As the owner of LDM Expert and Vivity Internet Marketing, I have been talking to small business owners to learn about their businesses and find out what challenges they face in developing and growing their sales together with online marketing.
In today’s interview, I talk to John Lambert who is the co-founder of Onvou, a leading provider in hospitality voucher systems.
OnVou is a premium online marketplace for exclusive deals and special offers on luxury lifestyle experiences. With premiere travel destinations across Thailand, a world of adventure and excitement are only a click away. Get started on your journey today. Our primary goal is to establish ourselves in 3 more countries this year beginning with The Philippines.
I can whole heartedly recommend Onvou and if you want to get in touch with John, I’ve provided his contact details here for you:
hello my name is paul jordan and today in the series of interviews with the business owners i'm talking to john lambert from onvu um so john introduce yourself please tell us a bit about you and what's your business wonderful thanks paul thanks for today um much appreciated um yeah my name is uh john lambert i'm the co-founder of a company called onvo um was founded in thailand about halfway through the pandemic a friend of mine who's been who we've been friends with shall i say from school from the age of 10 sat down one day looking at new ideas um and we we came up with um onvu at the uh a platform where we provide vouchers for uh the hospitality industry okay and we're based in bangkok in thailand right um we're literally gearing up at the moment to um go into our second country which is going to be the philippines ah what's what's promoted the choice of the philippines as being the second place to go so i have an additional business again in the software industry and my head office for that business is actually in the philippines so yeah makes things a little bit easier for us with people on the ground feet on the ground and a substantial understanding of the hospitality industry in the philippines okay both nice places as well hot and sunny you must feel like you're in holiday all the time and not working yeah it's funny isn't it when when you live abroad um especially family and friends they automatically assume because you're in thailand or the philippines or singapore that just sat by the pool having a pina colada i don't remember the last time i sat beside the pool and had a pina colada oh no i thought that's the laptop lifestyle you know sit there on the on the sundeck laptop out working away getting the sun yeah that's right in in theory it sounds really good but um i don't remember the last time i had the opportunity to do that oh what a shame that's um that's very much the sort of lifestyle that appeals to me yeah me too so um obviously you've covered the question about tammy worry about whereabouts you're based um so what's a secret about you that nobody else would know that you think the audience would find amusing or interesting oh goodness gracious um nothing too embarrassing of course um secret uh many people know that i love sailing okay i love the water um but not many people know that my my dream or my ambition is um to have a business which is sustainable where you know i have a good team around me um which will enable me to um purchase a uh a small boat a yacht and um go off sailing around the world and and explore things firsthand and look look at places where you simply can't get by an airplane
um well i can certainly share that ambition that sounds lovely that's something i'd really love to do it's very appealing of course there's probably a few russian superyachts going cheap at the moment is that the fields here you know yeah i'm thinking about something slightly smaller okay yeah the running costs are a little bit prohibitive with some of these aren't they if we can afford to buy them you know
right so tell us a bit about your early years you know college school and all that kind of thing what how did that pan out for you so i um i opted not to go on to university or college um i left school as a 15 year old
and joined um the senior service which is the the royal navy for for those that wouldn't understand um and i um i i did a minimal time uh three and a half years um in the royal navy um and i often say it was actually what made a man made made me into a man that i am today to be honest and uh i was uh fortunate or unfortunate depends on the way you look at have served in the first uh gulf war so the ship we were on which was uh the nickname of cherry b was the guard ship to the then ark royal um and we're a flotilla of nine ships from different parts of the eu uh sorry united nations not eu united nations okay uh that went out on tour for about nine months um so i joined the i joined the royal navy i did about three and a half years in the royal navy um and then from there uh there was a period of time where we were able to take early voluntary release which was unusual so you know people are able to um i'm trying to think what the work what the word is um when people are able to leave work with a little bit cash in hand
i'm not sure not early redundancy not that sort of thing yeah similar to redundant similar sort of thing okay similar thing to redundancy we're able to opt out and i found myself getting into business pretty much from the age of 19 for the first time and i started started to start working in the mobile phone industry okay and just progressed from there so you obviously joined the navy of quite an early age and john from was it 16 when you joined then i i literally had my uh my train my initial training was 16 and one month wow that's um that's really impressive to join at such an early age i think yeah brave yeah it was uh it's funny how it's funny when you when i look back those initial six weeks uh hms rally were were at that point the hardest six weeks i'd ever had in my life and um i i could never imagine anything difficult anything more difficult however those initial six weeks ended up being very simple compared to the following 10 weeks that i had a hms dryad okay okay i can imagine um you know being at such an early age i can imagine being homesick and you know being away from home for the first time very challenging very challenging but yeah it's a building yeah definitely it was it was very hard but um i've always been pretty good at making friends to be fair um and quite easily you know great great great bunch of people that i uh i joined up with during my initial training um and then of course you you finish your six weeks and you move on to your part two training which was my radar operating i was a radar operator okay i then went on for my phase two training but none of the other people that was with me during the first six weeks came to the same place so you then start all over again yes and you meet a whole bunch of new people and you you start life again and then the same happens when you join your first ship you you join alone and so forth um so yeah something you get used to pretty quickly to be fair that's that's interesting because um my uh 20 one of my i've got three children my 20 year old daughter she's uh she's just come up for her first year in the navy she's based at sultan in portsmouth from about two or three weeks ago she's really enjoying it and uh so it's very interesting to hear your story john it really is it's been very interesting so so go back to the mobile phones at 19 tell us how you got from there to what you're doing now it's quite a quite a journey yeah so um i yeah i opened the well i actually was doing like commission only sales initially
and i did that for several months before basically taking the risk on and and going for my first shop and i opened i think i opened a shop around 20 it's about 20 20 and a half something like wow that's impressive wow i took on my i took on my first shop uh that was in chatham in in kent okay yes the first shop i had um and then i um i moved from chatham and i opened a place in croydon which is where i was living in the area um and then between you know the things that went on around that time um i would say by the time we were at the peak of our business we had um with three shops and we had a wholesale business uh in the mobile phone industry and that was back in the days of card phone warehouse woolworths was selling mobile phones i remember wolves yes um so it was it was a successful time where commissions were high and the phone prices were pretty cheap um but then obviously the big boys came in and it became more and more harder to um to to do the business in a profitable way um and um i think i would have been um around 25 26 um and you know we were doing pretty well in business and um we started to then look at immigrating abroad and doing something in another country and that was um how i found myself um first of all moving to north cyprus in the mediterranean um so we we sold up and we went off and did business in north cyprus for a number of years brilliant i'm uh i'm very envious because i know so many people would like to move abroad to work me being one of them um so that's a really cool thing to do it's quite quite a risk so if you kind of several your ties with the uk or have you still got kind of obviously family and roots back down back over here or yeah um i mean if i would say the the biggest mistake i ever made paul was um actually severing my ties on a financial basis completely from the uk what i should never have done is sold my sold my property okay at the time i had a a number of properties that i was renting as uh you know mortgage to rent um and um obviously the property that we lived in but we sold everything and um and then took our chances in north cypress and realistically we should have kept at least one property there but hindsight you can't box it and sell it can you unfortunately no you'd make a fortune if you could definitely okay so so i think you've kind of answered one of these questions indirectly already but i was because you were talking about the sailing but i was going to ask you what interests do you have outside of working as well as sailing you must have other interests oh yeah most definitely yeah yeah
yeah okay sorry yeah it's nice okay so yeah so tell me about your other interests outside yeah sailing has always been uh has been at the top of my um hobbies if you like and loves um but just overall traveling as well um i i i just love the thought of um you know being able to go to other parts of the world and and experience different culture um and part of that love for different cultures and and traveling led me to cooking i i really do i really do enjoy cooking um i think i'm you know gordon ramsay level
well you swear as much as him yeah exactly that exactly that um yeah so i i love i really do love cooking um i'm just sort of dabbling at the moment in um vegan and vegetarian cuisine at the moment okay with the thought and then and yeah the thought and mindset of moving away from um eating meat to becoming maybe vegetarian vegan vegan at a very big push i always imagine kind of because you're quite near the coast so i imagine must be a huge abundance of beautiful fresh fish on the markets that kind of thing um unfortunately in north cyprus no yeah unfortunately where we are um you're pretty limited to fish we we we're much more lucky in the uk of being able to go to a fishmongers or you know the the counter in tesco's or sainsbury's unfortunately here um it's very limited you might get a bit of sea bass you might get a bit supreme okay and um if you're really lucky you might get a bit of salmon yeah everything's frozen not much of a choice at all really gosh i'm i'm really surprised it just goes to show you how wrong i am about so many facts because i'm not very well traveled around the world but you have this vision of like a nice sunny place and the blue sea and little lovely little romantic trawlers bobbing around trawling in all the beautiful fresh fish yeah if you jump on a jump on the plane and you know go to istanbul as an example you know we're not far away really considering you know we're what are we 40 miles i think or something off the coast of turkey um you go there and there's an abundance of of fresh fish it's unbelievable um and actually whenever i go to istanbul i tend to come back with a hand luggage full of um really good fish oh excellent reasonably priced as well hoping your suitcase doesn't leak all the melting ice to keep it cool
so is it quite obviously distance wise it's not far was it quite easy to get to because that's one place i did go a long time ago istanbul but um i'm sure it's changed a lot but is it quite accessible for you then where you are yeah 20 minutes 20 minutes to the airport from here um and an hour's flight using turkish airlines or pegasus um so yeah not not not far away and very easy very very easy brilliant so it could literally be a saturday day trip there and back then by the sounds of things you can take an early morning flight and come back in the evening is it quite what the price is like for that you pay it really depends on the time of year um but i mean i haven't done it for so long now um but you probably get a return flight for under 100 quid quite easily wow so it makes it quite you know very attractive to do on a regular basis although you haven't been from wales i see in istanbul such a beautiful place i remember i mean i remember i went there on my honeymoon would you believe not we went to turkey we went to bodrum and we had a day trip to istanbul we're not a day trip we had like a little tour and we went to istanbul for a couple of nights remember there's the san sophia mosque and the blue mosque which were absolutely spectacular yeah and but also this place i don't remember the proper name but it's like an underground mausoleum you walk down these little steps that's suddenly all open there's like um lanterns and water and caves it's like a very unexpected place it's does that ring any bells to you no
far from one of the mosques it's literally just like walking down an underground station except there was no signage it was very very you almost not even noticed it was there but when you walked down these steps it all opened out it's like yeah it's just like an underground um mausoleum it was amazing very very unexpected of course the grand bazaar was amazing all the rugs and the tea and beautiful beautiful area and never get never get sold that place no i can imagine very dynamic and i always um always remember the kind of they like to negotiate don't they kind of you know haggling and all that yeah yeah big time yeah if you're good it's a good place to get good deals so it's kind of a place and i know you said you haven't been for a while but is it is it one of the places you know you like traffic but is it one of your sort of favorite spots in istanbul yeah you know what istanbul for me is um i obviously i'm very biased because of of london because of you know coming coming from the uk um but is probably one of the best cities um in the world that i've traveled to okay yeah i i really really love istanbul very very much so what about some talk about you know you're really into into cooking and food so is it the turkish cuisine that you really like as well because i know they i think i think a lot of those sort of cypriot not so much cyprus not so familiar with but i imagine the food's quite similar but i remember the mezzes and all the amazing sort of stuffed um peppers and very similar to a lot of other countries but and aubergines remember that aubergines are out of this world smoky flavor and again it's quite wasn't a lot of meat when we went to turkey there wasn't a lot of meat on the menu but there's lots of vegetable dishes which are delicious
turkeys are renowned the food is again is out out of this world you know that if you there's so many different diverse um cuisines that are sort of brought in from anywhere you know around the middle east you know it's it's hard to get bored of food in in istanbul to be fair it really really is it's four o'clock here nearly well half three i'm feeling hungry already now talking about the food so how do you do your um so when it comes to marketing on do how do you go about marketing with with that business um so mainly we've been using um uh facebook and instagram for doing paid adverts
a little bit of of google ads as well not not too much um and we do a frequent um uh weekly email shot that that goes out to our to our customers so yeah so recently we've um we we're looking at a new strategy um and we're looking to direct uh market to uh corporate customers uh more so rather than individuals okay and um we're also looking at the possibility of directing our marketing more so to our partners um to use their facebook pages and their instagram pages to to market um the vouchers through uh so so taking a slightly different angle at the way we mark it rather than it coming from us but doing something jointly so if we if we have a voucher say for the marriott hotel as an example then trying to utilize their facebook and instagram in connection with our facebook and instagram so we can get a you know sort of a double hit a longer range if you like um so that's something we've been looking at more recently um and we've been in discussion about you know life changing in social media and tick tock is the huge phenomenon now and i think realistically we have to start looking at doing things um maybe more millennial may be the right word to use i'm not too sure um but you know maybe aim things towards tick-tock more um because i'm noticing the reach that people are getting in tiktok compared to the other platforms are phenomenal yeah i think it's very although i say up and coming i think it's already got there in terms of the coverage and the uh the reach that's got well over um i think i forget what the statistics are but they're growing massively the facebook's having quite a few problems it's kind of in decline in some respects that some people say it's a tick-tock i'm hearing so many people say it's a good place to be it's less problematic getting your answer out there there's less facebook spans ads left right and center but tick tock doesn't do that so yeah i think it's a good thing to do and um a lot of people say well it's a different type of demographic but it's like all this marketing stuff it's only when you try out that you find out if it works or not you know it's the best part i think that's it i think it's about um dipping your toe in the water and seeing if if you like it i think that's the only way forward personally um we you know things have changed now um considerably and i'm not saying everything has changed because of the pandemic but certainly many things have changed because of that and with that i think we all have to find new ways to get our point across or to get our brand across to say yeah you know we we have to look at things in a different way that's for sure okay good thank you so um if you had any work you had like two or three words of advice for business startups or entrepreneurs that are trying to make progress in developing a business what what was what tips and hints would you give people um
look at the market that you're going to go into and uh explore that market thoroughly before you before you go into it um make sure that the market that you're going into is is something that um you have your own uh curve on or your own um you know to be able for you to be able to make it you make it your brand if if that comes i'm not sure if that's come across come across correctly but yeah you you if you're for example if you're going to design plates you know dinner plates um you know it's something that we all use on a day-to-day basis um you know there's there's hundreds of thousands of of plates out there different shapes sizes colors whatever you know make sure that there is room for your product to come to the market but make sure that you can make it your own um and and you know dare to be different is what i would say okay not to be the same as everybody else good advice yeah stand out from the crowd it's uh i think it's very important because i think so many brands even with the quality of particular products it's the actual the branding and the kind of less tangible things that people are attracted to the images and the videos and the actual product might be quite similar to something else but because of the way it's promoted people get a fandom by the characters that appear in the adverts and the humor or the color schemes and they're attracted towards that and the actual product is i wouldn't say the product is secondary but it's all the branding and how it's presented that makes it attractive to people that's what kind of sucks the audience in because the actual product is very similar in some cases to competitors but because it's present it's positioned very cleverly and very innovatively that's what attracts the audience most most certainly i came i i saw a brand just over the weekend um a guy here in north cyprus and um he makes chopping boards from olive tree wood okay okay so you can buy a chopping board from you know most supermarkets wherever you go you can you know you'll find a chopping board somewhere or other go to ikea the tina penny the difference with this guy is he's not having trees chopped down and turning them into chopping boards there are trees that have been failed for whatever reason and those off-cuts are being utilized to make you know whatever an ashtray or you know for example a chopping board none of the chopping boards are the same as each other they're all completely different um but you know olive would be in the strong wood that it is um you know you're gonna have a chopping board that will last you for for years to come but that's it he's different he's using off cuts of of of you know um wood that's been laying around for for a long time the cured um that is rubbing down sanding and polishing and whatever and turning into what looks like a work of art
i think it's an interesting angle is it especially when so many people are getting more and more eco-friendly and sometimes i think people are prepared to pay a premium for a product where in that example the tree hasn't been cut down specifically to make a chopping board it's kind of an incident good use of the incidental products of the wood i think that would appeal to uh to many people recycled products it's definitely a growing space so um yeah hopefully he'll do well hopefully he'll do well so um if people want to get in touch with you what's the best we're going to put a obviously an end screen up here whether these contact details but you know people have if they're interested in talking to you about the voucher system what's the best way for them to get in touch john um well at night time we've we've got almost similar to batman going up into the up into the sky so you'll be i'm joking so um we're active uh as i said on facebook um you've just got to search for onvo our website is is very easy to find as well onver.com and um you can find us easily through social media through facebook instagram um and i believe we're actually launching our youtube and tick tock within the next within the next three or four weeks excellent so hopefully this interview will be on your youtube channel possibly certainly will be yeah probably be number one fantastic brilliant okay well i'm going to wrap up the interview now do you want to say thank you very much for your time and thank you for coming along today it's been a real pleasure talking to you and um your continued success and we'll see you again thank you very much take care pop cheers