Benjamin Apeagyei, Entrepreneur
Education: MA International Business Management, Kingston University
Agata Adamiak, Entrepreneur
Education: MSc IT for Supply Chain Management, Kingston University
Enterprise! Spotlight features Ben Apeagyei and Agata Adamiak, co-founders of UK Corporate Gifts, a booming new business which provides corporate merchandise to businesses, schools, charities and local authorities.
Ben and Agata pride themselves on great customer service and brilliant value, and their focus seems to be paying off as their business is in full swing, and is attracting an abundance of customers, including Kingston University!
Ben and Agata both studied for their Masters Degrees at Kingston University and believe that their time as KU students helped them to broaden their horizons, and eventually gave them the confidence to venture into business. We caught up with the busy co-founders to talk about their experiences in business so far!
Ben and Agata, thanks for sharing your story with us! For starters, please tell us a little about your business.
UK Corporate Gifts are a supplier of branded corporate gifts and promotional items to businesses, schools, charities and local authorities. Our website has over 6,000 products ranging from: pens, mugs, t-shirts and bags – through to USB flash drives and headphones.
Because we provide printing services, we also offer marketing and branding consultation to our clients to help them make the decision on the item that’s right for them and to help get their logo and artwork print ready. Above all, we strive to provide great value and great customer service to our clients.
‘Doing our Masters degrees at Kingston University opened our eyes to different types of businesses and to the techniques we need to make a business successful.’
What inspired your business collaboration?
We both always wanted to work for ourselves and when we graduated from Kingston University we decided to give it a go. Ben has skills in sales, relationship building and marketing. Agata has talent for IT and systems and strategy development. We decided that an online business with business to business services will be perfect for us both as it needs top customer service and a quality system to back it; this is how UK Corporate Gifts was born. Because a big part of our work is automated, we were able to carry forward our savings to our clients; this put us in a unique position against competitors as we were able to provide great service with better value.
In your opintion, what is the biggest challenge faced by businesses today?
Our biggest challenge is the constantly changing world of online marketing. You need to continuously be on the look-out for the latest trends, rules, and regulations as to what the search engines want and what will work best for the business. It has been a learning curve but now we have a successful blog and we’ve built quality relationships on Twitter, that are helping UK Corporate Gifts grow.
What aspect of your business do you take most pride in?
The proudest moments are when we see our clients coming back to us. We are enormously commited to satisfying our customers, and rely heavily on the business generated by returning customers, who make up our biggest market. We strive to maintain their loyalty through our personal service, which we provide together with good value products. We build a lasting rapport with our clients and love to hear back from them and help them with their creative campaigns. A successful campaign always gives us a boost.
‘Enterprise skills are important because they are necessary for every aspect of your life – you simply have to adapt and scale them.’
Is there a market for your business?
The value of the promotional merchandise market in the UK is £840m (source: Sourcing City). With just under 2,000 players in the UK, it is a very competitive scene, but still, doing most of the business online is a new way of working for the industry.
With the growth of ecommerce in the last several years, clients are getting used to conducting business on the Internet. They appreciate browsing the product range online and making more informed choices. If they need extra support, however, there’s still a promotional products consultant on the other end of the phone to help them at UK Corporate Gifts. We also meet our clients face-to-face if we’re working on bigger projects. Essentially, we provide the best of both worlds, combining the traditional with the modern, which appeals to our clients.
How have you promoted your business?
Because we are an online business, we utilise the online-based forms of marketing. We use social media, our blog and a newsletter to stay connected with our clients and to attract new ones. Above all, we follow our motto of providing great value and service through sharing useful content with business professionals, who appreciate our tips and insight into the advertising and marketing world. We also run weekly special offers on selected products that we promote in the newsletter and on various social media platforms.
How did you raise funds for your business?
We started the business from nothing! Because of the online set up, we didn’t need to invest a lot of money in the business. The main investments were our time and skills as we try to do most of the work ourselves; we built our website and order processing systems ourselves, we used free forms of marketing, and we started the business from home.
Before our first few sales we had to live off our savings and then our efforts slowly started paying off. We have grown organically since and we only spend and invest within our budget.
Looking back, what would you have done differently during the development of your business?
There was a moment when we wanted to get into events support as a means of branching off to further our offering. We spent several months doing that and lost a fair amount of money. It didn’t work out, and we have since learnt that we need to stick with the core of our business and stay focused. We are a better business now as we have learnt from our mistakes.
Where do you want to be in five year’s time?
We want to increase our client portfolio and constantly improve our systems to support clients even better. Innovation and growth are key for the future of UK Corporate Gifts. We want to be what we are today but on a bigger scale.
How did Kingston University support you in developing your business?
Doing our Masters degrees at Kingston University opened our eyes to different types of businesses and to the techniques we need to make a business successful. We are still in touch with several lecturers who give us the benefit of their knowledge from time to time. Also, the regular “Strategy into Practice” presentations were an inspiration.
We are happy and proud UK Corporate Gifts produced corporate gifts for Kingston University and hope we will be able to do even more branded merchandise for the organisation in the future!
‘We are a better business now as we have learnt from our mistakes.’
Why do you believe enterprise skills are important?
Enterprise skills are important because they are necessary for every aspect of your life – from negotiating on the school playground to planning and executing large government projects. The skills are the same, you simply have to adapt and scale them.
To learn more, follow UK Corporate Gifts @