. As one of the “dragons”, he has been investing his cash in new ventures.

Origins of Moonpig
Jenkins was a highly intelligent student who attended Adams’ Grammar School in Newport, before going on to study Russian Literature at Birmingham University. He put his degree to good use by becoming a commodities trader in Moscow for the global natural resource and agricultural company, Glencore.

Returning to the UK in 1998, he began forming the idea behind Moonpig, while also studying for his Master of Business Administration at Cranfield University. The idea for the company stemmed from his own realisation that it was very difficult at that time for customers to buy high-quality personalised products.

He was fully aware of the latest developments in technology (in particular digital printing) and the popular trend towards personalisation in marketing. The idea came to him that bringing them together could fill a gap in the market for personalised cards and gifts.

Naming the company
Before taking the plunge with his business idea, Jenkins thoroughly researched his product and market, thinking up a catchy name for his company and working out a sensible business plan. Naming the company was a big deal – he took into account the key requirements he believed were crucial when choosing a brand name.

Jenkins explained that Moonpig wasn’t his automatic choice, as it stemmed from a hated nickname at school, but it fitted the bill in many ways!

He was looking for a punchy name that had as few syllables as possible and would be unique in a Google search. It also had to be easily represented by logo graphics, phonetic and available as a domain name.

He spent a great deal of time looking for the ideal name that would satisfy his main criteria and came up with one or two ideas – including Moonpig, his school nickname. Although it wasn’t a name he particularly wanted to remember, he said it worked well for the brand.

Early years
Moonpig was established in July 2000, after Jenkins finished his business administration studies. The company was by no means an instant hit. In fact, he has joked in interviews that “like all overnight successes, it took 11 years” before he really hit the big time.

Initially, word-of-mouth advertising from Moonpig’s customers gave him the confidence to continue, as he began to recognise there was evidence of brand loyalty and that people liked his products. However, it wasn’t all plain sailing and despite his creation of the unique brand, it was a struggle for around the first six years.

He remained passionate and confident that his business idea would take off, spurred on by the digital and social businesses that “grew virally”, he explained. He studied Facebook and the way in which it changed people’s behaviour, impressed by the way its viral growth happened so quickly.

He felt Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites provided something that the public really wanted, and that was the crucial thing to any successful product. He believes Moonpig has gone viral “to some extent” – one person buys a card, another likes it and goes online to buy one and the trend grows and continues.

First TV advert
Created by ad agency Space City, Moonpig’s first TV advert in 2006 launched the company on the road to success. It appealed to ordinary people with its friendly, chatty style, showing the delight on everyone’s face when they received a personalised greetings card.

Space City later said it had been a challenge producing the advert, since the company’s name bore no relation to the product. They provided a solution by creating a catchy jingle and a memorable animated logo to associate with the brand.

The public loved the jingle immediately and people began uploading their own versions to YouTube, so the Moonpig jingle quickly became synonymous with the brand. Following their initial success, Space City produced seven more Moonpig commercials over the years.

Global success
Finally, after many years’ hard work, Jenkins overcame the early struggles and steered Moonpig on the road to global success. In the summer of 2009, nine years after its launch, Moonpig had a customer base of more than 2.57 million people.

An article in The Times described its profit record as “a typical curve” for a successful start-up. In the first year, there had been a big loss – reputedly totalling £1 million. Then “negligible losses” transforming into “negligible earnings” during a six-year period, followed by a seven-figure profit ever since.

Moonpig expanded into the Australian market in 2004 and then introduced new products, including flowers and custom mugs, in late 2009. The business was launched in the United States in 2010. Moonpig was soon selling more than 12 million cards per year and Jenkins’ dreams had come to fruition, after 11 years’ hard slog.

In 2011, he sold Moonpig to PhotoBox for £120 million, making him one of Britain’s multi-millionaire entrepreneurs.

During his first series in Dragon’s Den, he invested a total of £842,000 in six companies, including Slappie watches, the dating app Double, a children’s science show called Sublime Science and the baked bean manufacturer Masons Beans.

Summing up his career to date, Jenkins said there had been several times when he wasn’t sure if Moonpig would survive. He described it as a “good feeling” when he finally made it to profitability – and a “great feeling” when he realised his brand had a life of its own. He added, “That’s what being an entrepreneur is all about.”

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Image credit: © seventyfour / Adobe Stock

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