Meet North Wales Based Entrepreneur and Director of Sorodo, Richard Wilcock
Richard Wilcock, a seasoned entrepreneur based in North Wales, shares his experience as an entrepreneur and his vision for the future. This includes supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs through his company Sorodo.
Hi Rich, can you share with us a bit about yourself, the team and your ‘why’ behind Sorodo?
RICHARD: Over ten years ago my two friends Simon and Jamie Moorcroft and myself came together to establish our first online finance business. This business was the first of many successful ventures for us and the spark that ignited our passion for entrepreneurship.
Starting from a small garage in a back garden in Buckley the business rapidly grew and transformed into a viable concern, with a total of twelve staff and offices in Ewloe, Flintshire. The company quickly became a profitable venture turning over £3million within three years. It was then successfully sold as part of a Venture Capital buyout.
An example of businesses we support are high street retailers who are struggling to survive amongst high business rates, town parking charges and poor infrastructure. In order to survive many of these high street businesses feel the need to diversifying to online retail. To do so they need an initial cash boost to get them started – this is the problem Sorodo aims to help solve.
Sorodo has two main platforms – the first is called Capalona. This site offers business owners access to a wide range of funding solutions as well as educating them on the right type of business finance they need.
The other is called Merchant Loan Advance . This is a funding service for businesses who take card payments from their customers such as retailers, restaurants and other hospitality businesses.
What do you consider to be your greatest business achievement to date?
RICHARD: Our most significant achievement has been surpassing a £5 million funding target which has seen hundreds of small businesses within Wales access the capital they needed to grow.
What has been the greatest challenge you have faced as an entrepreneur?
RICHARD: We’ve always struggled with talent resource - especially in some niche online areas.
With an increase in universities actively encouraging internships and collaboration between entrepreneurs and academia this helps fulfil this gap. Business owners like myself have the opportunity to tap into young talent offering a fresh new dynamic to the business.
This opportunity is beneficial to both parties as often or not the entrepreneur/business learn from having a new and different perspective brought onto the team allowing them to remain innovative.
What are two pieces of advice you would give you an aspiring entrepreneur?
- Find a mentor who understands business in the digital age - someone who has been there, done it and still doing it. Tap into their invaluable experience and expertise as much as possible.
- Visit events/network – For us, trade expos have offered the perfect opportunity to gain insight from others and spot potential gaps in the market that your business could explore further. Ask the exhibitors lots of question about their business, the sector and find out what your business could do to help them. Listen to keynote speakers about future trends and make sure you take note. As an entrepreneur, it’s crucial to stay ahead of the game and come up with the idea/solution earlier than everyone else and doing your research can enable this.
What would you say are the top skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
- Bravery: Don’t be scared of failing – as a business we have had a few ideas that didn’t work out over the years amongst the ones that did. The only thing to be scared of is not giving it a go in the first place!
- Be tenacious and confident in what you do, work hard at it and give your idea the best chance of becoming successful.
You recently referred to North Wales being the ‘playground for business’ – what do you believe the benefits are of starting a business in North Wales?
RICHARD: North Wales has, over the last few years, branded itself as the capital of adventure in Europe. Businesses such as ZipWorld and Surf Snowdonia are helping to re-enforce this message. International tourism especially is higher than ever before, and it’s great to see such significant investment throughout the area. Businesses in North Wales have diversified and launched products based around provenance.
Large, digital companies such as Money Supermarket have based themselves in Flintshire and seen superb growth. Flintshire and Wrexham are great places for manufacturing with close links to Liverpool, Manchester and major road networks. Fast fibre networks across North Wales has been the key for businesses here making the challenges faced by physical distance a thing of the past.
In this digital age you can start-up and thrive from literally anywhere in Wales, so why not North Wales? From remote farms on Anglesey to a back garden on the Llyn Peninsula. By having such well-connected digital access, any business has the potential to be successful in North Wales. It’s also a place rich in scenery, art, culture, sport, recreation, food and heritage - how can you not be inspired to start or grow your business here?
Why do you think the BeTheSpark movement is so important for Wales?
RICHARD: The entrepreneurial ecosystem in Wales is vast. There are many individuals and organisations who offer support to entrepreneurs of all stages and sectors. The BeTheSpark movement is important in connecting each of these people and organisations together to help amplify the ecosystem within Wales.
By working together, we can successfully support one another to grow through the transfer of knowledge and experience. The BeTheSpark movement gives everyone the opportunity to do just this by making the ecosystem more transparent and easier to navigate for current and aspiring entrepreneurs.
How are you currently/do you plan on supporting the movement and creating a more visible, simple and connected ecosystem within Wales?
RICHARD: Having both lived and worked in North Wales I am keen to play my part in raising awareness of business opportunities and support available to entrepreneurs within North Wales by actively sharing news, opportunities and educating people.
I truly believe that your location doesn’t determine your business success and the more connected the ecosystem the better the chance for each entrepreneur to thrive.
Supporting another’s success and entrepreneurial journey is something that’s close to my heart. Having experienced the ups, downs and challenges of starting and growing your business I try my best to actively support other entrepreneurs within the community through mentoring and sharing my experience with them.
What’s next for Sorodo?
RICHARD: We will continue to look for innovative technology and communication methods to help businesses find the right financial solution for their business. We have recently explored two new opportunities - AI technology and Open Banking - and are implementing these across our brands to make the process of gaining alternate funding easier for entrepreneurs within Wales.