We spoke to John Allen, owner of Townhouse, a company that offers high quality apartments for business guests and holiday makers. John is no stranger to business on the Isle of Man, with a rich history in some of the Island’s most successful start-ups (including software company, PDMS, Internet Service Provider (ISP), Domicillium and lighting specialists, LED Direct) John talked to us about his business experiences in the Isle of Man.
What is Townhouse and what does it offer?
'Townhouse is the first apartment hotel on the Isle of Man. I took the concept following a family visit to Disney where you got an apartment instead of a hotel room - which was fantastic.'
Is this your first business venture?
'I‘ve got a number of different businesses in the Isle of Man. The largest I run is Eclipse which provides communications equipment for nursing homes, and is one of the largest providers in the UK. I employ 6-8 people here on the Island and many more in the UK. I am also the founder of PDMS, a very successful software business on the Isle of Man. It has 50-60 employees on Island and is a major exporter. We work for governments and hold a number of other contracts to develop software.
I started a company called Domicillium, an ISP business, and whilst I am no longer involved, it has become very successful. I also started LED Direct 8 years ago, importing LED light bulbs to the Island, a real passion project if you can believe that about lightbulbs!'
What type of business support have you received from the Department?
'Government run a marketing assistance scheme [now the Business Improvement Scheme] which I’ve made use of with a number of businesses. Thanks to Government support, we were able to fund a presence at a Birmingham Trade Show trade show which completely changed the business. The government played a very significant role in the success of Eclipse.
The marketing grant system gives you the confidence to spend money marketing your business knowing you’re not having to absorb the full cost. Marketing is a bit of a dark art, you’re never really sure what you’re going to get back out of it, but Government provides that little switch flicker which gives you a spark and better chance. We also had financial assistance to set up Domicillium, a really capital intensive business.'
What would you say are the key advantages of doing business in the Isle of Man?
'The Isle of Man is a very successful place. The Island is a land of opportunity. It’s a small community and a microcosm of a lot of industries. You’ve got a market within a small environment – if ever there was a nurturing base for a start-up business this is it. Word of mouth works really well. You don’t need to spend a fortune on marketing if your product is local. Provided you pitch the business to provide the right quality of service and product, there’s always a market for it.'
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Find out more about The Town House Isle of Man.
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