Ed Hollands started DrivenMedia straight out of university in 2015. The idea came when Ed was walking down a road and saw trucks waiting at a light. He thought: if I had a business that’s where I’d be advertising.
Ed went on Dragons Den in 2017 and came out with investment from Jenny Campbell. He now runs DrivenMedia, a fast-growing company that turns commercial trucks into mobile billboards.
Ed spoke to BLM about his path as a young entrepreneur.
What was your background prior to starting DrivenMedia?
I’ve always dreamed of running my own business, ever since primary school. I started one the summer before university and learned that I couldn’t market myself – which is quite ironic given that I now run a marketing and advertising company. I studied business at university so that I’d have the right skills when I had that right idea. And I’ve learned more about trucks in the last few years than I ever thought I’d want to know.
How did you educate yourself about starting a business?
I dived straight in. The day after I had the idea, I sat on the A38 in Derby writing down all the company names and numbers of the trucks that went past, then rang them up in the afternoon. I ended up with three hauliers that said yes, call us when you have something to put on our trucks. And that process took about 6 months.
How did you find those first months? Did you take a few knocks?
You always have to be resilient, whatever the business you’re in. But mine involved diving into the unknown, and I was probably going to get a no. I’d never done any cold calling before – it took me three months to realise it was cold calling. It just seemed like the right thing to do.
How have you found working with Jenny Campbell?
Jenny is very hands-on, suggesting how to improve things. At the moment we’re working on a campaign for ourselves, and that was completely Jenny’s idea. She loves to know what’s going on, who we’re working with – and who we want to work with, and whether she can help.
It doesn’t matter what we’re facing – Jenny’s faced it before. So it’s great to have her advice.
What were some of the highs and lows of starting and building DrivenMedia?
The high was actually launching something and seeing it on the road. If I’m driving somewhere and I see one of our ads on a truck, that’s me happy for the rest of the day. I think: I put that there.
The absolute lows were in the early days. You’re on a knife edge in terms of capital, and you’re doing everything yourself. It feels so personal. You can be crying one moment and delighted the next. And if someone attacks the business, it feels like they’re attacking you.
How has your experience as a young entrepreneur been? Do you have to fight to be taken seriously?
The third haulier’s office I walked into, he did not take me seriously. He thought that my boss was going to walk in behind me and that I was having him on. So you have to fight really hard to stand out, and once you do, some people are amazed and want to work with you and others are put off.
What advice would you give to other young entrepreneurs?
The first thing I’d do is go and speak to your customers. If you talk to them and find out exactly what they want, what they want to pay, and how they want it to look, work, taste – you’re going to create a product that customers want.
I did it the other way around. I had the idea, knew it would work, and talked to hauliers before going to customers. Initially we only offered the sides of the trucks, but it transpired that they wanted the backs too. And I resisted that for a while before finally committing. We lost about seven months in the process.
What are your values as an entrepreneur?
I’m stubborn. If you tell me I can’t do it, I will try and do it. But I also like to help people – if I see someone struggling, I’ll go out of my way to help and guide them. If I’ve been there, let’s have a quick chat and see if I can help.
My own mentors – Jenny Campbell and Graham Mulholland – will do anything to help if I’m stuck. If they can’t help, they’ll point me in the right direction. And I know with Jenny and Graham that I’m in safe hands.
What are your plans for DrivenMedia for the next few years?
The plan is to grow as fast as we can. We’re working in an exciting space and we’ve got a lot of innovations in the pipeline. We’re looking at other potential ways of helping hauliers and advertisers, too.
What are your personal plans? Would you like to start another business?
I’d like to create a Driven Group in the future. To grow DrivenMedia and get someone else in to play with it, then set up a supporting business in a completely different space. It’s really fun running your own business – there are times when you’re screaming at a brick wall, and then the next moment you’re celebrating and wanting to tell everyone, and you can’t beat that feeling.