Swindon, United Kingdom – Mark Keenan, the determined founder of Divorce-Online and Online Legal Services added another award to his list of trophies when it was announced last Friday that he is now ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ in the Wiltshire Business Awards. He founded Divorce-Online in 2000 and consistent business growth was transformed by a single press release last May, which received so much media coverage that it doubled sales, taking his business turnover from £315,000 in 2006 to £453,000 in 2007.
However, this was not a flash in the pan sales peak. Media coverage of the first ever TV advert for divorce services was carried in 12 newspapers including 8 national dailies, 9 radio stations and 9 websites, which helped Divorce-Online achieve a critical mass in terms of brand awareness. The story was managed by award-winning, Swindon-based BlueClickPR, and proves that sometimes direct sales do follow from editorial coverage –quite spectacularly in this case! During 2007, Mark also focused on Search Engine Optimisation and web traffic doubled by 100% with sales lead conversion also rising by 100%. Mark’s sales forecasts are now 60% up on last year’s monthly statistics and the company hits the target every month!
Award entries were 30% up on last year and on hearing the announcement, Mark Keenan said ‘I was absolutely stunned. I didn‘t think we’d win because we were up against such tough competition, and also, www.divorce-online.co.uk is often seen as very controversial. People sometimes say that offering divorce from £65 makes it too easy, but the system only works in cases of uncontested divorce, where the split is amicable and would have happened anyway.’
Swindon may have accidentally been labeled the divorce capital of the UK, not because the number of marriage breakdowns is disproportionately high, but because of the volume of paperwork processed by Divorce-Online in the town.
TargetCharteredAccountants based in Bath sponsored this category of the awards. Director Andrew Sandiford judged numerous high quality entries and commented ‘I was very impressed that Mark had taken something that had been around for many years, and successfully revolutionized the process. Sales grew exponentially after the media coverage in May, but to maintain that growth means he thoroughly deserves this win.’
Mark struggled against the odds to launch the company since it was at the time of the dot.com crash and no-one would invest in another online company. However, like so many successful entrepreneurs, Mark remained undaunted and ran the business from his home in his spare time. Eventually he met an ‘angel’ investor who was prepared to bank-roll his salary for 6 months and invest in website development in exchange for company shares. Duncan Spence brought his expertise and team of advisors and Mark considers this one of the best decisions he made, enabling him to concentrate full-time on the business. Duncan flew in from South Africa especially for the Wiltshire Business Awards ceremony and says ‘I’m extremely pleased for Mark and the company that they have won this award. When I invested in Mark I knew he not only had a good idea, but the drive and ambition to make it a success as well. Mark and his team have worked terrifically hard to make the company a success and this is well deserved.’
The award was also given in recognition that Mark has not allowed Divorce-Online to be a ‘one-trick pony’. He is forever improving the business process and case management system software to make the site more user-friendly. The low-cost, high-volume business model has been applied to other fields of legal document processing such as birth certificates and land registry documents with similar success. OnlineLegalServices bought over two competitors and is now the umbrella brand for several new initiatives that will help people keep their cash in their wallets when dealing with legal paperwork online. In many ways, Mark is the consumer’s champion because he finds money-saving ways to take the drudgery out of paperwork.
Asked about work/life balance and whether he feels he can relax a bit now, Mark says ‘As an entrepreneur you always work hard to build your business but for me there’s no separation between work and life because I’m building a business and doing what I enjoy. I sit watching TV with my laptop on my knee answering emails and the laptop goes everywhere with me. I usually take a week’s holiday each year but this year my wife has persuaded me to take three weeks. With double the staff in the business this year, that’s a greater possibility now.’
Previously, www.divorce-online.co.uk has won the Legal Technology Awards in 2003 for best online site, and the company came second in the E-commerce category for the Oxfordshire Business Awards in 2003.
• Divorce rates declined in 2006 per 1000 married population
• Divorce-Online has processed 43,000 divorces since 2000
• Their market share has risen from 1.5 to 5% of the total divorce market
• Divorce-Online deals with 150% more cases than the average Solicitor’s practice
Additional Divorce Statistics for Editors
This is the second year running that the figure has fallen and the divorce rate is now at its lowest since 1984.
However, one in five men and women divorcing in 2006 had a previous marriage ending in divorce. This proportion has doubled in 25 years. In more than two-thirds (69%) of cases the wife was granted the divorce. The most common "fact" supporting divorce was the unreasonable behaviour of the other partner.
One in three people get divorced nowadays and the latest figures for 2006 showed 132,562 divorces in England & Wales, where one in five of these were second divorces.
There are 3831 law firms dealing with divorce in England and Wales.
Where divorce was granted to the husband, there had been a two-year separation in 32% of cases. Over 60% of users of the Divorce-Online service are women.
In their 13th year these awards are now established as one of the most prestigious events in the county. 2007 saw a record number of entries in all categories resulting in the top 3 companies from each being shortlisted to attend the Gala awards dinner held at the De Vere Hotel, Swindon on 29th February 2008. The Gala dinner is now regarded as the' Oscars' for businesses in the county and was attended by over 270 business people. Jane Greer, Newsquest’s business sales manager and organiser of the awards said ‘We have had a brilliant year, the number of entries has been the highest yet and the quality just gets better and better.’
Online Legal Services websites
Brands now operating under the Online Legal Services banner are:-
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