Having set up only months before the pandemic struck, Will Lang and his team rose to the challenges it brought and have thrived throughout the past two years. Will tells us more about his business, those challenges and his plans for the future.
Tell us more about your business
My name is Will Lang and I run Purple Chilli Ltd. Under that name we have several brands, the first of which is Silent Disco 4U which we started back in early 2019. Silent discos are so much fun and we’ve found that customers have responded to it really well. Guests get a wireless headset each, with a choice of up to three channels of music. They’re ideal for weddings when guests want to enjoy music but still want to be able to chat with each other.
We’ve also found that they’re really popular for house parties where customers don’t want to disturb the neighbours. We deliver UK-wide, with our customers receiving their orders one to two working days before their event and they receive an instructional video to get it all set up and they’re good to go. What’s great about silent discos is that they cater for all the generations thanks to the three channels which can cover different genres of music.
When Covid hit back in 2020 our business dropped off a cliff. We had a warehouse full of equipment that wasn’t being used so we decided to provide the equipment, for free, to schools who were teaching key worker’s children and to NHS premises. For me, the NHS settings were a huge thing. I didn’t appreciate, until we heard the stories, how much NHS staff needed a way to decompress between shifts or on their lunch breaks. The disco equipment enabled them to take some time out, listen to the music that helped them and refresh themselves after working on ‘the front line’ of Covid.
During lockdown 2020 we also set up Cinema Hire 4U to help people who wanted to enjoy something novel, within restrictions, to enjoy in their own gardens.
Our most recent brand to market is Karaoke Hire 4U, which we launched in December 2021, providing karaoke equipment for parties, weddings and events. The combination of the three businesses has meant that we’ve managed to keep working throughout the lockdowns, adhering to restriction guidelines and providing work for an ever-increasing team of people. We’ve tried to be as adaptable and proactive as possible and as a result we’ve had to move premises from North Shields to the Tyne Tunnel Trading Estate to have enough room to accommodate all of our stock, processes and team.
It’s been quite an adventure since starting the businesses and we’ve been lucky enough to work with some celebrities too – the Beckhams have hired our cinema equipment a few times and when we started Karaoke 4U, Claudia Schiffer hired us for her New Year’s Eve party. It’s been quite surreal!
How did you come to be nominated for the Can Do award?
We nominated ourselves for the award. We’d heard about the awards through our support from North Tyneside Business Forum, The Business Factory and TedCo and thought it would be a great way to acknowledge the team’s hard work. Their determination and resilience during some of the most challenging circumstances has been incredible and I wanted them to know how much we value and appreciate their input into the business.
During last year’s summer we joined the DWP kickstart scheme and took on five young people to work in our warehouse, handling the equipment and fulfilling orders. It’s been a huge success and we’re in the process of taking on another seven young people on the same scheme. We’ve been incredibly lucky to need such an expansion at a time when other businesses have struggled to maintain their teams and workload so we’re very grateful for that. Our team is now around 20-strong including freelancers, cinema technicians, warehouse staff and office staff. We’ve had to have a ‘can do’ attitude to deal with the past two years and it’s been quite a journey.
What does winning the award mean to you?
We were delighted to win the award because we’re so proud of what we’ve achieved and it’s lovely to get some external recognition that we’re doing something right. On the inside we still feel a little bit like we’re starting out and feeling our way in the industry so to get the award is a really lovely recognition of our collective efforts.
It was brilliant to be able to connect with other businesses in the borough and put faces to the names we’ve met online and to see how we could support other businesses in the area.
What are you plans for the business?
We’re hoping to launch a new product this year and we’ll be expanding our stock for the bookings we’re getting in. To be honest, this will hopefully be our first ‘normal’ year so it’ll be nice to get into a rhythm in 2022. Our staff team will expand with more Kickstarters and we’re looking forward to settling in to our stride.
What do you love about working in North Tyneside?
What I love about North Tyneside is that it’s big enough to feel you have plenty to explore, meet new people, always learn more about it, but small enough that you can achieve some meaningful connections with other people and businesses. It’s the sort of place that you can bump into familiar faces while you’re out and about but there’s always something new to learn.
And it’s such a hardy, creative and innovative place so there’s always room to breed opportunity – the business community always seems to be scanning the horizon to see what’s possible and I love that.