I started a business with kids: John Leach of SpeedQuizzing

Tell us a little about your business…

Our business, of which my brother and myself are the directors, is SpeedQuizzing LTD. We have been trading since 2012 and are continually developing a software system which provides a much needed 21st century technological approach to running pub quizzes and trivia events. My role, as primary software developer for the company involves day to day fixes/improvements to both our quiz hosting desktop application and the accompanying web applications.

What was your job before starting your business?

I have worked for many years as a web designer and developer. Often freelance but between 2004 and 2008 I worked in a permanent role for the Leeds based agency Twentysix. In a full time job, I have always found the regime frustrating. Travelling to and from. Punctuality. Also, around the same time, computers were getting increasingly more mobile and Wifi becoming more prolific. It was these elements that turned me on to the possibilities of remote working. Just how remotely could I work?

To put this to the test, I found myself a one off dream freelance job which was to build a desktop application for a college in York. I say a dream job because the client were paying me £5000 but were happy to take delivery of the product five months later and were also happy to deal with me on a purely remote basis for the entire project. I left my job, travelled to Thailand, and embarked on my new truly remote working lifestyle, working on this project to the backdrop of numerous tropical beaches whilst making my way around South East Asia.

Later that year… and after meeting my now wife while in India, I returned to the UK where I have worked freelance from home ever since. In November 2009, my first daughter, Mabel, was born. I always knew that home working would be a good fit for having children… and since late 2011 our second daughter Etta has been with us too.

Did you use any childcare?

My wife and I split the childcare between us and have never used a nursery. Home working makes you very flexible for this as any time lost in the day due to child care can be made up in the evening or even at night. Not for everyone, but it suits me.

Speedquizzing General ImageHow did you get your business idea?

The idea for Speedquizzing came about through shared recognition that the age old pub quiz format had become broken ever since the arrival of mobile phones. Initially people would use these new found devices to cheat at pub quizzes by texting or phoning friends for the answers but in more recent years, since the arrival of internet phones, this behaviour had exploded onto the web, sourcing the answers from Google and the like. It was clear that a technological approach to the pub quiz, where answers are submitted in real time, was the only way to make quizzes fair again.

Starting as a hobby, I would build/improve/rebuild our prototype quiz hosting software and brother Alan would then take the software out into the field (or the pub in our case) and road test it at his weekly quiz events.. and in turn, feedback on the software’s successes and failures.  During this hobby period of maybe five years, our system relied on a third party product called Wireless slammers. Essentially a set of wireless quiz show buzzers which would be allocated to each participating quiz team to buzz in with. The main problem with this hardware is that it stood in the way of us ever turning the system we had created into anything that could be rolled out en masse. For example, any quiz host who could potentially become a customer of our software would also need to invest around £2000 in these devices. Luckily for us, this all changed when Apple released the first iPhone.

Once the iPhone (and later on, Android devices) became available to us, we quickly realised that we could create an app that would not only easily fulfil the role of our old hardware devices, but make it easy to add more and more complexity into our games. Furthermore, using smartphones would mean that no hardware beyond the quiz host’s own computer (running our software) would be of any concern to him as it would now be the quiz contestants themselves who would provide their own touchscreen, input devices. The smartphone pub quiz was born.

What were your challenges and how did you overcome them?

More so when I was still doing freelance work, I often had to really push hard to be allowed to work remotely as many companies still do not like it. However, after you’ve delivered a project this way once and clients see how well it can work, they are generally very cool with it for future projects.

Regarding SpeedQuizzing, as funny as it sounds now, only 2 years ago, when presented with our smartphone pub quiz concept, it was incredible how many people dismissed the idea saying “What? …you expect one person in every team to own a smartphone?”. We were always confident that these devices were going to become common place but in the face of such opposing views it is sometimes challenging to retain your focus and belief.

If you could give one piece of advice to a dad of a baby or toddler starting a business, what would it be?

Babies and toddlers create a lot of disorder to your life, especially at night. Therefore, if your business can be progressed and administrated from a laptop or iPad like mine can, then the trick is to use anytime you can to dip into your work. For example, baby wakes you in the night and after resettling them you go back to bed, but can’t sleep. Don’t just lie there.. do an hour or so of work until you can sleep. Similarly, when sitting, waiting for your child to fall asleep at bedtime, pull out your iPad and use this time also. If you feel as motivated as I do with mine, for your business idea to succeed, then working this way should become a pleasurable obsession and will therefore never feel like a chore.

What are your plans for the future?

The SpeedQuizzing business model has been created with scaleability at the heart of it. A customer can use our system/service in any part of the world. To date there are a modest 70 or so customers paying weekly to use it, but this figure should just keep on climbing as awareness increases. Therefore by this time next year, I hope to have fulfilled my goal of generating a fully automated income which will leave me free to spend much more quality time with my growing family!

If you enjoyed this post, why not make sure you stay in touch by joining  my mailing list?I’ll also send you a copy of  my e-book Running a business around a family: 9 steps to success.

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