Magazine Interview – From The Horses Mouth

”DAVID SMITH-MARKL TALKS ABOUT HIS EXCITING WEBSITE”

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Interview by Dean Charlton and Robert A Williams

(Dean) Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? I’m a hardworking 30 year old from Rochdale.  I manage Visit Hebden Bridge around my day job and social interests.  I am a retail manager by trade and I’ve been in that sector on and off for over 10 years.

Where do you come from? I’m from Rochdale which isn’t too far from Hebden Bridge.

Why do you visit Hebden Bridge? I visit the town because I own and operate a website that’s been running since March. It’s a modern platform for businesses and not-for-profit organisations in the local area, to showcase themselves to tourists and locals alike.

(Robert) It’s a very good website done on Word Press and it seems to be getting a lot of traffic and it’s good for anyone who wants to be involved with www.visithebdenbridge.com  How would you market yourself? It’s a website business.

(Dean) What inspired you to start the website? Since I was young, I’d been coming to Hebden Bridge with my parents and now I visit with my wife and friends. I realised that it was difficult to find everything in one place on the internet so I wanted to create a platform for the businesses and organisations that was easy to access. I also did it because of my love for the place.

What do you like about Hebden Bridge? Everything. The people are lovely and there’s such a variety of businesses and things to do in such a small town. Everyone inspires one another and it is a very positive place. For example, each time the town has flooded; it has fought back and comes back better. I can’t think of a place where the locals are as resilient as in Hebden Bridge!

Can you talk a bit about what you’re actually offering? The main focus for the website is for business – if someone wants to have their own interactive profile, for £100 annually you’re getting a business listing on my website which features things like picture galleries, a background story to the business and lists of your amenities etc. Businesses will also be shared through social media e.g. I have a strong and active following of over 13,500 on Facebook while Instagram and twitter are growing quickly. Also there is a local services section on the site so that both visitors and locals are reached.  £5 from every annual listing taken out also goes straight to the Watermark Flood Fund!

Do you only cover Hebden Bridge? I cover Hebden Bridge and the immediate surrounding areas like Mytholmroyd, Luddenfoot, Blackshaw Head, Todmorden and Walsden but I am open to talk to anyone.

Do you do anything other than this website? As mentioned earlier, I do the website in my
spare time and my main job is working as a retail manager at Rochdale Football Club – I’ve been a lifelong supporter of the club and feel fortunate to have landed the job in July of last year. I’ve been in retail management for most of my life and feel that I have the experience to help businesses. I enjoy the job and it gives me the flexibility to do my website in my spare time.
Are you hoping the website will become your main focus? It will probably stay as the ‘side’ job as I can’t foresee it making me rich! But the enjoyment I get from meeting people and getting businesses out there is my main motivation. I want to bring the community together and help Hebden Bridge become even more well-known and busier than ever.

Will you look to cover other areas in the future? That’s something people have asked me a lot. My main focus at the moment is Hebden Bridge and by the end of year one I’m looking to have 100 listings on the site. The aim is to become the No 1 Hebden business site. After that I may look at other places.

Have you got an IT background? I did IT at AVCE level but I left before the end of my second year.  At the time, college wasn’t a priority for me due to the early death of my father. I had become somewhat disillusioned with things and needed a change. I had a part-time job in a corner shop which I enjoyed and this became full-time after employers were impressed with me. So I left college at seventeen with one ‘A’ level in IT – I wanted to be more hands-on and this ended up being my route into retail. I was managing a Spar shop at eighteen and I have progressed from there and as mentioned, I’m lucky to now have my dream job at Rochdale Football Club.  I have very good IT skills which I am always using for the website and my other online business interests, so I can’t say I wasted my time at college.

(Robert) Do you think you may have problems with businesses in Hebden Bridge that are in the same area e.g. there are a lot of web designers in the town? I obviously have to remain neutral and encourage people to try and make up their own mind, but rather than web design, I’m offering a platform for each business to get on board with, these businesses may already have their own website but have used Visit Hebden Bridge to bring in more tourists and online coverage to their business.  Many of my clients have said that they that they have had increased sales and footfall through being involved with the website. I’ve noticed that since we have been involved with your website, we have seen an increase in ’likes’ on our Facebook page and that the traffic for our site has increased. 

(Dean) Have you anything to add? I’d like to thank you for interviewing me today, along with all the businesses, not-for profits and people who have trusted in me and who have supported me so far.  Also  thank you to all the fans and followers of Visit Hebden Bridge.  I’ll be sticking around and hopefully everyone can benefit from being involved with my site as I continue to aim to bring the community together to make for a better Hebden Bridge.

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