Kosta Mavroulakis is the founder and CEO of Empact Ventures, an organisation dedicated to helping start-ups and social enterprises grow sustainable businesses. After starting his own non-profit business with a group of friends at Warwick University while studying Computing and Business, he discovered his passion for the entrepreneurial world, leading him to launch Empact Ventures in 2016.
Although Kosta loved the freedom he got from running his own business, as Empact Ventures grew he knew he needed a solution to help him manage his workload. “As a one-man band, you try to get everything done by working around the clock – but sometimes, for your own sanity and health, you need to stand back and say you need some help,” he says.
Luckily, Kosta found the products and services provided by Heart Internet allowed him to manage multiple accounts with ease, which was ideal for the nature of the work he had to do. “The type of start-up clients we work for often need 4 or 5 domains at a time,” He says. “So being able to quickly order domains in bulk, and easily manage them all from one place has been particularly useful.”
Kosta also uses the Control Panel and its powerful features to streamline the management of his business. “The power of the control panel is immense,” he says. “I can set up hosting packages and issue domains quickly, and the one-click WordPress install makes it easy for me to set up a basic website for my clients.”
Kosta has built a strong reputation for his business and credits reliability as key. “We host and support a lot of our clients’ websites so always being available when they need us is very important. That’s why we’ve stayed with Heart Internet for 15 years – the reliability and support service they provide helps us do that.”
Empact Ventures is going from strength to strength, and he looks forward to growing his team and travelling across the UK and Europe helping start-ups to develop everywhere. “It’s going to be a long process, but one that I am looking forward to.”
Q: Who are you?
My name is Kosta Mavroulakis, I’m 29 years old and I’m the CEO and founder of Empact Ventures. What we do is support entrepreneurial organisations, non-profits and start-ups to develop grow and be sustainable. We help entrepreneurial organisations to develop campaigns, events and also initiatives that engage different entrepreneurs, start-ups, social enterprises while also advising mainly tech start-ups but also social enterprises on growing their organisation, maybe that’s finding investment, finding mentors, finding partners or customers that will help them. We are really here to help these different types of organisations that are looking to develop and grow.
I studied computing and business at Warwick University as an undergraduate and I did masters at Warwick business school in information systems and management. I didn’t take the typical degree that would lead me to a typical career; what actually happened was I started a non-profit whilst I was at university with some friends. That was called NACUE, the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs which basically helped entrepreneurship societies in universities to get started. That was a charity, it grew through government funding and working with big corporate companies and then we took it into 40 universities in a team of 25 and that’s when I got started into the entrepreneurial, enterprise eco-system scene. Since then, I’ve been working with accelerators all over the world, I’ve been working with entrepreneurs and non-profits, working in digital agencies and mentoring a lot of different young entrepreneurs, start-ups, non-profits to get started and then I fell into what I am doing now.
My parents always ran small businesses and travel agencies so I was always exposed to startups and the small business environment. When I got to university I was already working on a web design business at the age of 16 to 21, was really enjoying it and wanted to find people just like me. So I went to find the local entrepreneurship society on campus, ‘Warwick Entrepreneurs’ and found there were young people that wanted to connect and teach each other different skills and experiences. I got involved in organising conferences, business plan competitions, setting up incubators at Warwick University supporting up to 800-900 students and that’s where I came together with a bunch of other people around the country and found that there were entrepreneurial organisations like this at Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial and 9 other universities so 12 in total. We came together and formed NACUE, the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs and that was doing the same thing but supporting all these different local organisations in universities and later colleges all across the country to help students get started in Business.
Q: What led you to start Empact Ventures?
I decided to start Empact because my career changed quite a lot, I had gone from being in a very academic environment in university and nearly did a PHD at Warwick Business School and because my non-profit which was initially a startup and later grew to 25 people. Because of that growth, I decided to be in the ecosystem world. I then went into the digital agency space working 9-5 but I missed working in a vibrant, entrepreneurial world, stupid hours of 80-90 hours per week and travelling all over the UK. I decided to quit my job at the time and people found out that I was back in the enterprise sector and were offering my freelance contracts so I had that taste of working 2 or 3 days a week and travelling all over the place. I got approached by start up Britain, the UK’s largest campaign for small business to go all around the country with them with their iconic 66 route master bus and everything followed from there. I started getting approached for different contracts, accelerators, investment funds, event organisation companies and I thought because of the growth of that and I was very in demand, that I would hire somebody and set up Empact Ventures as a company because there is only so much you can do yourself.
Q: When did Empact Ventures start?
Unofficially it started earlier this year (2016), I was planning for after the start up Britain Tour this summer to get launched so all the planning and clients were coming in then. Officially around early summer and now there is a lot to do, having just got back from holiday and the door itself so it’s been quite a whirlwind since early this year for everything that has happened but there is lots in the pipeline and plans going forward.
Q: How many people are involved in Empact Ventures?
So I founded the business, I then bought on another person to work with me part time and we’ve got 4 different advisors and 3 or 4 different freelancers that work with us on different projects so it might be photographers, designers, developers, other people that help start-ups to raise investment. So it’s a small team but it’s a flexible team and people I work with across a number of different existing projects prior to empact and also new people as well.
Q: How has the organisation changed or evolved since the early stages of starting?
When I initially started, I thought this would be a great consulting vehicle. I had a lot of different contracts already that I had been doing previously and then I realised because of the industry I’m in, I support a lot of startups through StartUp Britain, I was getting a lot of startups approach me saying ‘can’t you join our business and be a co-founder’, ‘can’t you help us grow, we need partners, we need customers, we need press, we need to speak at conferences’ and so it was from there that I decided that there was more to me than just helping campaigns or different types of contract that Empact has. There was also the other side that because I came out of university and was involved in many non-profit initiatives, whether it was the Entrepreneurship society or the organisation that we started as a group of friends or supporting lots of different types of charities that I am very focused on social impact and helping people so rather than launching a non profit in future, I decided to bring all that under one roof with Empact and so that enables me to do the bread and butter contracts for entrepreneurial organisations. We are developing a start-up studio to help new start-ups to get started by being an institutional co-founder, but also helping existing start-ups to grow and get to that next stage. Then part of what we do is a non-profit campaign to help and use our networks which are very wide across the UK and internationally working with corporate organisations, entrepreneurial organisations, other non-profits and help great social causes which need it most. So this gives me a balance between supporting organisations for economic impact and growth to helping organisations who are looking at social impact and also helping start-ups in the middle that are looking for both.
Q: What are the next steps for your organisation?
So the next steps for Empact going forward is growing the team, so we can cope with the new influx of contracts which are coming in. Also supporting the many start-ups which have come to us to help them and why not help global social action campaign moving and getting the network of all those partners. We have sponsors, investment partners, team members, advisors, mentors, all those people getting involved in all those different projects to support them and it’s going to be a long process but one that I am looking forward to while doing many of my projects that involve travelling all over the UK and Europe.
Q: How do people find out about Empact Ventures?
Mainly it’s from finding me on the StartUp Britain bus in 50 cities around the UK but also from empact-ventures.com and looking at what we do and how we can help. We are always keen to help working with start-ups at the very early stage who have ideas and want to bounce them around with people and connect them to a few different organisations or opportunities. These that might help or more early stage companies that are looking to raise investment, looking to grow or the organisations which are looking to create initiatives to engage these organisations so whether it’s events or conferences or accelerators.
Q: How important is web presence for Empact Ventures?
Web presence is really important for Empact Ventures, it’s the main platform that people find us on, find other businesses and StartUps. I work with some of the top entrepreneurial campaigns like StartUp Britain, Accelerator funds like Seven, funded start-ups like credible or click mechanic. The web, whether it’s mobile, digital, all the new forms of tech is so important for any type of business. If you are not on the internet, people simply cannot find you and can’t book you. The old saying is “it’s not what you know, it’s who knows you”. The more visible you are backed up by a web presence, the more that opportunities can come your way and that’s exactly how I have built my network, reputation and how Empact has been built by becoming a sponge to lots of opportunities. Not just having a website but becoming very well connected and visible on social media, video and attached to lots of different campaigns and initiatives.
Q: Are there any clients which you are particularly proud to have worked with?
I am really proud to have worked with StartUp Britain first and foremost, run by the Centre of Entrepreneurs. It’s the UK’s largest campaign for small business as previously mentioned and the reason why I am so proud of working with it is because StartUp Britain takes an iconic route master 1966 bus with stairs on the back all around the UK to about 30 to 50 cities and towns. We work with 123 Reg and Natwest to support people to get free business mentoring and it’s a really high impact campaign which engages thousands of people. It was previously launched at Downing Street and Buckingham Palace. It helps all sorts of people whether you’re trying to start a car dealership, a tech business, social enterprise; having that bus and being able to connect and organise all its partnerships and helping to project manage it across the country. It’s a 6 week tour of a different city every day really means a lot to me and I feel proud to be associated with it and be helping a great non-profit campaign.
Q: If you had one aim or tagline for Empact Venture, what would it be?
Empacts aim is to help people, entrepreneurial organisations and start-ups to develop and grow through entrepreneurship and create impact whether that be social or economic so they can move forward.
Heart Internet based Questions
Q: How did you first find Heart Internet?
I have been with Heart Internet since about 2005. I found out about it through some friends who were running a small web design business and I was looking to this area of creating websites, managing web projects and they themselves had signed up to Heart and I was considering using other companies at first because I wasn’t aware of Heart, but this showed me the immense power of what the Control Panel could do, how good the support team was and that was very important with the type of business I was looking to set up at the time. So I decided to have a play and do some research and it came up with great reviews and a great reputation and that’s why I decided to build my web design business at the time and that has stayed with me for these last 15 years across all the different projects which I do now and look forward to using that account and working with the company going forward with Empact.
Q: What services do you use with Heart Internet?
Mainly I used advanced shared hosting packages under a reseller structure, so the initial type of business I had 15 years ago was basically just designing websites for small to medium sized enterprises, small business catering and travel companies. Initially it was just hosting and just setting up an instance but then I started to register a lot of my domains so it made sense to use various different services and features through there. There are things that have become very useful to me such as domain name referencing which is very useful if you don’t already host that domain name in your management. It’s very common to have a client come to me saying we are a charity, we have a web presence somewhere where they are not getting a great service, we’d like you to work with us and I usually turn around with Empact in this instance and sort them out with some hosting and then work with them but what the domain name reference helps with is to set up a temporary IP address, let’s say that it enables the website to get temporarily hosted there until the website is built in a private environment and then enables them to point the website address or transfer the domain name over to Heart Internet so they are getting an all in one service whether they are booking out myself or Empact.
Q: Please could you describe your experience of using Heart Internet to manage your domain name?
Heart Internet has always been my number one choice for registering my domains. It is very good in terms of price, it can come out much cheaper if you are ordering domains in bulk which is very useful particularly when you are a StartUp and the types of StartUp clients we work with and we need 4 or 5 different domains, you don’t want to sit there going through a process, can easily put them all in one box and it will come to you on the next screen and you can get benefits for that for ordering in bulk. Also, being able to manage it in one place, alongside having your hosting is very cross referenced so you can set up your hosting package and automatically select the domain you have registered. Also you can have things like domain name mapping depending on how advanced your website is going to be or domain name referencing if you haven’t quite transferred a domain name over to the domain name management side. Also being able to manage domains straight from the control panel – switching that view is very important in this day and age to have it all under one roof because usually whether it is start-ups or non-profits or entrepreneurial organisations, you set up your website, you get your hosting control panel, then you ensure that your domain is transferred and setting up your Google apps or Google mail and there’s a wizard straight through the domain name management profile of the Heart Internet control panel that at the click of a button you can get your website domain for example empact-venture.com and all the different records and advanced DNS records so your email can be set up in 48 to 72 hours and you don’t have to sit through gmail so I find the domain name management through Heart Internet to be very smooth and easy to use as a business.
Q: Would you recommend Heart Internet to other people looking to register a domain name?
Absolutely I would recommend Heart Internet, I think it is suitable for all different types of businesses so it can be a start-up, you’ve got an idea, you’re thinking about a brand name, you think you might register a bunch of domains so you put it into a bulk register and then you say I want all of these things and it will register it and you can set up all the accounts and then it will help you get the hosting package set up or a non-profit that is looking to reduce it’s costs significantly, particularly if it’s trying to protect its brand and it’s got a trademark or even a big business that is looking to manage a large volume or portfolio of domain names across the whole business in different departments. I think Heart Internet is probably the best solution you can have for domains and hosting as a business.
Q: How important is reliability of Heart Internet’s services for your business?
One of the most important factors of both selecting and staying with a hosting provider is reliability and Heart Internet provides just that. Even though Empact Ventures is not a web design business or a hosting business for smaller business, we do host a lot of our clients and charitable partner websites and support them and then being up to date and always available when their businesses are running is very important. This is because they look to us and it’s our reputation on the line so we like to stay with a company and that’s why we have stayed with Heart Internet for 15 years because of the reliability and the support service that Heart Internet provides.
Q: What are your overall experiences with Heart Internet?
Heart Internet has been with me for the past 15 years of my web history on the internet. It’s been a fantastic partner to base my different businesses on in the past. It’s been a great supplier but it’s also become great to support what I am doing in my various non-profit projects because I can quickly load up a hosting instance and domain name very quickly and a one-click install of WordPress and then setting up a basic website for a non-profit project so it’s become a very seem less process for me as an individual and now as a business. I usually only choose what clients and partners/suppliers I work with based on economic factors like price but also social values as well and if I can see that a company gives back and supports social initiatives and Heart Internet does just that and I’ve seen that they back a lot of different hackathon initiatives all around the UK like supporting web designers and web developers and I think that’s a great thing to give back to a community and it’s exactly what Empact stands for and supports so I would always choose Heart Internet going forward as well.
Q: What do you think is the best thing about running your own business?
Leading a small business is one of the most rewarding things you can do and challenging at the same time. The most rewarding part of it is the freedom that you get that you can work from anywhere, depending on the type of business you are doing, but that you are creating something whether that be a physical product, a tech product, a service that is going to help many different people, many different audiences whether that is for commercial reasons or non-commercial and non-profit. I would say that freedom is something which you can’t get as an employee.
Q: How about the cons of running your own business?
With the freedom that comes with running your own business, there are also several cons. It can be a risk to start a business because you don’t always have a guaranteed pay packet. Let’s say you’re unwell or you’re off or you break a leg, particularly if you are a contractor, you don’t get sick pay or annual leave unless you factor that in and so there are also things like cutting off when you are working not always a 9-5 job. When you first start, you can be working a ridiculous number of hours after 5:00. It’s not unusual for your partner to come home and you are at a computer at 8/9/10 maybe on a 2am deadline and that’s probably one of the main cons, not knowing when to cut off. Other cons can include getting paid on time from clients and that can become an issue particularly if you have a lot of outgoings to pay staff so it’s important to get the right cash flow in.
Q: Were there any particular problems when you first set up Empact Ventures and how did you overcome these?
Business isn’t the smoothest beast that you can overcome and there are always going to be issues at all stages of the journey from the initial all the way to the growing stages. At the beginning, as Empact Ventures got started, I decided to be one person doing contracting but quickly realised that as more people started to hear that Empact was getting started, that it was going to be in more demand and so that as a one man band, you might feel that you can deliver everything by working all hours of the day, but for your own health, sanity and personal life, sometimes you have to stand back and say you need some help. Whether you can afford that or not with getting an employee to join, there are different routes like getting someone to do work experience with you, maybe a student, an intern, a part time person or a contractor and that’s what we did to smooth the load. I would always recommend that when people come to problems of high demand and high workload to really look at what they have in front of them and really ask themselves ‘can you do it all within the period of time that you set’ whether that’s 9-5, whether that’s 3 days a week because you are doing another job or it’s the 40 hours you choose to work in the week, can you take on that full workload and deliver with the quality, consistency that you would like your clients to know you for so that you can build your reputation in the right way and if not look at bringing other people on board.