Local businesses are investing in growing their business. This week we speak to John Coalter, who has headed three successful businesses ventures in the last decade
“There are endless possibilities for growth” according to young entrepreneur John Coalter.
The 30-year-old currently employs 24 local people in an expanding e-commerce business and is investing £200,000 in creating new jobs, researching new export markets and re-vamping the software in his distribution centre.
“When I started out in business I didn’t envisage doing business online, but this is where the growth opportunities are,” he told The Impartial Reporter.
The father of two also owns a local security company which employs six people and has 450 customers on its books, including government bodies, health trusts and colleges.
Managing Director of ElectricalEurope.com and Ensign Security, John is a former pupil of Portora Royal School. He left school aged 16 and became an electrician, working for various local companies. In 2006, when he was 21, John became “bored working for someone else.” He set up his own electrical contracting business called Firewire. He commented: “I didn’t want to be a number. I wanted to make decisions and do things that made an impact.”
Initially based at his home outside Tempo, John saw Firewire secure “quite a number” of customers across Northern Ireland. Over time, the business grew to six staff. “I just went for it,” said John. “When the economic crash hit I was fortunate because I had a large client base. There were a lot of people who had problems but because my customer base was so varied, I survived.”
Four years later, John started “exploring other avenues”. He bought the contract of local business Ensign Security, which he still owns. Firewire is now incorporated with Ensign Security.
When the left over parts from various jobs started adding up, John sold them on eBay and Amazon. “I quickly realised that there was a good market for that,” he explained.
His third business venture, an electrical and security wholesale company called Select Security & Electrical Supplies Ltd was established in 2009. ElectricalEurope.com is the online branch of that company. It supplies CCTV, heaters, lighting, lamps and wiring accessories to customers across the globe.
John was initially based in Portland Business Park on the Tempo Road. As his business interests grew, he moved to Lackaboy Industrial Estate. In November 2015, John relocated to Killyhevlin Industrial Estate, a move that he describes as his biggest success in business to date because “we now have all under one roof and plenty of room for expansion.”
He is now selling electrical and security items across the world, including USA, Europe and Kazakhstan.
Another coup for the young businessman was securing the assistance of online selling experts Export Technologies, based in Belfast’s Titanic quarter. “They were responsible for the online success of local company Chain Reaction so they are good guys to get in with. Initially they were pretty cold with me but I was persistent so they agreed to meet me and I managed to get them on board,” said John. “They basically run the website and act as consultants on all aspects of e-commerce.”
ElectricalEurope.com “is growing all the time” and John hopes to double its size in the next 12 months.
The 10 packing bays are currently operated manually. John is investing in integration software which will mean that “the order to dispatch process will be much smoother, faster and more automated.” He added: “We will use technology to improve so that growth is scalable.”
He is also investing in researching new markets, language conversion for the website and the recent creation of six new jobs, for which Invest NI has provided £27,000 of assistance.
Asked what sets his business apart from the competition, he replied: “Online e-commerce is very competitive but its quite a mathematical process. Competition isn’t so much local but global which can have both advantages and disadvantages. Personal, in-depth knowledge and interest in the latest electrical and security products helps me lead my staff in the correct direction.”
His advice to other local business people is: “Learning the hard way makes you more determined” and “it’s better making a mistake than not doing anything at all or taking the chance.”
Quizzed on whether the banks are open for business, John said: “With a little gentle persuasion, yes, they are.”
John’s advice to government to help stimulate the local economy is as follows: “Please sort the current benefit mess out. We are living in a benefit culture which makes people think they are entitled to handouts and don’t need to work. There’s loads of good people out there and although they are very capable, they can’t work, or only work 16 hours as they will lose out.”
In business he most admires Alex Ferguson and Steve Jobs because they “knew how to get the best out of people.” John added: “The bigger the business, the more people in the orchestra, therefore the harder it is to get a nice sound.”
In the short-term, John wants to see his business “double in size in the next year.” In the long-term, he has ambitions to grow ElectricalEurope.com “into the world’s leading e-commerce website for electrical and security products.”
His ambitions for growth will not take him out of Fermanagh, where he has lived his whole life.
[Article: Impartial Reporter]