Welcome to our founder lessons series. This week, ZZap founder, Andrew Margison reveals how he started and run one of the most popular cash handling businesses today.

Andrew Margison is director of Zzap Ltd, a startup specialist cash handling company. From humble origins trading on eBay, today, Zzap is an international supplier of cash handling products.

ZZap Ltd is one of the top 10 businesses in London for the Lloyds TSB Enterprise Awards and supplies clients such as Gucci, McDonald’s, House of Fraser, Guoman hotels, Cancer Research.

Give us a brief summary of your startup

ZZap is a specialist cash handling company. We offer a wide range of unique banknote counters, coin counters, money counting scales, counterfeit detectors, and POS safes.

ZZap was established in 2009 with a vision to redefine the cash handling industry and bring it into the 21st century. Since then we have slowly but surely, created and perfected our own bespoke product range, setting a new benchmark in cash handling.

Our focus is on the quality of our products. Our cash handling machines count faster and more accurately than your most experienced employee while detecting counterfeits with 100% accuracy. They can sort and batch your cash ready for banking and can even verify items such as driving licenses. And that’s not to mention their excellent portability.

All our products ultimately cut costs and increase profit, making them the perfect investment. They also make each working day that bit easier. We also offer a reassuring 3-year warranty for complete peace of mind. The result is your organization’s cash handling process is simplified, streamlined and inexpensive.

Why and how it was started?

When I started university in 2009, I was eager to find a solid business idea that I could turn into a fully-fledged business.

Instead of waiting for a light bulb moment, I forced one. I started selling many products on eBay, from HDMI cables to sports equipment. I quickly realized that eBay was the perfect springboard for a startup business.

I researched different markets, trying to look for a gap I could take advantage of. Then one day, I found that coin counters were overpriced, unreliable and there were no clear brands. I imported a sample coin counter, which broke straight after I turned it on!

Undeterred, I eventually sourced a reliable model that sold on eBay within 24 hours. I phoned the customer and he loved the product. I had found my light bulb moment.

What are your biggest success factors?

1. Self-awareness

Before you start a business it’s important to have self-awareness. For example, you need to know what you are good or bad at, what you like or don’t like, where you want to be in the future, know exactly what you’re aiming for etc. This allows you to be more efficient, persistent and effective. Insecurities and a large ego don’t mix well in the lonely and hard beginning stages of starting a business.

2. A strong brand

Having a strong brand is very important. Most companies have a brand, but it’s often weak. They don’t promote the brand much, they promote the product. I would suggest specializing in one area and creating a very clear brand that you promote heavily, then in time, the brand gets known for that niche.

Brands allow you to increase the price and make a higher profit margin because the perceived value of your product is higher – even if it might not be. In my opinion, Apple Inc is a prime example of this. This is very key considering the price competition we have online.

3. A unique selling point

Do things differently to the competition. There are so many small businesses in the market, but very few make a significant profit. A key factor is because they don’t differentiate. They sell the same product at the same price and hope for the best. This works for many small businesses such as a small independent grocery store because the market is big enough to cater for them.

However, it’s a weak position to be in. If a Tesco Express sets up next to your store, you’ll probably lose half your business. To be highly profitable and increase the chances of survival you have to differentiate and have a unique selling point (USP). Without a USP I personally would never set up a business.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced launching and running the company?

Dealing with the manufacturing of our products has been the hardest challenge. From designing a product to launching the product, is a very long and arduous process. It has significantly delayed the growth of the company.

Also, we have encountered many challenges with the website. To build a complex, international friendly, e-commerce website has been much more challenging than we ever anticipated.

Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?

The right market. If you aim to have a large business, you need to have the demand to support it even if you have the perfect product and team.

Advice for those chasing the start-up dream…

In my opinion persistence and hunger for success, seem to be the key qualities to successfully starting and growing a business.

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