New-look website keeps customers fastened to the spot

1 November 2011

A company that sells 100,000 lines of a very small number of products to a loyal customer base needs a well-designed, user-friendly online catalogue to showcase its wares, as well as a secure e-shop to sell them. Modern Screws, which supplies screws, bolts and fixings to a wide range of industries, asked HELO and UCL Advances’ internship programme for support.

Modern Screws

They matched the company with Masters student Horace Bell-Gam, who delivered the goods – and more. Horace in turn gained valuable real-life commercial experience which helped him to attain a job at top consultancy Accenture, despite stiff competition.

For over fifty years, Modern Screws has supplied screws, bolts and fixings to industries
from automotive to atomic, marine to medical. The company stocks 100,000 lines of these products, ranging in size from a 3-foot bolt for the Woolwich ferry to a tiny screw less than a hair’s-width for a Swiss watch. To do justice to its large inventory, as well as help take the company into the next half-century, Modern Screws needed a professionallydesigned, uniform website with a secure online distribution system.

Owner Peter Osvalds heard about HELO through an adviser from Business Link, and after a careful search, the HELO team found the ideal candidate for the task in Horace Bell- Gam, a computer science graduate who had worked for a year at LGC Standards, a private pharmaceutical and forensic services provider, where one of his tasks had been catalogue management.

Over the course of a number of monthly meetings – “an evolving process,” says Peter – Horace designed a sleeker, securer website with a number of interesting add-on features such as sports newsfeeds, a revolving slide show and a blog. “Around 80% of our sales is repeat business,” says Peter, “so it’s essential that we build customer loyalty and encourage revisits to the website.”

Horace says the HELO team provided vital support as a facilitator in the negotiations between him and the client, which took place when he was just five weeks into a Masters degree. He has continued his involvement with Modern Screws, helping to maintain the website’s new functionality. He is now working as a software engineer for Accenture, and he credits his experience at Modern Screws with helping him to land the job in a difficult market. “Having commercial experience under my belt made me a more confident, and therefore more attractive, candidate,” he says. “At the interview I was able to talk about things that I hadn’t just learnt from a textbook.”

He hasn’t ruled out starting his own company in the future. Peter Osvalds says that working with Horace was a “great experience, which is not always the case with suppliers to small businesses.” He adds: “If Horace ever needs a mentor in future, he knows where to find me.”