Any successful entrepreneur will tell you that the best business ideas are those that solve a problem. And that is exactly what former television producer Barry Shaverin was trying to do when he started his award-nominated company, Life Continuity, formerly SpareKeys.
Following 15 years in the television world, Mr Shaverin was training to be a barrister when the idea for SpareKeys “fell into (his) lap.” His flatmate frequently locked himself out and after searching for solutions, Mr Shaverin realised that “an affordable lock-out rescue service just didn’t exist.” So, he set one up.
The business provides a 24-hour emergency service for people who have lost or misplaced their keys. Subscribers pay a monthly or annual fee to have a spare set securely looked after and delivered if need be.
Mr Shaverin recalls: “It was supposed to be an interim job while I became a barrister, but there came a point where I developed a passion for it. I believed in it and decided to give it my all.”
Since its inception in 2005, the company, which Mr Shaverin runs with co-director Edward Madden, has been rebranded Life Continuity and is planning a range of new services.
It prides itself on providing a 24/7 rescue service to its customer base of 500,000 — and growing — who have suffered the loss or theft of personal items. It does this through relationships with financial services firms such as Santander. Life Continuity plans to reach two million people by the end of next year through its expanded services, which include SparePlastic — offering emergency delivery of an interim debit card — and the soon-to-be-launched MobileQuick, which provides replacement mobile phones (more on these later).
The company will also continue to develop its SpareKeys service. Unsurprising given that an estimated 1.5 million sets of keys a year are lost or stolen in the UK. And the number that is misplaced is believed to be ten times that.
Individuals can sign up for the service from £2.99 a month, placing their spare house, car or bike keys in one of the company’s 18 secure storage depots across the UK. If they misplace or lose their keys, the company will deliver the spare set “within the hour.” The quickest delivery to date is eight minutes. Subscribers can track their keys online.
The service is available directly to customers or via third party partners such as insurance companies, banks and building societies.
Four of the company depots serve London. Others are located in Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Plymouth. The company has access to a fleet of 1,000 vehicles.
The business is capitalising on the nation’s changing — and increasingly demanding — lifestyles. Mr Madden, an entrepreneur with over 12 years in financial services and technology marketing, says: “People don’t have the traditional support network that they once had, such as neighbours that they can rely on to take deliveries or hold your spare keys for you.
He adds: “There has been a rise in single occupancy. People are moving into urban areas and people don’t seem to trust their neighbours.”
Life Continuity has seen a significant increase in business over the past two years. Although reluctant to disclose financials, the duo say turnover has increased 10-fold and is on target to at least double by the end of the year.
The company has benefited from a rise in packaged accounts being offered by banks, which offer additional insurance and cover service. One in five adults in the UK has a packaged account, according to the Financial Services Authority, and today, there are more than double the number five years ago . “We have a relationship with the banks, sit in those bank packages and are promoted within them,” says Mr Shaverin.
Do they fear that mechanical keys might become redundant with continuing technology innovations? “No,” says Mr Madden. “The technology for automated keys has been around for decades yet everyone still uses mechanical keys. I can’t see it disappearing any time soon.
“There is a feeling of security that people get from having physical keys. Technology could give you access by a card or thumb print scan but it relies on trust and when it comes to protecting something you value, most people default back to having something mechanical that they understand.”
Besides, keys are just one part of the business, which include replacement debit cards and mobile phones. SparePlastic launched in July and partners with Caxton FX card insurer. It offers customers a prepaid debit card. According to the Guardian, Britons have lost nine million wallets or purses over the past five years. Mobile Quick, due to launch later this year, provides replacement phones with a new sim card. And there is, say the duo, “plenty of scope; spare glasses, coffee machines, remote controls, fridges...”
But for now they are focusing on keys, mobiles and wallets. “Everyone relies on them,” says Mr Shaverin.
Things could have worked out very differently for the father-of-two, who was attending night classes at BPP law school when SpareKays was born. He had left his long-standing career as a television producer to pursue one as a barrister.
“When I first started in TV, I worked on some ground-breaking shows. It was a very creative industry. It was very exciting but it lost a bit of its creativity. I used to be passionate about it but I’d had enough.” He qualified as a barrister but chose to make a case for business instead.
Mr Shaverin lives in Sutton and is a member of Sutton Synagogue. Mr Madden is based in Crewe.