Meet the Liverpool grads behind Independent Liverpool
They’re the Scouse Ant and Dec
If you haven’t already heard of Independent Liverpool then who even are you.
The two best friends Oliver and David have got 30,500 Facebook likes, 27,800 Twitter followers and 5500 Instagram followers.
14,000 people have already bought their discount card which gives deals for the best independent places in Liverpool. With Independent Liverpool, they are putting the finger up to Tesco and Starbucks, and giving back to our community.
After graduating from the University of Liverpool they started blogging all the best bits of the cities growing food, music, art, shopping and culture scene. The Tab met with them over tea at Leaf to discuss everything from shit jobs, The Raz and ship shaped pizza.
When the moment you first thought Independent Liverpool could be a full time successful business?
Oliver: In the beginning, only our Mums would read the blog and like our Facebook posts. After about four or five months of hardcore blogging and really spreading the word out there, we had a few thousand likes on Facebook. That’s when we knew people were interested and really wanted to support local business. We thought that we could take this further by bringing in the card concept – people could get rewarded for shopping locally. There were a few people starting to say to us “I went there because of you”, so it was obviously working. We never thought our words would turn into actions. It’s especially effective in highlighting where some places are out of the way and a bit hidden, so we were encouraging people to go on that journey.
How many places are on the discount card?
Oliver: Nearly 100, it’s like a mini tour guide in your pocket.
Tell us about your time at Liverpool uni.
David: I studied Business Studies at the University of Liverpool. It wasn’t the greatest and I think that really motivated me. I was kind of taught how to be a manager and not how start my own business. It was born out of that apathy and that rebellion that I could often do things a lot better than the managers, born out of the social mission behind [Independent Liverpool] too. I still had a great time though!
Oliver: I did Law at the University of Liverpool, but when I started I thought it was going to be really exciting – like you know how you see those TV shows, like Suits? I thought I was going to be Harvey Dent but it wasn’t like that. It was very dry. I needed something a bit more exciting and I’ve always considered myself to be a bit of an entrepreneur. I sold crisps in the school yard, that kind of thing. David graduated, I was still in uni and we thought to start a blog together while I was in my last year and well he was-
David: I was taking staples out of paper.
For a job?
David: For a job, 9 till 7, everyday. I had 10,000 sheets of paper and I would just flick out staples all day long.
What even is that as a job title?
David: I don’t even know, I don’t think it has one. I just had to wear a thimble, that’s all I was told. Anything where you wear a thimble straight after uni as a graduate job hasn’t really worked out, has it? I just thought why have I done all of these years of education just to take staples out of paper?
Oliver: Us as two best mates have always done little things together in the past. We once had a wheelie bin cleaning company which lasted for two weeks, it didn’t go too well – well, it was alright, bit of a dirty business.
David: We did comedy sketches together, which also didn’t work out.
Oliver: People called us the Scouse Ant and Dec.
What is your favourite discount on the card for students?
David: Especially for daytime, 92 degrees… 15 per cent off, right by the uni, lovely spacious windows, lovely cup of coffee.
Oliver: For going out at night, definitely Heebie Jeebies, so cardholders can get a free shot of Sambuca with every drink. We had to change the rules slightly but you can still get it, on the website it says one shot per person because the Drink Awareness people got in touch.
If a student is visiting for an open day, what is the best thing to do to see the city?
Oliver: Just take a walk down Bold Street, it’s the independent heart of the city.
David: It’s a snapshot of what Liverpool can do in a street, you can eat all over the world, and you could be in Paris, Morocco, India, Lebanon etc.
What do you guys think of The Tab?
David: We were looking at the model recently as to how the Tab has done things, and that is what we want to do.
Oliver: Like you guys are the student voice in every city, we want to be in the independent voice in every city. It’s a good online student magazine, there’s nothing really comparable out there, really. We love reading some of the stuff – absolutely ridiculous!
David: I went on the Facebook page the other day and spent just like 45 minutes reading all the articles and one of them killed me but I can’t remember what it was.
Oliver: Yeah so we love the Tab.
And what do you guys think of the Raz?
Oliver: The soles of our feet and our actual souls have been changed forever.
Any weird stories from places you’ve been invited to review?
David: Hello Pizza in Kensington. It’s the most amazing take away pizza place, and they’ve just re-launched with a pizza which is shaped like a ship – with eggs and cheese – which is just the weirdest thing in the world. The correspondence between us should of gone viral: just an email from them saying “Hello we do best pizza” and then me asking where they were from, they just replied “Liverpool”. I asked where specifically, and they just replied “Hello Pizza, get in touch.”
Following the protests earlier this year against the cereal café in London, do you ever see that happening in Liverpool in the future?
Oliver: At the end of the day its just two entrepreneurs having a go at it, it is a bit ridiculous but it’s not hurting anybody.
David: I hated that, I just don’t understand, the shop would just be empty otherwise. Everyone said it was a bad idea but it was ridiculously successful everyday so if it were empty then it would go out of business itself. Liverpool is more open-minded to entrepreneurs. With innovation and trying to be at the forefront of something different, you’re going to get bad ideas and backlash, it’s just part of it.
What has social media done for your brand?
David: We find that the greatest thing any brand can do is make people do something without actually realizing they are doing it. When we do these “44 plates of comfort food in Liverpool”, people are going through these thinking “omg, I need to try these” so they don’t even realise they are supporting the heart of our social mission just by clicking through. It works so well for our brand because it’s fun as well, at the beginning we were maybe a bit boisterous, but this is a great way to say “look this is a lot better for our economy” in a way that people will actually listen to.
Oliver: As a small business, it’s so powerful as it’s free and it’s the best way to market ourselves. With no money in our back pocket, as two recent graduates, it’s amazing we can sell 1000’s of discount cards just on the back on social media.
David: It’s been so big as well because people see us as more than just a discount card – we have that personal touch and engage with people. We’re like an online forum for people on our Facebook, we’re just always trying to have a laugh and people feel really connected with that. Every time we have an event, people come over to say hello, and it’s really surreal, but it’s also incredible because that’s what we wanted to create.
Tell us about your upcoming event, Winter Wonderland?
Oliver: On the 11th, 12th and 13th of December we are turning a warehouse in the Baltic triangle into a Winter Wonderland. There’s going to be a huge snowman, well, we haven’t decided yet about the snowman I’ve just made that up just then but yeah that’s happening, Christmas trees, twelve street food vendors, Liverpool craft beer, mulled wine garden and a Santa’s grotto.
David: We kind of wanted to create something that’s like Christmas when you were younger. You do get to a stage where you reckon Christmas is only going to be good again if you have kids, so this is just basically going to be the most amazing Winter Wonderland, for an adult.
Oliver: Liverpool’s got so much potential but it doesn’t capitalize on Christmas enough and the reaction we had when we released the tickets was absolutely mental. We’ve got a big gift store there too, lots of arts and crafts sellers there so that’s well exciting.