Dadpreneur Profile: Nathan of Timto

Nathan Cornish, 38, is a founder of timto, a revolutionary online children’s birthday present service. He lives with his wife, Suzy and daughter Daughters, Megan 8 and Darcy 5 in Cardiff.

Before setting up timto, I worked for 15 years in the banking sector which involved a lot of travelling and as a result I was often away from the family home. There was a time when we considered moving away from Cardiff but this was not something that we decided to do because I believe that Cardiff is a great place to bring up a young family.

The transition from working for a large company to now running my own business has been an enjoyable one. Learning how to achieve the perfect work life balance however, is still a challenge at times.

The idea for timto began after my daughter’s sixth birthday party. Megan received so many presents from friends and family that when the gifts were taken home they needed to be carried in two giant sacks.  Whilst we were grateful for the generosity of everybody, we were surprised by the amount of gifts which were duplicates. I couldn’t help thinking that a lot of the money that had been spent on gifts that Megan was never going to use could have been better spent elsewhere.

We started to think that we were probably not the only parents to have found themselves in this situation and after talking with friends we found that they too had faced difficulty when it came to children’s parties.

I was convinced that there had to be a much more beneficial way for people to make wonderful gestures, something which could enhance the experience for the child and shift the concept of ‘giving’ into the 21st Century.

After carrying out extensive research I established that there are around 6.5 million children’s birthday parties each year. At these parties, more than £800 million is spent on presents, 30% of which is spent on gifts that are unused, unwanted or unloved. Not only were the presents themselves wasted but there were other factors to consider, like the amount of wrapping and packaging that is wasted as well as the amount of time, effort and fuel which Is involved in the last minute dash to the shop in search of suitable birthday presents.

We toyed with the idea that some of the money which is wasted could be converted into a good deed like a charitable donation. It was then when the idea for timto finally started to take shape.

timto stands for ‘there is  more to birthdays’. It is a free online children’s birthday present service which we launched in March 2010.

It’s a concept that we have been so excited about from day one, because it is the first of its kind ever to be launched. It lets friends and family club together in a collective fund, from which the child can buy their ideal birthday presents, that they themselves select. It also has an added charitable twist by allowing a proportion of the child’s birthday fund to be donated to charity, which encourages charitable giving from a young age and allows the child to pick a charity which they personally identify with.

We have funded the business through personal savings and have continually sought help and advice from business networks as well as family and friends.  Having people to talk to objectively about turning an idea into a reality was essential.

We recently secured guidance and investment from Paul Ragan, a serial entrepreneur. We spotted Paul during an episode of channel 4’s Secret Millionaire TV show which was aired in March and really liked how was able to spot potential in a business and subsequently help support that business to success. After approaching Paul at a charity event, we met and explained the timto concept to him. We were lucky enough to secure his support and he is now an executive chairman of timto. His involvement has enabled us to take our business to the next level and his advice has been invaluable.

Since launching timto we have used a number of avenues to promote the service. We quickly learned the power and potential reach of social media and how tools like facebook and twitter can give you an insight into consumer trends. We have also formed great working relationships with regional and national charities UK-wide who have not only supported our concept from the beginning but have also endorsed our service on their literature, at events and on their websites.

Feedback from the charities we are working with has been extremely positive, highlighting two clear benefits. Firstly, timto provides an entirely new stream of fundraising, which is vital in the current economic climate and secondly, it also helps educate a new generation of young people about the true value of a gift and encourages them to support people less fortunate than themselves.

We have also formed strategic partnerships with professional and community sport clubs including the Cardiff Blues rugby team.  Forming partnerships such as these has helped us raise awareness of the timto brand and allowed us to effectively communicate the benefits that the service can bring to parents, to children and to charitable organisations.

As we are a small business, we have outsourced key areas of expertise by employing a PR agency, freshbaked PR, who have helped co-ordinate our unveiling as well as a team of experts who have advised us on the setup and maintenance of the website. At every step of the process we have sought to forge mutually beneficial relationships which we believe is one of the core strengths of the business.

Launching your own business requires a huge amount of time and dedication, both during the week and at the weekends; since launching the business we have been extremely busy building and promoting the ‘timto’ brand.  However, whilst I know that it is important to focus on building a successful business, I am also aware that it is equally as important to ensure that I continue to spend quality time with my wife and daughters. With Megan and Darcy at school during the days, I use this time to work. This allows me to keep certain evenings free so that I can spend time with the girls after school. Making sure we have a family breakfast is also really important to me. We also have a ‘no timto’ rule during Sunday dinners, where nobody is allowed to discuss the business; this gives us some time away to spend as a family and allows us to take a step back from everything.

My advice to someone, who has a big idea and is looking to turn their business dream into a reality, is to be prepared to work hard; success doesn’t happen overnight. Build a circle of people around you whom you can trust and be prepared to listen to feedback.  Don’t be afraid to adapt your business plan; you must be flexible enough to be able to take advantage of opportunities when they arise. If you believe in your idea and are motivated, you will succeed in getting your new business off the ground.

Website link: www.timto.co.uk

We are offering all family friendly working readers the chance to have professional, personalised invitations made for a children’s party free of charge (preprinted & delivered to their home address).  To request your invitations simply type in the code FFW10 when creating your invites.

For the chance to win £30 of timto vouchers for use with any our retailers including Amazon, RLD, Mothercare, Early Learning Centre and The Entertainer please visit www.timto.co.uk

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