This week the Carrick Times puts the questions to Stephen Kincaid of Big Wet Fish Hosting.
What is your business?
Big Wet Fish Web Hosting provides fully managed web hosting solutions to over 5,000 clients in 50 countries worldwide. We host all sorts of websites ranging from the smallest personal blog to industry leading commercial websites. Operating out of the Business Centre at Kilroot Business Park, we currently employ five people with major plans for growth over the next few years.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you ended up doing what you are doing now?
About 15 years ago, when I was teaching in Carrickfergus Grammar School, I ran an after-school computer club where I would teach students how to create their own websites. In order to do this I had to purchase a large amount of web space to host their websites on. I was surprised to find I enjoyed the challenge of setting up and configuring web servers and from that point on it became my passion. Over the next few years I slowly shifted my focus from teaching to growing my business enough to give up teaching altogether and make my passion my new profession.
Did you always want to run your own enterprise?
Running my own business was always something I had in the back of my mind. The opportunity fortunately presented itself for me to make this a reality due to the massive growth of the internet since the early 2000s.
What skills/qualifications do you require for the role?
I’m a bit of a geek by nature and I have always had a passion for technology. After graduating with an honours degree in Computer Science I took up a teaching position in Glengormley High School. While I was teaching it was always important for me to stay on the cutting edge of web technologies, so for me passion and enthusiasm for what I do is paramount to my success.
Has your business been affected by the current recession?
We found that people are investing in web technologies almost to help themselves counter the recession. We have lots of clients who in recent years have used digital eCommerce to bring their businesses to the global marketplace. Therefore we are able to take advantage of that need for small and large businesses to grow globally. A local client of ours: Robinsons Shoemakers from West Street host their eCommerce website with us (www.robinsonsshoes.com) and this is a classic example of how we can grow even in recession where clients are developing digital strategies to aid in their growth also.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when setting up and what support did you get?
Big Wet Fish Web Hosting has definitely not been an overnight success. It has taken 12 years to establish ourselves as one of the leading providers of web hosting services within Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. In more recent years it has been a pleasure to establish lasting partnerships with Carrickfergus Enterprise who have provided professional mentoring support to aid us in developing a business strategy that we are now reaping the fruits of.
Having this support has been a real blessing for us as for the majority of the company’s lifespan we have had to figure things out and learn from experience and our mistakes, and at times this has been a challenge. Having the recent support and mentorship of seasoned business professionals has been invaluable and definitely a breath of fresh air in our business. I would hope in a few years’ time we can give a little back to younger entrepreneurs as we can pass on our own experiences to help others in the same position.
We would like to pay credit also to Carrickfergus Borough Council for their foresight to fund the ‘Step up to Export Programme’ in 2013 and the ‘Grow Programme’ in 2014. Both initiatives helped us develop strategies to export more of our services outside of Northern Ireland.
What three tips could you offer those considering starting their own business?
Don’t be afraid to ask others for advice and help. Locate and connect with professionals who are maybe further on down the road so you can get advice and help early on rather than learning the hard way.
Big Wet Fish is wrapped around my passion for technology and this makes it easier on the hard days so I would suggest you play to your strengths and passions and make sure the business that you decide to pursue is something that you enjoy.
Be both pro-active and reactive. We have learned that conscious planning and strategising is paramount to our growth and success. However, it’s extremely important to be able to react and adapt to unexpected situations and finding the balance between these two things is a very important skill.
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
We are extremely excited to be gearing up for the launch of our new cutting edge Cloud Hosting Service that is due to launch on 1 March 2015. This is a major landmark for Big Wet Fish as it provides us with the capabilities to capture bigger and more prestigious clients. We haven’t forgotten about small businesses either for whom we plan to launch an exceptionally innovative product that will allow them to build, host and manage their own websites with ease.
(Series in association with Carrickfergus Enterprise)
What do you get up to in your free time? (Hobby/interests/family)
I love to travel and in recent years I have spent a lot of time travelling around the USA. My goal is to visit all 50 states and so far I am 50% of the way there! This July there is a Web Hosting Conference (HostingCon) in San Diego so I’m thinking of flying into somewhere on the East Coast and driving across Route 66 to the West. Crazy it may sound but it’s all good!
If you could swap places with anyone who would it be and why?
If I could swap places with anyone it would be myself in five years’ time - when I am sitting on my brand new yacht off the cost of West Palm Beach in Florida!