The start-ups that help start-ups get business going

Jenny Reynolds of Topper

More than 20,000 new companies were registered in Ireland last year.

While there’s no doubt that the new firms have a huge potential, many start-ups struggle with challenges around time, staffing and costs. Small business owners can certainly identify with these problems. Now some Irish startups are providing help for their fellow entrepreneurs and other small business owners.

Jenny Reynolds founded Topper with the aim of helping new sole traders.

The Topper app aims to simplify payments, bookings and management of customers. Ms Reynolds says the Hailo-style app is “like a mini system for a small business without the cost” because “when you’re a startup you’re very limited on resources and money and everything else.”

Ms Reynolds, who reached the national final of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur competition earlier this year, says the transaction fee is less than that charged by PayPal. “They don’t have the time to be sitting at a desk making up invoices.

Topper will allow them to invoice people. All their marketing will be done because they’re gathering all their customer data as they pay. It just makes the sole trader really professional,” she says.

Getting their product or service in front of their target customer is a challenge for businesses. Popertee makes it simple for small firms to avail of “pop-ups”.

Founded by Lucinda Kelly, it has helped 60 pop-ups for a range of big brands and small businesses, including Volvo and Citroen, Irish accessories brand My Shining Armour, coeliac pop-up Un-Glued and Sweet Churro.

“The advantage of using a service like Popertee is that they can have a physical location without huge overheads,” says Ms Kelly, who likens Popertee to an Airbnb platform, matching brands with their ideal pop-up audience.

Popertee looks after the licencing agreement, estate agent, insurance and payments mans “makes it much easier than ever before for businesses to connect businesses directly with landlords,” Ms Kelly says.

Having an online presence is another challenge for small businesses. According to a recent survey, almost 20% of SMEs don’t have a website.

Another study by the IE Domain Registry found that SMEs without a website are missing out on €24,000 in annual sales, while three-quarters of consumers find it frustrating when they can’t find details about a local business online.

Mark Cummins, who is a co-founder of Pointy, which helps local businesses get found online, says there are barriers to a retailer getting online.

“You lay out a couple of grand on getting a web designer to make a website, but that’s just the start because then you have to list all your products and a retailer might have thousands of products, and they change all the time,” Mr Cummins says.

Pointy aims to get rid of that barrier, by helping small local businesses to maximise sales without having to spend a lot of money or time.

Retailers pay Pointy a once-off fee for a device that connects to the shop’s barcode scanner. It creates a web page for the store and automatically lists its products.

Customers can search using the Pointy app to show the nearest stores with the product they want in stock.

Mr Cummins, who previously worked for Google as a software engineer, says: “Our whole philosophy is to keep it very low effort for the retailer.” Pointy, which has 1,250 retailers on board, in every county in Ireland and 45 states in the US, employs 15 people at its Dublin office.

“It’s very easy for us to relate to the small businesses because we’re facing a lot of the same challenges,” Mr Cummins says.

“We’re small, and we’re trying to do everything with a limited number of people. We really understand the value of time and making some things more automated.”


Ciara McDonnell talks to four high-profile people about their festive traditions and favourite tracksHere's what has these famous faces rockin’ around the Christmas tree

More From The Irish Examiner