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Oliver Alcock our MD started Bowland IT back in 2012 from the back bedroom of his home in Burnley, but if this was the case why on earth was it named Bowland?

Bowland IT’s first ever clients were based in the rural surroundings of the Forest of Bowland, and the business grew from offering rural clients throughout Bolton By Bowland, Grindleton, Gisburn, Newton, Slaidburn and Tosside with IT support for their farming businesses. Through word of mouth, the company was known for it’s specialism in rural IT solutions for the farming industry.

But let’s go right back to before time to learn more background info on why Oliver started an IT Company?

Oliver says “I regularly get asked, how did I start my career in IT? Did I go to university? Did I always want to work in IT? I remember wanting to be an IT Teacher, but was always entrepreneurial in various ways, I was always looking for ways to make money”

Oliver went to Bowland High School, (no relation to why the company is called Bowland IT), and at school got involved with the IT systems whilst he was a student. Oliver was taught the basics of Windows Servers and general networking by the IT Technician Mr. Iain Donnachie who has now retired. Whilst at school, the biggest craze was Nintendo DS consoles and Oliver had an eBay business selling personalised stylus pens compatible with Nintendo DS which he bought in bulk from China.

Oliver says; “I was very happy being on my own when I was younger, I didn’t have many friends, most probably because I had quite an old head on my shoulders for my age and I wanted to be different. I had my own little computer room at home which was my own space for stripping down computers, and looking for money making opportunities on eBay”

When Oliver left school, he was offered a position to continue working at Bowland (the same school he was a student at) as an Apprentice IT Technician where he continued to learn from the very kind hearted Mr. Donnachie who gave me a lot of his time Oliver up.

Newspaper article cutting from 2007, within the first month of Oliver’s first apprenticeship role at Bowland High School.

Emma Robertson Assistant Headteacher (was previously Emma Wilkinson, Head of IT and Business Studies) says: “Oliver always showed much enthusiasm in our Business Studies lessons. He certainly had many entrepreneurial traits and often talked about setting up his own business in IT. I wasn’t surprised when he arrived a school with his own business cards and plans for a website. It was clear to see that Oliver had the drive, the knowledge and the communication skills to be a success and I’ve been so pleased to see his business develop over recent years.”

Business Studies class photo at Bowland High School, class of 2007

Fast forwarding through Oliver’s time being employed before starting Bowland IT, he has worked at Bowland High School, St. Augustine’s RC High School in Billington, Norden High School & Sports College (now known as The Hyndburn Academy), before moving into a permanent role at Ribble Valley Borough Council as a Computer Technician.

Oliver got to a point where he built the business up to a level where he was earning more in the evening and weekends repairing computers, doing home visits to homes to give IT support and training, as well as building websites for businesses.

Oliver says; “I tried to hold out in my council job for as long as possible, but it was getting to the point where management were noticing me not being focused on what I should be doing anymore. I handed my notice in and I have never looked back since. If I could give anybody advice from my experience, don’t put off making the leap of faith in yourself! If you fail you will experience more than you ever would have done by staying put in the job you were in. There is nothing wrong with taking calculated risks, in fact looking back I don’t feel my risk was calculated at all and really it should have been. I had a mortgage, car finance, and bills to pay. Don’t doubt yourself, just do it whilst you still can!”

The very first office for Bowland IT was in the back bedroom of Oliver’s first terraced house in Burnley, where he had an IKEA desk, a chair and an old computer monitor. Alongside the regular farm clients throughout the Forest of Bowland, an advert went out in local magazines such as The Local Herald, The Local Clarion and local sports clubs brochures. Initially before leaving his council role, Oliver originally called the business ‘Oliver Alcock Computers’ for a short while but soon realised the importance of branding.

First office in back bedroom of Oliver’s Burnley home.
Local full page magazine advert in 2012, which at the time Oliver couldn’t afford so he took a risk and paid for this on a credit card.
Oliver’s first business card and logo, produced and used between 2012 and 2013

Oliver then setup his first office at a small newly built business centre called Fern Court, on Moor Lane. Within the first month of leaving the council and setting up the new office, Oliver held an open day where he invited local businesses, ex colleagues from the council and local press to meet him.

Photo from the new office open day back in August 2013
First proper office at Fern Court, August 2013
Tablet PCs were just released and were becoming a new craze! Oliver took a risk and bought a couple of pallet loads from china using his personal credit card at the time. Sold 1,000 units within the space of 3 months.

During Oliver’s first twelve months in business, he picked up a separate employment contract with The Horkin Group which was a group of retail chain stores including; SPEX Opticians, Ken Varey’s Outdoor World, Lady Clitheroe Clothing and various other business under one roof. Alongside running his own company he became the Head of IT and Marketing for this company.

Oliver says; “My time at The Horkin Group gave me some great experiences and taught me so much about how to run my business. I was grateful for my time to work with Mr. Kevin Horkin who is a well respected well known entrepreneur who made his money out of focus, dedication and determination. I knew that one day I wanted to be successful like Mr. Horkin, and I was ready for the challenge.”

Oliver’s time with The Horkin Group provided him with some unforgettable opportunities such as being involved with hosting a charity party at Number 10 Downing Street in London, alongside planning charity parties and meeting some famous and well known successful figureheads.

Photo showing Oliver Alcock & Nigel Evans outside number 10 Downing Street, London
Oliver Alcock with X-Factor star Chris Maloney at Number 10 Downing Street, London.
Joe Longthorne, Denise Welch, Chris Maloney and Denise’s husband at 10 Downing Street.

Oliver’s personal IT support client list just kept growing and he parted ways with The Horkin Group relationship to focus on Bowland IT. Oliver knew that unless his complete focus was placed on Bowland IT, it would never grow into a company, it would always just remain a one man band business.

Oliver says “I never had any emotion leaving Ribble Valley Council as an employer, but leaving The Horkin Group was quite an emotional experience for me due to the amount of unforgettable life experiences the role gave me. I had to suddenly leave without much notice to avoid being pulled into tasks which were counter productive to what I wanted to focus on. I had to fully close the door as failure in my own business was not an option and I didn’t want any safety nets, I had experienced seeing Mr. Horkin’s success and I wanted the same for me”.

From this moment on, Oliver’s work with his rural clients was increasing and he got contracts with rural broadband providers such as Boundless Internet, providing on site installations and technical support for this company. Oliver setup an office in Slaidburn which was a central rural base.

Poor’sland Barn office in Slaidburn, Clitheroe.
The Bowland IT estate car outside Poor’sland Barn

There was only one thing to do next, get the name out there and start pushing for new business. Back then the company was primarily focused on just offering basic ad hoc support to homes and businesses. Most business was obtained through magazine advertising, as SEO and Social Media wasn’t as well used back then.

Magazine Advert in a local magazine called the Link Mag which no longer exists, but this magazine achieved a lot of business for Bowland.
Getting involved with local community events.
Picked up many local clients from constant advertising.
It doesn’t matter how crazy an idea was, Oliver just went ahead with it! He paid students to dress up in yellow Santa Claus outfits to give out leaflets at Christmas.

Oliver’s past experience in the retail industry working for The Horkin Group pushed him into taking Bowland IT onto Clitheroe’s high street, opening a mega showroom and repair workshop. Here is where ‘Bowland IT Store’ started.

Work in progress, Bowland IT Store under construction.
The construction of Bowland IT Store’s showroom
Clitheroe’s first high street IT Mega Store was now open
Bowland IT Store’s Laptop Showroom
Accessories for sale for phones, tablets and laptops at Bowland IT Store
Shop window at Bowland IT Store on Moor Lane in Clitheroe

The business was now seen as a high street brand, with sales instantly through the roof and what appeared to be a massive success. Within the first month of opening, the business turned over £40,000 which was significantly higher than what was expected, but the outgoings for the month were £50,000 due to the need to re-stock, staff wages, etc.

Oliver says “Two major learning curves were presented to me from this experience, one being turn over is vanity and profit is sanity. The other being that a slow and steady growth is more sustainable than rapid growth. Rapid growth is good if you have the cash flow to do it”

Bowland IT Store lasted six months, we didn’t do the calculations pproperly, we took massive risks and caused a major set back in where we had got to with the business up until this stage. This mistake cost Bowland IT it’s complete cash flow and took the company into being in a lot of debt.

Oliver says “I was so proud of what we had built with Bowland IT Store. So much time and love was put into the setup and planning, but not enough attention was placed on the numbers. Bowland IT Store was a huge learning curve for me and my brother Chris who invested in the business with me. We lost a lot of money, but we gained knowledge and experience.”

Oliver soon brushed off the dust from the mess caused with Bowland IT Store and went back to building the success he previously built with Bowland IT. He took the company through a complete full rebrand and started focusing on building relationships with local businesses once again.

A big change that the company went through was building relationships by focusing on investing into the local community and supporting local causes, sponsoring clubs etc.

Sponsored sports kit for students at St. James’ C of E Primary School, Clitheroe.

The company started to grow again rapidly, focusing on building new relationships with business throughout Lancashire with small to medium businesses. Bowland IT’s team grew and multiple engineers started to be out on the road all at once serving businesses and homes with IT services.

The services that Bowland offered started to grow, and included security systems, CCTV, and Home Automation. None of these Bowland IT now offer, as the company now focuses on wrap around IT MSP contract plans and Telecoms solutions for businesses.

The company’s first major breakthrough client was the Thompson Family and Blackpool Pleasure Beach, as we provided servicing and maintenance for the equipment within their engineering department. Getting this client on board was a massive boost of confidence for the company.

Let’s now fast forward to where we are today, Bowland IT now supplies in excess of 300 UK companies with IT Support, Telecoms, Cyber Security, Anti Virus, and Cloud Data Backup Services. We have a team of seven members of staff, and the company is ran by Oliver Alcock and his fiancée Jenna Healey.

Jenna Healey – Managing Director
Oliver Alcock – Managing Director
Members of the Support Team at Bowland IT

The company is now based at Ribble Business Centre, Shuttleworth Mead Business Park in Padiham. Ribble Business Centre is a modern business centre situated within easy access of our clients in Manchester, Burnley, Clitheroe, Accrington and Blackburn. We have a 1,000 sq foot office space with a repair workshop.

Ribble Business Centre, Shuttleworth Mead, Padiham
Reception Area at Ribble Business Centre
Reception area at Ribble Business Centre

We look forward to continued growth, as a company, with a primary focus on looking after our team. Without a solid team supporting us, the company wouldn’t be what it is today.

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