YFM Equity Partners has backed the £18.1 million management buyout of Smart Numbers Ltd, a provider of connectivity and complementary marketing services.

Led by incumbent Smart Numbers MD Tim Hutchings, the investment will help to accelerate growth for the Southampton-headquartered business.

Smart Numbers is a creative communications specialist that provides small businesses with a mix of virtual telephone numbers, call management, website design, digital marketing, broadband, VoIP and office telephone systems.

The company was launched in 2005 by founder Scott Woolaway to provide small businesses with trackable inbound phone numbers that could be placed in advertising. It has since evolved into a Google Partner digital marketing business that combines website development alongside localised and personalised optimisation software, coupled with smart telephony solutions to help boost lead generation for thousands of businesses across the UK.

As a provider of cloud-hosted Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony services for small businesses, Smart Numbers is well-placed to capitalise on the impending switch-off of the UK’s analogue phone network, which is due to take place at the end of 2025. 

Richard Last, former chair of connectivity provider Gamma Communications plc, joins the business as non-executive chair to support the company’s ambitious growth strategy, with Nathan Willis remaining as FD.

Woolaway will continue to hold a significant shareholding in the business and retains a position on the board as vice chairman.

“With YFM’s backing, our business is now ideally placed to pursue a new era of growth and to position itself as the go-to communications provider of digital marketing telephony for increasing numbers of small businesses in the UK and North America,” said Hutchings. 

“The YFM team has provided us with invaluable business growth insight and guidance, and we look forward to reaching new heights with their support.”

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Woolaway commented: “I have enjoyed nearly 20 years of leading Smart Numbers Ltd, having built a fantastic team and a successful business gaining customers across several continents, I take immense pride in all our achievements. 

“After working together for more than a decade, I have absolute confidence in handing over full day-to-day control of the business to Tim Hutchings. This is an important stage of development for Smart Numbers and an exciting challenge for Tim and I personally. 

“The energy and commitment the whole team have brought to this transaction gives me great confidence in our continued success under YFM’s investment.”

YFM partner David Wrench added: “Smart Numbers is a very well-regarded, specialist business that has dedicated itself to meeting the ever-evolving needs of its customers. 

“We are confident that it will continue to follow a strong growth trajectory, as it helps more customers switch to cloud-based, digital telephony and reaches a wider swathe of the small business sector with its raft of expert marketing services.”

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