Thousands of business have their domain names & web hosting with Easyspace. One of these is Casablanca Hire – London’s leading marquee hire, gazebo hire, party and event hire company, supplying furniture, catering and event hire equipment for private and corporate clients throughout London and the South East.
The business started in 2005 and has now become so successful it has moved into a new large warehouse with a showroom. This has allowed it to offer a pick up service from the company’s warehouse, and give customers the opportunity to visit the showroom, meet the team and view the wide range of event stock available for hire.
Easyspace recently caught up with Heath Meek, the co-founder & Director of Casablanca Hire to find out about how his business benefits from having a website, and how he is taking advantage of the new range of .London domain names that have been launched.
Q1. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what led you to starting Casablanca Hire?
I arrived in London from New Zealand in 2003. I started working as a labourer for a marquee hire company in North London as a summer job in June 2003. I enjoyed the work and thought that I could probably start my own marquee hire business. While I was there I met Will Turnbull (my co Director) and we decided to start our own company which we did in April 2005. We bought a small marquee which we kept in a broom cupboard in Will’s flat. This marquee was transported on the roof of Will’s Fiat Uno. We quickly decided to buy more stock and expand the business.
Q2. Please explain what Casablanca Hire does, where it is based in London and how many people it employs.
Casablanca Hire is an event hire company that specialises in event hire equipment. We have a large stock of marquees, tables and chairs and catering hire equipment. We also hire stages, dance floors and PA equipment as well as our new artificial hedge product which can be used for screening, making mazes or just creating an enclosed garden feel at events. We currently employ about 40 people and are experiencing rapid growth.
Q3. How has the business grown since it started out?
We originally started out as a marquee hire company. Initially Will and I would do all the work from answering the phone, visiting our clients and setting up the marquees. Since 2005 we have grown year on year and increased our stock each year. In 2013 we purchased Capital Hire, a catering and furniture hire company. We now have a much larger stock of furniture and catering equipment meaning we can supply equipment to several large events at once.
Q4. How difficult was it growing the business, getting customers, promoting it, dealing with suppliers, etc?
When we initially sat down in 2004 to talk about starting our new business we thought of a company name, Casablanca Marquees, and immediately bought our first domain name casablancamarquees.com from Easyspace.
When we started the business in 2005 we spent a lot of money on Yellow Pages advertising, although we already knew that the internet was where the future was in terms of increasing our exposure. We quickly had a very basic website built and did our best to optimise it so it could easily be found on Google.
In the beginning we did get a steady stream of calls from our Yellow Pages adds and as we grew the website started to become more and more important. We bought a few more domain names specific to our industry e.g. www.marqueehirelondon.com and built websites around these domain names which helped us generate more website traffic and phone calls.
Q5. Do you have any physical shop front or office that customers can visit?
Yes we have a showroom adjoining our warehouse and offices in North London
Q6. How did you go about choosing the name of your business?
It was very important to us to choose a memorable name. Will came up with the name Casablanca (meaning white house in Spanish – the common thread being that marquees are sort of like white houses) we both liked it and knew that it would be memorable partly due to the movie ‘Casablanca’.
Q7. How do you protect the brand name? Have you trademarked your business brand name? If so, why?
We have recently trademarked our business name and logo. We are trying to build a well recognised London brand and realised that to do this meant that it was very important to trademark our company name.
Q8. How important is your website as a shop front for your business? Do most business leads come through the website?
Very important. 45% of our new business comes through our website. We have thousands of visitors a month to our main website www.casablancahire.com and we want to make sure that we give ourselves the best chance possible of converting any enquiries we may have into business.
Q9. How important is it to have the right domain name extensions for your business to be successful?
Very important. A domain name has the potential to instantly tell a customer who you are and what you do. We have chosen some generic domain names such as www.marqueehirelondon.com and www.cateringhirelondon.co.uk and built websites around these domain names in order to target specific products within our markets. Our main site is currently www.casablancahire.com which incorporates all of what we do and is where we spend most of our SEO budget.
Q10. Who do you buy your domain names from and why?
We have bought all our domain names from Easyspace starting in May 2004. There are lots of domain registrars out there but we have always found Easyspace to be very good to deal with whether it by on the phone or through their online support. We currently have 33 domain names with Easyspace (including our 14 new dot London domain names). We really wanted to be one of the first companies to buy a dot London domain and use it for a new website, so we contacted Easyspace in January this year to find out how we could do this. Our Account Manager talked us through the process and helped us get all the information together, to ensure we would get the domain names we were after.
Q11. How easy or difficult is the process involved in securing new domains?
If the name you want is taken it can be very expensive to acquire, or just not possible. In order to be sure to secure a domain name when a new Top Level Domain (tld) is released companies should apply for their domains in the Sunrise Phase. This involves firstly trademarking your desired name and the applying to have this Trademark registered with the Trademark Clearing House. Once it is registered with the Trademark Clearing House you will be able to buy your domain name during the Sunrise Phase of a domain release, assuming no other company has a claim to that name.
Q12. What advice would you give to other businesses about the importance of securing the right domain names?
I would advise all business owners to secure the domain that matches their company name but I would also recommend that they try and buy other ‘exact match’ domain names relevant to search engine for their type of product or service and build websites around these domains so that they can drive more traffic to their business websites.
Q13. You are a business that’s based in north London and have registered a number of Dot London domain extensions – why is it so important to have the new Dot London domain?
We are proud to be a London based company serving Londoners so it is important that our domain name associates us with London. As it is a new domain name it also opens up opportunities to buy domain names that may already be taken under the .com and .co.uk extensions. We also believe that these new geographic .city domain names will rank very well in search engines as they are very specific to a geographic area and tell the customer straight away that a company is London based.
We applied for casablancahire.london because we believe the .london domains will be well received by Londoners searching on Google which may give us an advantage over other companies that do not use the .london domain. We also did it to protect our brand from cyber squatters and we think that websites with these .london domains will shortly out rank the equivalent .com and .co.uk domains for search engine searches for London based businesses.
Q14. You have applied for a clutch of other Dot London domains such as cateringhire.london and marqueehire.london Why have you done this?
Yes we have applied for several .london domains such as chairhire.london, cateringhire.london, marqueehire.london Many similar terms have already been taken by our competitors so it has given us a chance to apply for some new ‘premium’ type domains for our industry within London. We think that websites with these .london domains will shortly out rank the equivalent .com and .co.uk domains for search engine searches for London based businesses.
Q15. What is the importance of associating yourself with London as a business?
Many of our customers put ‘London’ into their search for our products e.g. ‘chair hire london’. We think that by using a .london domain will help to demonstrate to our customers that we are a London based company that will give us a competitive advantage over some of our non-London based competitors.
Q16. What benefit do you think having the full range of Dot London domains will bring to your business?
We think that it will enable us to build new websites that are highly targeted to specific products that we can offer within London.
Q17. In addition to the website what other tools do you use to promote your business?
We attend trade shows, have a full fleet of sign written vans and have sales people that do a very good job of promoting us to prospective clients.
Q18. What advice would you give to somebody who is thinking of starting their own business?
Overnight success usually takes 15 years. Be prepared to work hard, listen to people who have had first-hand experience of running their own business, don’t get into too much debt, if it isn’t working know when to get out.
Q19. What plans do you have for your business?
We want to keep on growing and to become the most recognised event hire brand within London.
Thanks Heath, from everyone at Easyspace
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