Crunch was created to offer financial services to businesses which combined software and an accountant’s expertise. MD Darren Fell shares his entrepreneurial expertise with us.
Tell us about your business, what does it do?
Crunch opened for business in 2009, offering a game-changing online accounting service for less than half the price of traditional firms. Since then, we’ve grown to also provide complete business services to the UK’s self-employed and small business owners, including business insurance, mortgages and financial planning.
What did you do before you started this business?
I’d spent 14 years in the telecoms industry, and had definitely had enough of that - so I founded an email marketing company called Pure360 in 2001. We became one of the UK’s top three specialist digital marketing firms before I sold the company to focus on Crunch in 2008.
What inspired you to start up?
I (and so many self-employed people I chatted to) had had poor experiences with accountants charging exorbitant fees or providing poor customer service. It felt the perfect area to solve.
I wanted to create a completely new model that combined time-saving accountancy software with the support and expertise of a traditional accountant.
How would you describe your business to your grandma?
We help people earn a living doing something they're really passionate about, and to make it easier for people to get the absolute most out of running their own business.
Where do you get advice, support or help?
Our Chairman, Michael Van Swaaij - who was responsible for bringing eBay to Europe - is a brilliant mentor and a tremendous source of inspiration.
Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?
Thanks to selling Pure360, I had some startup capital.
I agreed with my two other co-founders to share the startup costs, however after our first round they backed out, citing the risk of the project. So, I carried on funding the business. It was the scariest time of my life as my bank account spiralled down quickly.
I put in around £250k funding, taking Crunch all the way to launch before I was happy to take the money from Michael Van Swaaij and Paul Birch (Bebo founder).
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Getting into the Accountancy Age top 100 in the UK was a massive achievement. We’ve been called the fastest growing accountancy firm in the UK and have been climbing up the list for the last three years.
How do you differentiate your business from others?
Quite simply, we genuinely do whatever we can to help the self-employed. It’s what drove me to start the business. The self-employed are the backbone of the UK economy, and we should be doing everything we can to support them.
When we started branching into different sectors in 2016, such as mortgages and insurance, we worked tirelessly to find partners who shared our vision. Not one driven by profit margins, but one that aims to provide the self-employed with what they actually need.
It’s been so satisfying to see the fantastic reviews from people who love our accounting service, and to sort out mortgages for people who never thought it was possible to get one.
What’s it like to be your own boss?
It’s super hard work. I’ve taken on a lot but it’s paid off.
I never stop thinking about Crunch and I absolutely love helping people, including creating careers with the business. 10 years in and I’ve got even more energy to see Crunch help so many more people with our new set of products.
Where do you see your business in 5 year’s time?
We’ve already built up 52,000 members to our free Crunch Chorus community, where member’s get discounts, meetups, free invoicing software and more. My dream in five year’s time is that we are helping 1,000,000 people achieve business success, not necessarily through riches but happiness.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
If you’ve got a gut feeling, just go for it and make sure you shout about your business as much as possible. Don’t get caught up in waiting for the completely perfect business idea in the world to come along - quite often the real idea will form from trying to make your original idea work.
Also, surround yourself with brilliant people and be ready to listen - businesses who don’t listen tend to be the ones who fail.
Our BQ Bulletin emails will land in your inbox at 7.30am, Monday to Friday, with a mix of the latest local business news, national news, and features to inspire you. Sign up here!
Click here to read our privacy statement