In the first of a new three-part series, GirlCrew chats to entrepreneurs who talk through their journey with the Competitive Start Fund from Enterprise Ireland.
Led by Diane Hurley, this series aims to give entrepreneurs some insight into the Competitive Start Fund from Enterprise Ireland. The purpose of this fund is to help accelerate the growth of new businesses. In order to be eligible for the fund, must be less than three years old from the date of registration. This allows founders to use the fund to reach key milestones on their journey to market. We love seeing the support entrepreneurs give each other in our entrepreneurs group. And we hope these tips will prove to be very beneficial to everyone on contemplating how to get the competitive start fund.
To kick this series off, Diane sat down with Glissed, an online marketplace that links customers with freelance beauty professionals.
Can you tell us a little about your business?
Louise: We are Louise Dunne and Niamh McHugh, co-founders of Glissed. Glissed.com is a community for freelance beauty professionals. We enable freelance beauty professionals with the tools to manage and grow their business in offering beauty appointments to homes, offices or hotels. We help beauty professionals to manage their bookings in one place and keep track of their finances.
From the consumers’ point of view, they can go online and browse the list of beauty professionals, who will travel to their location, bringing beauty appointments to you, including outside salon hours.
We currently specialise in hair and makeup appointments, and will eventually expand the service range as we continue to grow. Our aim is to build the world’s largest community platform. We are currently in Dublin and the surrounding areas, and Kildare and Wicklow. With plans to launch in a UK city in the next few months.
When did you get Competitive Start Fund (CSF) from Enterprise Ireland and have you any tips around the application process?
We applied for Enterprise Ireland CSF four times. It took us a while to get it, because at the time we applied, our type of business was seen as an emerging market. Once we were able to show it was not a lifestyle business, and the two-sided marketplace was a model taking off in the US, we finally got it last year in March.
What are your top tips on how to get the Competitive Start Fund?
- Be realistic about your commercial and technical milestones.
- Practice several times before shooting the video. You only get one go!
- Give yourself time filling out the application and ask companies that have got CSF about the process
- Be both thorough and to the point in your application
How has CSF helped your business?
With CSF, we joined the Female Founders Programme, which NDRC and Enterprise Ireland ran last year. It was great to have access to Enterprise Ireland and the support of NDRC. Enterprise Ireland encouraged us to do a Sprint Programme and we have used the Enterprise Ireland Market Research Centre for data.
How did your business idea come about?
In 2014, Niamh and I met through work at a creative college. Niamh was working there in sales and marketing at the time, and freelancing in beauty and fashion journalism, and I was lecturing at the college.
The idea was kind of born from our own frustrations. After 13 years of working in the beauty industry, I was setting myself up as a freelance makeup artist. Niamh was working 9 to 5 daily and was looking for options to get her hair done last minute, outside office hours and was struggling to find info online about freelancers who come to your house. We realised there wasn’t a one place to go to for these services and so our business idea came from there. And we thought, let’s just give this a shot.
How did you get the business up and running?
We started with a Whatsapp group and a PayPal link, and within a short time we started making regular bookings. As soon as we had bookings coming in, we set ourselves up in a co-working space StartLocal where there was a great peer-to-peer sense of community. We literally threw ourselves into every tech event happening around the city to learn as much as we could.
We aimed to keep it lean at the beginning, until we really understood the business we were going into. We moved from a Whatsapp group to a website with a landing page, and spent the first several months testing, talking to customers and suppliers to validate the market.
The next step was to integrate Stripe and work to slowly build in an online booking engine.
Can you tell us who are your customers?
We cater for a wide range of different women with different needs, from busy mums who can’t bring their children to salons, to singletons in town, getting ready to head out to an event or on the town.
We get a lot of requests around weddings. Our beauty professionals are usually there for the mornings of both the day of the wedding and the day after, doing hair and makeup for the wedding and follow up parties and bbqs. We offer discounts to wedding guests as well, as part of the service.
We are especially busy around most family celebrations, celebration days of the calendar year and outside salon hours.
For anyone considering going into business, what is your experience of scaling a marketplace platform?
I would say that there is no magical formula for marketplace businesses.
It’s a difficult model to scale. You are advertising to two sides of the market.
What has worked for us is setting up quality suppliers first. We support suppliers and they support us in turn by spreading the word, and reposting links to Glissed.com on their personal social media. Word of mouth is important in the beauty industry.
Speaking to other marketplace businesses has allowed us to share insights of the market with each other. We also reached out to GMs and CEOs of larger marketplaces, to absorb as much information as possible, in figuring out which channels worked for us.
I reached out to the founder of handy.com, Oisin Hanrahan, while I was in New York. Even though, we were very early stages of the business, I remember thinking Oisin Hanrahan was the one person I really wanted to talk to. I was amazed he got back to me quickly with a yes and invited me down to the handy.com offices. He was really generous with his time.
I also met with the hassle.com founders in Dublin on a number of occasions. They were brilliant. They were able to give us a good idea of how they approached business in the early days of scaling. It helped us understand how to meet the needs of different women, who have different reasons for using the service.
What have been your biggest highs to date?
The 4 biggest highs so far have been:
- Securing CSF
- Wining and securing 20K on NDRC Investor Pitch Day (2016). NDRC reinvested in us. We were over the moon!
- CB Insights listing us alongside L’Oreal as one of the Top 70 worldwide for beauty and grooming
- Most recently, we won a Bank of Ireland Startup award 2017 for Best Service
Any tips to GirlCrewers thinking of starting a business?
Yes! Our top tips are:
- Being an entrepreneur is blood, sweat, tears and coffee- sometimes daily.
- There is nothing to fear. If you don’t go for it, you’ll only regret it.
- If it doesn’t work out, you can learn a lot along the way.
- The art of asking is really important: being bold enough to ask lots of questions to business professionals around your specific domain and industry.
- One chat can lead to so many doors opening
Do you have an ask of GirlCrewers reading this?
Yes, keep an eye out for the web app we are launching in the next two weeks, download it and let us know what you think!
Huge thanks to Louise on sharing her thoughts on how to get the Competitive Start Fund. If you’ve any insights you’d like to share about entrepreneurship or Enterprise Ireland let us know in the comments. And don’t forget to download the GirlCrew app, it’s the perfect place to link in with other female entrepreneurs – so you’ll find lots of help there too! Ideal for those thinking about how to get the Competitive Start Fund for their business.