Ben Curtis is a recent BSc graduate in Business and Management at Aston University and is also a founder of the Aircraft Model Store and the Railway Model Store.
Ben, tell us about yourself…
“I am Ben and I am the founder of Aircraft Model Store – an e-commerce store for aviation enthusiasts. I am from Cheshire and recently graduated with an International Business & Management degree from Aston University. One year of that degree was spent studying abroad in Hong Kong, which was a great cultural experience that is now very valuable in the workplace. I have recently been accepted on the New Entrepreneur Foundation (NEF) cohort 2020. It is a privilege for me to be selected as one of the 50 out of 3,500 applicants.”
Tell us more about your start up…
“At the age of 14, I launched Aircraft Model Store from my bedroom. We specialise in commercial and military display models, which are of interest to pilots, airline employees, aviation enthusiasts and children. As of 2019 we’re now the top e-commerce store for model aircraft. We’re growing and have implemented measures to acquire customers faster as well as to retain existing customers.
Using the experience that I have gained over the years, I recently established the Railway Model Store with the help of the BSEEN programme with the intention to establish the same success with a similar product. Whilst the Railway Model Store business is still in its initial growth stages, we’ve been taking orders daily and the sales are picking up as time goes on.”
What made you jump at the chance of coming on BSEEN?
“I hoped to launch a new store, and BSEEN gave us the funding to jump in and take that risk. I was excited about the prospect of meeting other entrepreneurs and hearing their story. Not to mention that mentoring is provided which is always a big benefit. The feedback the mentor will provide would be very helpful especially in the beginning when you’re working alone.”
What do you think you have learned the most from your BSEEN journey?
“Meeting inspirational individuals has been beneficial and very motivational.
The bootcamp workshops that we attended were a great way to meet like-minded people and I felt this is a great start to learn about how to go about beginning with your business. Support is offered to register your business with Companies House – it was the first time I had done this. I highly recommend doing it yourself to save paying an accountant.
Networking gave me many great ideas for my existing business, for example I was told by a fellow BSEEN member about an online tool that allows you to track what your visitors are scrolling over and clicking on your webpage, to enable you to optimise webpages, thus improving the user experience. I would not have found out about this had I not attended the BSEEN bootcamp.”
What has been your business stand out moment since being on BSEEN?
“It has been great to attend events with guest speakers that that have succeeded in business with the help of the BSEEN programme. It was also great to hear from and speak with Nick Holzherr from the Apprentice (also an Aston University alumnus).
My stand out moment was taking our first orders through the new website as it was great to finally see a result from the work we’d put into it – this motivated us to simply work harder on it and gave us the reassurance that we were are taking the right steps.”
Any advice for entrepreneurial students or graduates thinking about starting their own business?
“Focus on something that you’re passionate about, do your research and get started – it’s all about acting on your idea, being dedicated and persistent. The support and funding from BSEEN makes things easier too.
Finding a niche and a gap in the market was a big contributor to the success we had. We didn’t do anything new, but just focused on doing it better. I believe that networking with other entrepreneurial individuals is very important, which is why BSEEN can be so valuable. A lot of our success is ultimately down to listening and learning from others, taking their opinion and then acting upon that – I strongly believe in the importance of this.
If you are in the digital space, I would advise learning how Google Ads and Analytics work as I think this is an extremely important tool to understand. Combined with a great product or service, I think it makes it much easier to succeed. I have a sufficient understanding to meet our needs, but my personal goal is to improve it.”
What are your next steps for your business?
“We plan to continue our growth. We’re expanding our product range as much as possible across both websites. We wish to improve the efficiency of our operations as we grow, which is the next challenge for us. We’re taking on our third employee and hope that the future will give us the opportunity to grow the team further – very exciting times!”