Digital & IT

Published: May 22, 2020 | Updated: May 22, 2020

From selling rose petal potpourris aged seven to creating a global marketplace 28 years later

Cas Paton, Founder and CEO, OnBuy.com
By Andrew Diprose, editor

It was only when he turned 30 – just five years ago – that Cas Paton realised he was always destined to become an entrepreneur.

“For some reason I never joined the dots, but even when I was seven I was looking for opportunities, at that time taking rose petals to create potpourri and selling it door to door,” the Poole-based Founder and CEO of OnBuy.com recalls.

“I never switch off and I’m a restless thinker, but I never appreciated I had all the characteristics of an entrepreneur until I was 30.”

Leaving school and joining the Royal Navy to train as an aircraft engineer for a four-year spell, Cas returned to civvy street and his first love: designing and building websites.

He built up a 27-strong company in Bournemouth, but it was ten years ago when the seed of a game-changing business idea began to take root.

Cas said, “It really came home to me the enormous opportunities available from eCommerce and having an online marketplace.

“The market was dominated by corporate giants, such as Amazon, but I felt there was an opportunity for something different.”

The first viability testing took place in 2012 and two years later work started on developing what was to become OnBuy.com.

It took two years and 11 months – and £500,000 invested by Cas from his own companies and without any external finance – before OnBuy.com went live on November 7, 2016.

And now?

Last month the online marketplace had more than 3m visitors with SimilarWeb ranking OnBuy.com as the fastest growing eCommerce company in the UK out of large businesses with more than 250,000 monthly visitors.

In addition, the site ranks fourth in terms of visitor volume growth, only beaten to the top three by online giants Etsy, Halfords and Apple.

Since its inception, OnBuy.com has partnered with more than 5,000 sellers, from household name brands to independent retailers.

It now offers more than 24m products to 8m customers.

But Cas said OnBuy.com only reached its critical mass in January this year, more than three years after its launch and just a month before securing a £3m investment from London-based venture capital Fuel Ventures.

He said, “We’ve spent the first three years building the number of products and traffic.

“Black Friday saw us trade £1m and last Christmas was also very strong.

“We’ve attracted some big names, such as Unilever, and have been adding retailers at the rate of 250 a month since January.”

OnBuy.com now employs 35 people at its Tower Park offices in Poole and is looking to take on a further seven staff.

Recent senior hires include a new Head of Marketing, Josh Brooks, and SEO Manager, Arvid Linde, bringing 30 years’ combined experience across global regions.

The difference with other online marketplaces, such as Amazon, is that OnBuy.com does not compete with its sellers, hold any stock or sell any of its own products.

Instead it invests all of its resources in growing its international customer base for the sole benefit of its sellers.

The platform, which gets its income from charging commission to sellers – five per cent for electronic goods and nine per cent for everything else – is embarking on a global expansion drive.

It plans to extend its operations to a further 42 countries by the end of this year, including the USA, Australia, India, Singapore and Malaysia, with a further 99 targeted for future years.

Cas, a father of four including twins, said, “No one else does what we do.

“We are building something new: the world’s first global marketplace.

“We have an enormous growth journey ahead of us and this is just the start of what we see as a rapid scale up, overseas and within the UK.”

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