UCL Innovation and Enterprise


Letting in the locked-out: UCL boost for SpareKeys business

21 March 2014

Barry Shaverin had not planned on becoming an entrepreneur until it happened. Forced to rescue his forgetful flatmate, who locked himself out again and again, Barry spotted a gap in the market. UCL Advances helped him develop his growing rescue service for the locked-out and forgetful.

Hand holding key opening door

An opportunity

Although Barry had studied law and was training to become a barrister, in 2005 a promising business idea tempted him to change course.

The number of times his keyless flat mate called Barry for help was becoming unmanageable, and he looked around for a fix. He found none. Driven by the obvious need, he decided to set up his own rescue service: SpareKeys. The company offers key storage and 24 hour emergency delivery, with the tagline: ‘Never be locked out again.’

The next challenge was committing to the business full-time – a risk for Barry. “On the one hand, you can make a lot of money and make a difference,” he said. “But on the other hand, you can fail spectacularly.” He was torn between a solid business idea, his investment in law – and pressure from his family. “

“They all told me, ‘For goodness sake, go and get a job. You’re a barrister!’ But I was confident in my idea.” Barry Shaverin, Founder, SpareKeys

Useful insight

Having decided to go down the entrepreneurial avenue, Barry made use of support on offer from UCL. In 2011, six years into his already flourishing venture, he signed up to UCL’s Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses programme. With the benefits of an impressive followup, plus idea-swapping among a highly supportive network, Barry says the course taught him ‘a great deal’.

In 2012 he gained further insights – such as first-hand tips on client engagement, mystery shopping and product development – from the UCL Advances Business Mentoring Scheme.

From keys to life continuity

Since its launch as a Business-to- Consumer service, SpareKeys has enjoyed huge growth. The company has expanded from its London base to 18 depots across the UK and now offers a host of extra services, such as wallet retrieval and handling the loss of mobiles, handbags bags and credit cards. The recent rebranding as Life Continuity encompasses the many ways Barry has found to keep people’s lives running smoothly.

In 2012, several hundred thousand customers relied on Barry’s rescue services, and this number is set to reach a million by the end of 2014. He’s delighted that lending a hand has turned into a rewarding venture, “Forgetfulness has proven a highly reliable business need!”