Two young entrepreneurs who had to transform their business overnight after the UK went into lockdown have made their first £1million – and they’re about to take on Europe.
Hugo Tilmouth, 24 and Charlie Baron, 26, had been working on ‘ChargedUp’ since 2017, and 2020 was ‘supposed to be their year’.
They’d planned to launch a network of 2,500 charging points across Europe, allowing the public to rent mobile phone charging packs, in a similar model to bike sharing.
But as coronavirus started to unfold across Spain and Italy, ChargedUp’s future was thrown into doubt.
“We had to place our staff on furlough,” Charlie explained, recalling the moment reality started to hit home.
But within days, they managed to reset their company completely.
The young tech founders turned their mobile charging docks into hand sanitiser stations called ‘CleanedUp’, and in less than a week landed their first contract with transport giant TfL, providing a vital lifeline for their business and 45 staff.
Incredibly, the start-up, born in the midst of the pandemic, turned over £1million in its first month.
Today, it’s secured major contracts with Costa, Crossrail, DHL and Hello Fresh.
The company has picked up so much that it’s been able to re-hire its five furloughed employees and take on a further 12.
Hugo Tilmouth who was the brainchild behind the mobile charging network said: “I have to give Charlie all the credit for the CleanedUp idea.
“We were set to roll out 150 mobile charging stations across UK airports, train stations and shopping centres the week lockdown hit, completely halting us in our tracks.
“Immediately, we were like, how on earth do we keep the company afloat?
“We spent the entire night going through models and situations, taking the really austere view – what happens if there is no chance of revenue for ChargedUp until 2021?
“We then asked ourselves, what do we have in our skillset and how do we still support our supply network of shopping centres, pubs and transport hubs to help them operate safely in future?
“Somewhat serendipitously, the mobile stations sat dormant had been designed specifically for high traffic locations – which spurred Charlie into thinking they could be refined into large capacity affordable hand sanitising bays with minimal investment.
“While I was number crunching, Charlie had not only seeded the idea with an existing client, but road tested it with a supermarket chain and almost overnight we firmed up there was appetite.”
“All in all, we had the idea on a Thursday, a working prototype by Monday. By the following Wednesday the factory was ready to start production. In that same time, Charlie had already sold 150.”
The pair got in touch with several local gin distilleries who were also struggling due to the pandemic, and combined their resources to create their product.
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In just three months, CleanedUp has sold over 7,000 UK manufactured hand sanitising units to what Hugo and Charlie describe as “dream clients”.
The startup is now part of a trade recovery fund initiative helping the UK’s pubs and restaurants welcome customers back safely, providing access to hand sanitiser and hygiene kits free of charge to trade.
“Hospitality businesses are the linchpin in bringing people together to socialise and celebrate – something we have all sorely missed during the pandemic,” Charlie said.
“So many outlets have been impacted by this crisis and badly need help to open their doors again.
“Pubs and bars are the heartbeat of every community – sustaining hundreds of millions of jobs, often the first foot on the employment ladder for young people.
“When ChargedUp was faced with Covid-related headwinds, we figured we had nothing to lose.
“We threw ourselves completely into CleanedUp and somehow we’ve not just survived but thrived. Which is why, with this clean bill of health we feel it’s right to return the government furlough assistance.”