My Week: Paul Aitken of

The founder of the online-only pawnbroker talks technology, big clients and working on bank holidays.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 28 Jan 2011
I’ve just got back from a 10-day holiday in Antigua. It’s the first time in two and a half years that I’ve taken a complete break. But now it’s heads down as January’s really busy. It’s 80% busier than an average month because this is when people get their first credit card bill through after Christmas – and often they’ve spent more than they thought. The tax return deadline is also at the end of January, and we have lots of customers running small businesses who owe the taxman more than they thought.

A lot of the week has been spent putting in place marketing plans for the next few months. We’ve also got a documentary on the company coming up on Channel 4 next week so I’ve been doing promotion work for that. I got back from Antigua on Monday at about 11 in the morning. As it was a bank holiday I spent the day catching up on emails and sorting out some admin stuff. You’re not a true entrepreneur unless you’re working on a bank holiday.

Tuesday was spent working out our online campaigns - we want to make it easier for customers to transact with us. We’re working on an iPhone app and launching on the Blackberry and HTC phones so that people can review their cash balance and statements more efficiently. In the evening I had dinner with a potential investor in Oxford, and because I was still slightly jetlagged I stayed up watching the cricket till about 1.30.

I got up at quarter to six the next morning to go to London, which is normal for me. We have two offices – one in Oxford and the other in London, and although I live in Oxford I usually spend 4 days a week in the London office. I’m out the door within about 5 minutes of waking up to make sure I get to the office by 7.20. I do have time to brush my teeth though, I’d better add.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent meeting some big clients, one of which has about £400,000 with us. I also had lunch with another customer who had referred a friend to take out a £12,000 loan with us. When customers make an effort to come in then I’ll always come and talk to them. Most of our business isn’t done this way, but the ones who come in to the offices tend to be higher end borrowers. This year we’ve also got more retailers on our books, after the weather conditions hit the retail industry hard over the Christmas period.

Every day starts with an 8.45am trading meeting where we look at our sources of business. We monitor how much has come from TV advertising, from online searches, the press - and any other type of content that drives business to us. On Friday I had a conference call with the sales team in South Africa. We have a call centre over there that generates business for us. Although the staff aren’t employed by us, we treat them as if they’re our own sales team and stay in touch daily.

I’m looking forward to the weekend now. I do a couple of hours work at the weekend but always find time to relax – either by going on a cycle ride, or playing a game of squash or tennis.

Paul Aitken is the founder of, an online pawnbroker which launched in August 2008.


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