Ben is Founder of Trackage Scheme-Malta’s largest Music agency. He is also Co-founder of Get Hitched and Evently which allow clients to organise their weddings and corporate and personal events in just a few clicks. As well as Co-founder of the recently launched online restaurant booking platform Bookia.
How do you start your day?
With a cappuccino.
How did you get into starting and running your own business?
It all comes down to purpose-what do you think your purpose is? I worked a 9-5 job for a technology company and whilst I loved working with the team, I felt physically and mentally drained. Why? Because I wasn’t growing, I wasn’t seeing the value in what I was doing. I wanted to wake up feeling that fire, to start the day raring to go and know that I would be doing something that no matter how many hours I spend, with all its challenges, setbacks and frustrations I would want to do it all over again the next day.
We all have experienced a time of poor customer service or been overwhelmed by having to search through various websites to find the one thing that ticks all the boxes: which venue will be available and will it be able to cater to the number of people I want and will the band I want be able to play on that day? When a client uses our service I want them to feel just as I would want if I was organising an event – hassle free. A service that is as seamless as possible. In just a few short clicks you could have your whole wedding sorted.
You also are the founder of Trackage scheme- what is it and how did that come about?
Trackage Scheme is a music agency based in Malta that serves as a one-stop-shop for artists, event organisers and cultural operators. We provide anything from Digital Marketing, Audio, Lighting and Staging, Event Planning, Photography to Event Ticketing, Crowdfunding and even run a music school which has trained over 250 students.
It came about when some friends of mine and I were chilling out and listening to some music after an event. I got up, put on a track and said: ‘You know what? The Government should create a Trackage Scheme, instead of a Scrappage Scheme’. In my view, Malta lacked a single entity that identified, supported and promoted alternative artists irrespective of genre. From this point onward, I was determined to do something about it. My vision was to create an online music sharing community
that created the opportunity for local artists to present their productions to a sizeable audience of music enthusiasts and receive critical acclaim. I appreciate any type of music, so I wanted to embed this from the start, thus representing artists from a wide spectrum of genres. This, in my opinion, is the most beautiful thing Trackage Scheme delivers. It started from setting up a Facebook page where people could share music tracks to now being the largest music agency in the country.
What do you find most challenging about your various roles? Sometimes dealing with suppliers and third parties. When other people are involved it can be unnecessarily complicated: you are having to constantly sell, convince, negotiate, and get people to understand your point of view. However, I strongly believe in my business and don’t let the setbacks defeat me and the team. Any frustration is channelled into ensuring that our clients do not receive the same treatment and that we provide efficient, excellent customer service for instance resolving issues straight away and providing regular training to the team.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business?
Create something of value and one that aligns with your personal values. As I said look for that thing that will get you out of bed in the morning and ready to face whatever comes your way. That takes self-awareness. Whether it is going for a walk, a run, reading a book, YouTube videos find a way to connect you and get that inspiration. Secondly, validate your idea. Don’t just ask your family and friends, reach out to a broader network to test your business idea and see if it is viable and sustainable. However, running your own business is hard work, you can easily dedicate your whole life to it and fall into the trap of chasing one new project after another. So it is important to get decent sleep, take time to take stock of your business, appreciate the good things and have time to think where it will go next. Maintain the fuel and fire but not to the detriment of your health.
What do you enjoy most?
Regarding GetHitched, Evently and Bookia, when we come together as a team with everyone in gear and in good flow. I enjoy motivating the team, we have two daily meetings first to check in with the team and the end of day recap where we express any concerns, discuss ideas and plan ahead. Working with a team that shares the same values and who are passionate and hardworking confirms to me every day that I made the right decision to start my own business. Finally, if you haven’t noticed all the business models including Trackage Scheme seek to bring the community together whether it is through music, entertainment, food, knowledge and love so seeing the businesses grow brings me joy knowing that the community grows too.
As a business idea that focuses on events and hospitality, with everyone in lockdown presumably Covid19 impacted the business heavily?
Financially,yes. With Covid19, revenue came to a grinding halt but sometimes there is beauty in being “idle”. As a team we could have panicked and thought all our hard work was for nothing. Instead we call it “facing the abyss”-it was an opportunity to assess how we can adapt and develop new business ideas. In this time we have launched a virtual wedding fair and created a new booking system. If we were running full capacity with the other businesses we wouldn’t have had time to create. In this time, we have been able to market our companies more, hosting daily live chats with clients throughout the lockdown which has grown our following exponentially. We also had time to on-board hundreds of new clients for a new booking system that we have developed. The first of its kind in Malta. All this may not give us instant profit but it will enable us to be a sustainable business for years to come.
What can people do to help support the events and hospitality community during this time?
If you are not in strict lockdown, go out and support your community, obviously while adhering to safe social distancing. If you can’t go out yet, buy gift cards if possible. With music you can support artists by purchasing their music and merchandise. If you have a ticket to an event and there is the option to carry it over to next year, then, if you can, choose that rather than seek a refund. Often musicians have donation pages where fans can show support. Even reaching out to artists and telling them you are listening to their music makes a difference.
When was a moment you were most proud of and why?
Having the courage to quit working for a company and paying my own wage and that of other people. It takes a lot of planning and research but once you have a business model that you truly believe and have validated it in then it is time to take that leap of faith. The sense of pride comes from building something from scratch with a team who share the same passion and values and seeing it grow. Taking that leap when knowing that there is no safety net, that other people’s livelihoods are reliant on me and the success of the company. But that only just fuels me to perform even better.
What advice would you give to someone who was going through a tough period?
Firstly, remain focused and embrace the tough moments. It is fine feeling down, life can be hard; but you must try not to stay stuck there. At a certain point you need to try and move forward. Secondly, don’t be phased; what often may be a challenge gives us the space to see other solutions and opportunities. Thirdly, don’t be afraid to get help when you need it. And finally those who persevere increase their chances of better odds.
What was a challenging moment in your life and how did you overcome it?
At school I was a good student, but personal circumstances changed and I was not focused during A-Levels. As a result, my grades suffered. At first I was frustrated as I knew that the grades I had received did not truly reflect my potential; however, it is that which has fuelled me ever since. I am more than the grades that I got at school and I am out to prove it to myself in all that I do.
Name a book or podcast that has inspired you?
I have to name three as each one was brilliant. The Undoing project by Michael Lewis, Thinking, fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman and Switch by Chip and Dan Heath.
Which song makes you feel good?
Tame Impala ‘Let it happen.’
What do you like to do for fun?
Reading, watching films, going to restaurants and chilling and listening to music with friends.
What inspiring quote would you like to share?
Without music life would be a mistake- Nietzsche.