RADIO and telly star, Zoe Ball, was bowled over moments before the start of her BBC Radio 2 show yesterday morning (Wednesday 30th May) – when she received an unexpected gift from an innovative Scottish company.
Ayrshire-based deliveraball.co.uk claims to be ‘the first ball in the mail company in the UK’ and owner, Alan Howat, decided to send Zoe one of their personalised nine-inch diameter gift balls while she was sitting in for Ken Bruce on the station’s mid morning show, bearing the message, ‘Love your work on BBC Radio 2 Zoe Ball!’.
The presenter responded, saying on Twitter: “LOVE My Deliveraball. Thanks you spherical wonders! Check out deliveraball.co.uk”.
Alan, (32), said: “Zoe always sounds so bright and bouncy on air and with a surname like hers I was certain she’d appreciate it.
“But I wasn’t expecting her to mention us to her 51,000 followers on Twitter.
“She gave us a cracking plug and we’ve had a surge in followers and more hits on our website as a result. I think I’m going to be busy the next few days turning the orders round and getting them out there.”
The celebrity backing comes at a crucial time for Alan and his wife, Nicola, who runs the company with him from their home near Kilmarnock.
Alan said: “We’ve been trading since the start of the year but I’d been planning it for ages and have invested a lot of time and money. It’s had a good start but now we’ve got a 14-week old baby son to provide for. When I get home in the evening, I trip over our stock of 5,000 balls which currently fill our porch. I have absolutely no doubt they’ll sell but my parents think I’m mad.”
Alan may have put all his balls in one basket but this isn’t his first shot at business.
“I’m a qualified engineer and spent 12 years working with a multi national company but was always doing my own thing on the side. I’ve sold numbers plates, had a gardening business, peeled potatoes… in fact, my first venture as a child was hanging around outside supermarkets returning peoples’ trolleys and collecting the 50 pence deposits.”
Fun is at the heart of this business but the initial idea came about as one of Alan’s pals lay in hospital following what could have been a tragic accident.
“A friend of ours, John, dived headfirst into a swimming pool on a stag weekend.
He hit his head and ended up seriously ill in hospital. He was strapped to a board and couldn’t move for eight weeks.
We went to visit him and wanted to take something to cheer him up.
He’s a big football fan and I’d seen a similar ‘ball as a gift’ idea while on holiday in America.
No-one was doing anything like that here so I bought one from a local shop and wrote a message on it.
It went down a treat with the nurses and other patients.
It was a great talking point and everyone was asking where they could get one. I decided there and then to develop it into a business and let people send personalised balls through the post.”
Almost a year on, deliveraball.co.uk has sent personalised gift balls as far afield as Canada and Australia for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and even business customers looking for memorable ways to connect with clients.
And earlier this month deliveraball.co.uk was accepted to the first intake of ‘Entrepreneurial Spark’, a new business incubation service supported by Scottish tycoon Sir Tom Hunter.
“My motivation in business is to be the best I can but also to give something back,” says Alan.
“I’ve been lucky enough to speak with Sir Tom and pick up as much as I can from him.
“To be honest, I didn’t get that much out of school. My reports contained phrases such as ‘talks too much’ and ‘easily distracted’.
“Back then my head was bursting with ideas and I just wanted to get out there and put them into practice.
“The time I’ve spent with E- Spark has already shown me these can actually be good business qualities if I apply myself properly and, with the support of Sir Tom, his team and the other businesses, I actually feel I’ve found somewhere I belong.
“A few months ago, I was just plodding along myself. Now I’m in an environment where everyone wants to do well and pulls each other up.”
Inspired by Sir Tom Hunter’s philanthropy, Alan insists success – if it comes – won’t change him.
“I live in a little East Ayrshire village called Kilmaurs and I love it. I’m on the community council, I use my skills from the gardening business to do the community gardens for free and I’m hoping to be able to sponsor the local football team.
“I like being with the local people and being able to walk into the butcher’s and catch up on all the gossip. That’s missing in so many other parts of the country and I’m determined to make the most of what we’ve got here.”
Alan Howat of deliveraball.co.uk is available for interview on 07904 239 710 or via firstname.lastname@example.org
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