The story so far...
From a bedroom business almost 20 years ago, to a top 10 agency with over 100 staff, Chillisauce has been around the block when it comes to events. We've created thousands of experiences for friends and colleagues. It's not all been easy, but pretty much right from the beginning it's always been about the customer, and to create an unforgettable experience that gets talked about for years to come...
It began with some innocent "domain speculation" back in 1998 when James purchased the Chillisauce URL. At this time, unhappy in his job and unsure of his future let alone what to do with the domain, little did he know that things would soon snowball.
"I was 29 years old living in Balham. I'd bought a book on software and taught myself to write code, building the very first site which was basically a portal for men, with cool products, adventure holidays and football results. I'd written some code to scrape all the results from the various news sites, and aggregated this data in to one feed. It became really popular."
By this point, the prospect of being in business on his own, coupled with the need for funding, James brought on some old Uni mates as equity business partners. So with a £10k loan from his mum, and his new team mates Matt and Will, they acquired themselves a new "office" somewhere in SW London.
"The first office we took had no windows and a garage door. Effort was made to try and brighten the place up with some paint and pictures, but it was ultimately a garage. It was horrible."
"We were receiving around 1000 unique visitors to our site each day, and basically acting as an affiliate, passing leads to a provider of activity trips. Things seemed to be going well, but it turned out these guys were really more focused upon vouchers as opposed to actual delivery of events, and a bit of digging revealed that barely any of those leads were getting what they'd enquired about. So when this partner admitted they were swamped with the quantity of work we were generating, we decided it was time to start building these trips for ourselves."
The East Castle Street office was a great chance to really get in to the swing of things. Bookings increased and the sales team expanded with the four founders taking turns to perform different roles. The business continued to grow, and the team moved upstairs to a larger room where more sales people could be hired along with a product specialist to work on new activities that could be taken market.
"We kept hiring to the point where we were all double desking and it was really cramped. So we moved again, first to a bigger place on Carnaby Street, and 2 years later to another larger place over the road.
"It was top floor with big glass windows on both sides of the office, and overlooking Carnaby Street. It was probably a bit of an extravagance at the time but it created such an immense sense of pride that in hindsight it was probably worth it."
"Everyone worked really hard. Evenings, weekends. We were doubling our turnover year on year and constantly expanding. We designed more products, taking on more suppliers and continually expanding our sales team, but despite the growth it was still very much a family style business. Everyone was friends. We worked together. Socialised together. It was hard work, but it was a lot of fun.
"...and when the bacon sarnie rule was phased out, we knew things had started to get somewhere!"
Having outgrown this office Chillisauce moved once more, this time to Noho and to Wells Street where further scaling saw many more hires across sales, product, marketing, IT and notably in 2011 hiring the current Managing Director, Kevin Dazely. The business really started to find its feet now, and having Kevin on board allowed the business to concentrate on building out more systems and a much needed hierarchy to support the ongoing expansion.
"Continual growth, gradually filling every nook and cranny of the Wells Street site and with more double desking and headcount that took us to the limits of our health and safety criteria, it's at this point we realised as we neared the end of our lease that it was maybe time to find a new home."
Mike Chidzey was promoted to the role of Marketing Director; Mike joined as an intern fresh from University back in 2008, and remains at the company now taking charge of all marketing but with a distinct focus upon website content and SEO. Mike is a great example of somebody that has experienced a flourishing career with Chillisauce, and he's by no means an isolated case.
As with any growing business, one of the biggest pain points is in growing an IT infrastructure to cope with growth, and in the case of Chillisauce, this growth has been relentless. The investment in to technology hasn't stopped however it wasn't until the move to the current location on Maltby Street that CS5 was finally launched; a fully bespoke web based platform allowing for end to end sales and booking of events and event management. This project is ongoing and the system is always evolving, but this new infrastructure solved a lot of our problems and placed us in to a new league of our own.