Polly Gowers already had an international equestrian career when she started a site called Everyclick from her garden shed back in 2005. Seven years later, and it’s raised more than £2.7 million for UK charities, earning Gowers accolades such as “Entrepreneur of the Year”, “Mum on a Mission” and, more recently, Order of the British Empire. Not bad.
As part of our Self Made series on Pocket-lint, we’re asking the same six questions to company founders in the world of technology to find out in snapshots how they made it from their relatively of humble beginnings to where they are today.
Polly Gowers OBE
What are you doing right now?
I am the CEO of Everyclick Ltd. We build technology that lets people give to charity in new and innovative ways. To date over £2.7m has been raised and our fastest growing product is Give as you Live which has signed up over 2,000 leading retailers to let shoppers turn their online purchases into a way to give to any of the 200,000 charities in the UK. We work with a wide range of brands from John Lewis, Tesco and Asda through to boutique fashion brands like Anthropologie.
What were you doing 12 years ago?
At the turn of the millennium I decided that, while I still loved horse riding I did not want to have to do it for a living. I started working for a web design company as a sales rep. It was a commission only position but enabled me to begin a new career.
I spent a lot of time working from home, so I turned my garden shed into an office and I remained working with the web design team for about 18 months, after which I switched to working for myself.
A colleague, who worked with me in the web design team, and I started a business called Click to Client. Click to Client gave birth to Everyclick in 2005 - all from the same garden shed.
What were you doing 17 years ago?
Running an equestrian business, competing and selling horses. I was competing at national and international level. The frustration was that the good horses always had to be sold to pay the bills. I was ranked in the top 50 UK riders for a number of seasons and trained horses that went on to compete at the Olympics.
What were you doing 21 years ago?
I had my first taste of international competition winning Team Gold at Samur CCI on a horse called Herald the Tetrarch. I had also started my own business in Buckinghamshire looking after and training other people’s horses. To help pay the rent, I was also commuting to Ireland every other week to train and compete young Irish horses. Looking back, it was madness but so much fun.
What were you doing 30 years ago?
I was at Falingaye High School in Woodbridge, Suffolk, they were trying to educate me. I was studying for my O levels – I achieved 9 and went on to take my A levels there too, in Chemistry, Physics and Maths. I got a place to do medicine but horses were an increasing distraction and, after being shortlisted for the British team, I decided that the top hat I had just invested in needed more use and - much to my parents' and the school's dismay - passed up my place at med school.
What is your defining moment in your life?
The day I married my husband Julian. He is my rock who supports my obsessive ambition and crazy working hours. He is a great husband and a fantastic father. Between us we have three lovely girls who make everything we do completely worthwhile.
I am determined that Give as you Live will unlock the hidden millions that are buried in corporate marketing budgets for UK charities. The OBE that I received in the Queen’s Birthday Honours this year has spurred me on. I believe I am at the beginning of the journey, and that we still have a lot to do. It also underlines my belief that you are only as good as your team. I am very lucky to have a great team at home and in the office, too.