Jonathan Fagan was walking through a field in October last year when he came up with the idea of selling mud over the Internet. A solicitor by trade, he says it all started as an experiment because his wife believed that anything could be sold over the Web and he decided to put it to the test, writes Roisin Woolnough.
A few weeks later, www.pileofmud.com went live and, much to Fagan's surprise, the hits started stacking up. "I thought there might be a few visitors, but not 100,000," he says.
Fagan has not actually sold a lot of mud - 250g in total, with 13 customers placing orders - but he has achieved fame. "I have become known as the solicitor who sells chunks of mud," he says.
Pilofmud.com is not Fagan's first foray into Web world - he is managing director of a legal recruitment consultancy called Ten-percent.co.uk. He also has plans to build an online dating agency for legal and medical professionals, which will go by the name of Doctors4lawyers.co.uk.
It was setting up Ten-percent that first got Fagan thinking about how easy it is to do business online. "I knew nothing about the Net until I decided to set up Ten-percent," he explains. "I purchased Frontpage 2000, which I have found very simple to use, and I used the Frontpage Express guides from a university to work out how to use forms without a Frontpage-compatible ISP."
Working on a P75 computer with little memory and only 48Kbytes of Ram, Fagan says he designed everything in such a simple fashion that it took him hardly any time to create Pileofmud.com. "It took an evening with a bottle of wine to write the site." All he used was Frontpage and HTML.
The issue that took up the most time was deciding how to manage the financial transactions. In the end, Fagan decided to outsource, and used Worldpay.com for the credit card systems.
He is now contemplating selling the site, but before that happens he is diversifying what it offers. "It has expanded and we now sell welly wanging kits, woodworm feeder, mystery gifts with no mystery and other similarly diabolical presents," he says.
And if Fagan runs out of mud in his 12m x 3m garden, he can turn to his neighbour and a farmer in Wales who have both offered to provide some of their own.
Name: Jonathan Fagan
Job title: solicitor at Ward and Griffiths, managing director of ten-percent.co.uk
Qualifications: law degree
IT skills: Frontpage 2000, HTML
Hobbies: hiking, collecting yurts
Favourite pub: any that serves a warm pint
Favourite film: The Sound of Music
Favourite book: my cheque book
Fagan on Fagan: surreal sense of humour
E is for excellence
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This was first published in March 2001