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Most Innovative/Original Service Offering Award Winner 2013

Posted On - 25/04/2014 11:19:00

2013 Winner: Most Innovative/Original Service Offering (2014: Best Business Idea)

Jeff Parkes, DISC Co Limited, Stoke-on-Trent: electronic cigarettes.

About the Award

For 2014 this Award is ‘Best Business Idea' and consolidates ‘Most innovative/original service offering' with ‘Business innovation'. Last year's categories needlessly split things so to simplify we made them into one. No business can stand still and in this blog demonstrates the huge rewards offered by new ideas.

This Award is open to all businesses and is applicable to any idea applied to the business or its management and operation. Ideas implemented must have delivered material change for the business. Examples would include introducing new products/services or adapting or changing old; entering entirely new markets; or changing internal working practices and organisation.

Originality or scale of the idea or innovation are not the issue with this Award - it exists to reward the best. What matters is whether the idea has had an impact - has made a material change to a business. So 'old' or uninspiring ideas count just as much as 'wild-and-wacky'. As for imapct, that's all relative isn't it? If a 'one-man-band' has saved or made £100 from an idea, that's every bit as good a candidate as the £000's a bigger business could make. This Award excludes Marketing – see ‘Best Marketing'.

What was the nomination?

7 years ago Jeff found a market not yet ready: by 2011 things were very differentLike many retailers, Jeff was looking for ways to grow his business. He'd originally tried selling electronic cigarettes 7 years ago but found the market just wasn't ready. But over the course of 2011 he saw a groundswell of interest. So in early 2012 he tried again. He hasn't looked back since.

How has ‘thinking outside the box' helped DISC CO?

Jeff knew he needed to find ways to reinvent himself. With the good old days of computers just flying off the shelves a thing of the past, he needed something new to differentiate himself and create footfall.

Something that would attract new and different customers, some of which would also be interested in computer sales and repairs. With growing pressure on smokers to quit, his business instinct told him alternatives that didn't force people to give up would have legs.

What's could be the impact of being innovative?

Jeff admits that he got in just before many others. But that's all it takes to be innovative and establish first-mover advantage. And the impact of doing so has been profound.

Clearly ecigs are aimed at smokers. And with some 22% of the population defined so (ash, 2014) that's a lot of people: just short of 55,000 in Stoke alone. So plenty of potential business. But with 70% of the population also owning a computer (ONS data) that's a sizeable cross-over.

Assuming only half them might be interested that's 19,000 new prospects for the computer business. So a pretty compelling business opportunity overall.

Did moving into ecigs deliver?

With 55,000 smokers in Stoke ecigs must be an opportunityThe potential of selling ecigs alone convinced Jeff to move. And he knew that once customers got to know him, his staff and understood the quality of service offered, the computer side of the business would flourish. And it has.

Customers acquainted with the business through ecigs have started ‘talking computers'. The move to ecigs alone has tripled turnover to over £600,000. The rejuvenated computer repairs business adds even more.

Did the Award help?

Jeff's a man who chooses his words carefully. So when he says "I felt proud – the best thing about winning was recognition from peers" you can take that as meaning it had a big impact on him.

But what about his business? DISC CO also "got a good write up in the local paper" as he puts it - you can see the coverage opposite. "People regularly mention the coverage and talk about the Award – which I have in a cabinet in the shop. The best thing about winning is how proud it's made me feel."

Will Jeff enter this year's Awards?

"As one of the UK's top 5 resellers for Totally Wicked products I've had a major make-over of the shop. It's now all black, red and grey – really cool and stylish" he continues. "I can't win the same Award twice so maybe ‘Best Shop Layout' or ‘Best Internal Retail Display' for 2014."

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