Featured Business: Loylap
Name: Patrick Garry, CEO and co-founder of Loylap
Company Background: Take a look in your wallet. There’s a number of loyalty cards and fobs, right? But why is this?
The truth is, businesses need to give their customers a reason to keep coming back. Customer loyalty drives businesses and while it’s easier for big businesses to tap into this world of fobs and cards, it has traditionally not been an easy route for smaller businesses.
Irish start-up Loylap hopes to be the company that cracks this market. Patrick Garry, CEO of Loylap, was in the middle of doing a Masters in Finance when he and Conor O’Toole, CTO and co-founder, met to discuss potential ideas for small businesses.
The duo saw a huge potential to become a number one provider of technology for small businesses and decided to focus on loyalty — an idea that would reward customers and subsequently offer businesses specific information about their customer demographics.
Rather than returning to finance, Patrick — who previously worked in Deutsche Bank following a degree in Business and German in Trinity College — worked on his thesis while establishing Loylap at the same time. Within a year Patrick, and Conor — who had worked in Accenture — had established the company, and in 2013 they brought their beta product to market.
Starting up was a huge learning curve and they quickly found out that they had to change their offering from points rewards to cash back. This allowed them to easily correlate the amount of cash back given to a customer and the subsequent increase in spend.
Interview with Patrick Garry
What was the inspiration for setting up your business?
Essentially, Conor and I saw that larger chain businesses were becoming increasingly sophisticated in terms of the technology they were making available to customers — specifically around loyalty and payments. We looked at everything behind the till for small businesses. While they could track everything behind the counter, they had no idea who their customers were, how often they were coming. A lot of smaller businesses had no way to reward the customers the way larger retailers could.
How did you initially fund your business?
It was self-funded between Conor and I at the start because we both previously had jobs. After that we got a small loan from AIB to get our products out the door. Shortly after that (at the end of 2013) we were accepted into the NDRC’s LaunchPad for start-ups, which then provided us with the last round of funding we needed before earning revenues from businesses.
Have you diversified your offering from your original focus or set up other businesses?
We have diversified our offering. When we first started Loylap, we were offering businesses a chance to reward their customers with points. These points could then be redeemed for rewards in store. 60 points could get you a free lunch. What we noticed was that points could be quite confusing for end users as they were having to do mental calculations in their head. It was slowing traction so we did a huge revamp in March 2014 and changed the whole system from points to cash back.
What have been the highlights to date?
There’s been several highlights. For us our highlights are around new business customers and new end users. Getting into the NDRC programme was a huge highlight for us and that was very beneficial. To me, the highlight is getting customers on board and getting positive feedback from the businesses and end users.
What’s your favourite part of being a business owner/entrepreneur?
The ability to do things at light speed. If somebody in the team comes up with a great idea one night, we can start working on it the next morning. We’ve a great team that can do amazing things technically. We move fast and often. In our highly-competitive industry, if you’re not moving fast you’re going to be taken over, so you have to continually adopt change and move with the market.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
I don’t really think like that. There’s no set period in which I work or which I relax. I find it really hard to stop thinking about work. I don’t really have a problem with that. If I’m with friends or having fun, then work will completely escape my mind. I enjoy having something I can constantly think about. I prefer it to 9-5. We find our best ideas rarely happen while we’re sitting at desks.
Are you inspired by any business figures or success stories?
I’m very impressed by Elon Musk, the South African entrepreneur, and how he lets nothing roadblock his ideas and how big all of his visions are. Closer to home, I’m a big fan of Fergal Quinn. He’s a philosophical entrepreneur of sorts. I’m also a fan of Michael O’Leary with what he did to establish the airline, and I’m really impressed with the steps he’s taken to improve the customer experience of late.
What tools do you utilise that benefit your customers or that make running your business easier or more profitable?
The whole Loylap platform is designed to help businesses run their business more efficiently, specifically by handling their loyalty system for them and dealing with customer requests related to their loyalty system specifically for them. We also offer the facility to operate a stamp loyalty system, where a customer buys X number of products and after that receives a free product. Our latest tech update has a feature quick scan where all a business has to do is hold the scanner above a user’s smartphone and it adds a stamp.
Do you feel you know what your customers really want? How do you stay updated with this information?
I quite enjoy spending time in businesses that use Loylap, chatting with the business owners to see what they think and how they’re getting on. A lot of our features have been brought in or developed from feedback from five to six businesses that give the best feedback. “Loylap Upfront”, the feature where customers can top up their balance for a business and receive their loyalty reward upfront stemmed from talking to a business one day.
What has been the biggest challenge your business has faced?
It was a challenge to get a team together at the start. It wasn’t a challenge because of the shortfall of potential candidates. It was just a challenge in getting a team of five people together that could do absolutely everything that we needed to start up. Building a team is a challenge and is the first major challenge you’ll encounter.
What do you think the biggest challenge to businesses in Ireland is at the moment?
Competing internationally. I think Ireland is a great test bed for start-up companies. There’s been several success stories of companies establishing themselves in Ireland and developing their product to a state where they know this is now internationally viable. The challenge there is entering new markets and trying to get the product out there.
What part of running a business comes to you naturally?
I like product development the most. I think that’s where I do best in chatting with businesses and seeing what Loylap can possibly do for them – what features or new services we can implement for them and then coming back to the offices and discussing it with the team. I love that part of the business.
What has been the best reward in running your own business?
Taking those ideas back from businesses, bringing them into the office and developing them. If we get a suggestion from a business one day, four or five weeks later we could have it implemented in their business.
What was the main catalyst for growth?
I think it was organic within the business, in that we got real motivation from the whole team when we saw the numbers and successes from some of our power users. When we saw this product working in businesses, customers liking it and receiving great feedback, we knew we’d built something end users like using, and it’s something that’s actually working for these businesses.
How did you scale/grow your business?
We’re continually growing. We’re very early stage, we’re less than two years old and we’re always looking for new customers to get on board. We had to go door-to-door to small businesses and see if they would be interested in being part of a trial. We got our first customers by doing that.
What obstacles to growth have you faced in the past?
With any company, funding is always a huge issue for start-ups. We had to take a frugal approach. When the money was tight we had to spend as little as possible for a period of time. It was almost peaks and troughs of funding.
How do you get ideas to further your business?
We get ideas from the team members, at any time of the day. The ideas are constantly flowing in from the whole team at any hour. The ideas also come to a large extent from the businesses in which Loylap is operating.
What motivates you to stay running a business?
I see our industry, not just specifically loyalty for small businesses, but the wider idea of the adoption of technology to facilitate things for small businesses, as the largest-growing industry in next couple of years.
What’s your vision for the future?
We’re determined to be the company that cracks this market. We see small businesses becoming far more sophisticated in the next two to three years in how they know their customer. Our vision is these small businesses adopting technology at the point of sale to improve this process so they can focus on what they do best.
Do you have a mentor; do you find this has positively impacted on your success?
I think mentoring is crucial for anybody looking to start up a business, especially in Ireland where the community is so small that you can be introduced to people quite readily. Current entrepreneurs are more than willing to make the connection to people who are looking to make a start. I have several people I talk to on a regular basis who are involved in different sectors. It’s great to have the experience of somebody who’s been in an industry for 20 years.
What’s the best business advice you’ve received?
It was probably “Don’t focus on trying to impress everybody.” Build something that people love to use and go from there. Our focus was building something that businesses love to use, that was rewarding for the businesses and subsequently rewarding for the users.
What would be your advice to businesses starting out?
It’s all about the team. The biggest challenge to us starting off was getting the right team on board and getting the right team that could get the product out the door. I’d encourage anybody starting up a business to focus their main attentions on building a team — after they’ve established a market — that they know can get this product to market in the best viable way.
What’s your favourite motivational business quote?
A motivational quote I think is not just applicable to business but also to real life is “Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value” [Albert Einstein]. We’ve always built our company around the adage that we need to be providing real value to our customers if we are going to grow as a business.
What, if anything, would you do differently?
If I had a time machine, I’d probably go back and do everything differently. But the learning comes from the mistakes we’ve made over time. I’m glad that we’ve made these mistakes and we’re still around. You’re always going to make mistakes as a start-up business. Thankfully we didn’t make mistakes that would shut down our business.
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