How to make business out of business in Wales

Mark Powney of Business News Wales explains how sharing good news stories in Wales has helped him achieve success.

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Hi Mark. Tell us a bit about Business News Wales. What do you do?

Business News Wales is a B2B news channel and website. We communicate the news of the market, to the market.

We're a slightly unusual publisher in the sense that our revenue model is based on clients paying us a retainer to take hold of their communications and turn them into more dynamic formats. We then put those communications in front of our clients' audiences in a very targeted way.

Our content is all online, including written content, video and a weekly podcast. We cover 22 local authority regions and 12 industry sectors, all specific to Wales.

What’s the story behind your business?

Business News Wales now is coming towards the end of its fourth year, but I started my first business 15 years ago – the first online job board in Wales. This was at a time when dial-up internet was just starting, so there was no broadband and the internet was really poor. I was one of the first to enter that industry, and eventually sold the business.

My next business was a print magazine, a job magazine in Wales. We printed 80,000 copies every fortnight. Unfortunately, then the credit crunch arrived… The opportunity had gone unfortunately, so we closed it down.

After spending some more time in the world of recruitment, I set up a digital agency and launched an online magazine called Recruitment Buzz. Then four years ago we started Business News Wales. It was an experiment, but our traffic absolutely ballooned.

We saw a gap to enter the media market but in a different way – traditional advertising models are dying, so we focus on online engagement to help clients get return on investment for their digital spend. Four years in, we’ve got over 20,000 daily subscribers to our newsletter, and average between 9,000 and 10,000 unique users on the site each day.

How many people work for Business News Wales?

We have eight full-time team members, and work with around 25 freelancers. Those are a mixture of suppliers, including tech people and content writers who produce work for our clients. The problem with employing people in full-time roles in our industry is that things can change from month to month in terms of demand. By staying flexible and using freelancers, we can scale without the pressure of a fixed overhead.

I'm a firm believer in the gig economy. For most service-based industries, the freelance market is the future. Particularly in Wales, where most businesses are small and medium-sized enterprises. When you create an infrastructure of SMEs, all in transaction with each other, you create a solid economy. It means that when things like Brexit and big international changes happen, the impact is not felt as hard.

What are some other advantages of being based in Wales?

The tech and creative sectors in Wales are growing quickly at the moment. They're absolutely flying. I think the main reason for that is we've got a workforce and a skillset here. Going back to 10 years ago, there was a lot of money put into the digital economy in Wales. We’re now starting to see the fruits of that, particularly with all the youngsters coming out of university. The infrastructure is there to support them.

Wales also offers an appealing lifestyle, an attractive environment to live in and affordability. The rent and business rates here are not as expensive as they might be in other UK cities.

Finally, what’s the most rewarding thing about running your business?

The main thing that motivates me is our belief in sharing positive, good news stories. There are some very negative forces online at the moment. If you take that negative momentum and turn it into a positive, you can do a lot of good.

We carry stories from small businesses about how they're succeeding and offering great products. We get emails from them thanking us for covering their story because they just won a new big order that’s allowed them to employ new staff. You can't help but get a bit of a buzz from that kind of thing.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Mark.