Nigel Botterill: From parish mag to £4m fortune

A magazine delivered to neighbouring households proved a hit with local advertisers. So Nigel Botterill and his wife Sue decided to franchise the idea. Five years later, their company was bringing in £4m a year.

During his first career as a telesales consultant, Nigel Botterill, 44, worked with some hugely successful entrepreneurs, such as John Caudwell of mobile-phone group Phones4U ("I learnt a lot from John Caudwell; he inspired me and appalled me at the same time," he says) and Hamish Ogston of insurer Credit Card Protection Plan. Working with these men "made me want to be the boss of my own business too". But in the event, it was Botterill's wife, Sue, who came up with the business idea that changed their lives.

In 2003 Botterill "swallowed the bravery pill" and quit his job to create N5, a marketing consultancy. With Botterill trying to build the business, Sue, fearing for the family finances, decided to earn money by creating a local magazine. "A mix between the Yellow Pages and a parish newsletter", this was delivered to households in the neighbourhood and proved a hit with local advertisers. With friends and family asking for advice on how they could copy Sue's success, Botterill realised there was a market for a "local magazine starter pack". The couple created a pack, 'My Mag', which they began to market. Within a year they had sold hundreds and Botterill closed his consultancy to focus on the magazine.

But while My Mag was "bringing in between £20,000 in monthly sales", he realised the one-off sales model wasn't sustainable. So he created an online directory called 'thebestof'. Franchisees bought the rights to market and get the advertising revenues for a particular area of the site; for example 'thebestofNewbury'. Crucially, Botterill's new model also charged franchisees a monthly licence fee, which created sustainable revenue for N5. Almost 50 of the existing My Mag customers signed up for the service. Their marketing efforts soon made 'thebestof' Britain's third-largest online directory after and Thompson.

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Success led to "copycat rivals". Some "had the cheek" to masquerade as potential customers to learn how Thebestof worked before creating their own directories.

So Botterill began to offer more services to franchisees. "We spent a lot on developing the website but we also have a host of offline services, like networking events and marketing intelligence." The extras seemed to work and by 2008 thebestof had sold more than 400 franchises and revenues were more than £4m. Botterill is now looking to expand the brand internationally.

While 'thebestof' is the main business in the N5 stable, Botterill has also created a number of other franchise businesses with mixed success. 'My Little Wrapper' provides chocolates and wrappers for franchisees who sell personalised sweets. Botterill admits that to date the business's growth has been "modest", but he has higher hopes for 'Explosive Marketing', a specialist agency for restaurants a sector that is "terrible at marketing". Botterill's tactic is to focus on persuading existing customers to visit more frequently, rather than trying to attract new customers.

His approach of building a portfolio of businesses has proved lucrative N5 is on target to hit £7.5m turnover in 2010. But the serial entrepreneur says he won't stop

James graduated from Keele University with a BA (Hons) in English literature and history, and has a NCTJ certificate in journalism.


After working as a freelance journalist in various Latin American countries, and a spell at ITV, James wrote for Television Business International and covered the European equity markets for the London bureau. 


James has travelled extensively in emerging markets, reporting for international energy magazines such as Oil and Gas Investor, and institutional publications such as the Commonwealth Business Environment Report. 


He is currently the managing editor of LatAm INVESTOR, the UK's only Latin American finance magazine.