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Featured Business: FeelsRight
Name: Tara Dalrymple, founder, FeelsRight
For over 11 years now, Tara Dalrymple – founder of employee reward and appreciation platform FeelsRight – has made it her business to make other people’s lives easier.
On moving from London to Galway in 2004, she set up lifestyle management company Busy Lizzie. The downturn in the economy and changing consumer habits soon saw a change in emphasis from lifestyle to business outsourcing. With a background in PR and marketing, Tara found that the business moved naturally into email and social media marketing for clients.
However, the arrival of multinationals and their employee benefits packages into Ireland in recent years, along with advances in technology, gave Tara (who also has a background in IT) the impetus to remodel her original business.
She spent two years researching the market; the result is a cloud-based platform where companies can buy credit for staff to delegate their personal to-do list as part of their employee benefits package. This allows employees to be more focused and productive at work. “We’re giving people time to spend with people they love and do something they love rather than doing boring stuff,” says Tara.
FeelsRight has huge international potential and has created partners globally via Web Summit. Because it is Tara’s second business, she says she has had the advantage of knowing what she needed to do from the start.
FeelsRight has been selected for a European incubator called Transition. It is helping 50 companies around Europe that are trying to solve a societal problem to fast-track growth. Meanwhile, Tara’s accolades over the years include:
- BPW Innovative Business Woman of the Year 2005
- JCI Galway Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2006
- Listed Top 40 Irish Female Entrepreneurs: Image Business 2006
- Listed Top 100 Women in Business: Entrepreneur Magazine 2006 & 2007
- Finalist Image Magazine Young Businesswoman of the Year 2008
- Vodafone: World of Difference Winner 2010
- SCCUL Enterprise Awards Winner ICT “One To Watch”
- Winner IEDR Optimise Award 2014
- Top 38 Irish Women in Technology 2014
Interview with Tara Dalrymple
What was the inspiration for setting up your business?
There’s this big movement globally called the sharing economy or collaborative consumption. I thought “I’ve been doing this without calling it anything for 11 years.” It was a bit of a eureka moment; I’ve been in this game for a while. It was just a matter of utilising the latest technology. Everybody is so mobile now in the way that they work. It was a change in technology that enabled us to do it.
How did you initially fund your business?
It was a mix of Busy Lizzie and doing a lot of stuff in-house. It was utilising the time of the guys on the payroll. It wasn’t a heavy capital investment. We had the laptops, we had the knowledge. It was just a matter of time. We launched a minimal alpha website.
Have you diversified your offering from your original focus or set up other businesses?
Yes, completely. I had a phone call with Sean O’Sullivan [Managing Director, SOSventures] and he said: “You need to niche it down”.
What have been the highlights to date?
There have been a few. Being a woman in tech is bittersweet; it can help you out in some regards, because there aren’t that many. On the other hand, you can be the token woman. In January 2014 I won an ICT One to Watch award at the SCCUL Enterprise Awards. It was great for the team that we had won our first award and we had only launched. We won the IEDR Optimise Fund last summer. We won €10,000 to further optimise our website.
What’s the bravest step you’ve made in relation to your business?
Not giving up – working on a new project at the start when you are having knock-backs is hard. But I believed in my project, and knew that it was going to work. Were there days when it was hard to go to the office? Sure, but I stood by my guns, and it has paid off.
What’s your favourite part of being a business owner/entrepreneur?
It’s flexibility with my life and my family. I’ve got three kids. It gives me the flexibility to work when I want and to take holidays that I’m entitled to without having to ask for them. It allows me to run with the ideas that I have. My dad is a serial entrepreneur. All my family have their own businesses. It’s something I grew up in and something I knew I was going to do. I’m trying to give other people work-life balance but it gives me my life work-life balance as well.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
I’m insanely organised. I have always been really good at lists, planning and organising. For years I’ve been organising other people’s lives. It’s something I love to do. I make sure I have downtime as well. I have quite a sturdy default (digital) diary, which I follow weekly so I know what I’m doing: time for the kids, time for walks, time for myself, time for me and my husband. If you don’t factor in that time, it just goes by.
Are you inspired by any business figures or success stories?
I’m dyslexic. I found that out quite late in life. One of my big inspirations is Richard Branson. It might be a bit of a cliché but I’m coming at it from the fact that we’re both dyslexic. You build a really strong team around you who have the strengths you don’t. Second is Anita Roddick, who set up the Body Shop. She was a pioneer in terms of environmental issues, animal testing and corporate social responsibility before it was a trending workplace turn of phrase.
What tools do you utilise that benefit your customers or business?
We’re all online so we use Trello – an electronic to-do list – a lot in terms of what we’re working on. We create boards for different projects. For each task within an action list we can designate a time and one of the team to do it. It’s a good way for us all to see who is working on what and if it’s finished and signed off. I’ve tried so many different project management tools over the years and I find this one really simple. It hasn’t a lot of feature bloat. It’s really easy. When working with some clients, I use Basecamp.
Do you feel you know what your customers really want? How do you stay updated with this information?
We’ve done a lot of talking and walking. One of the stakeholders is companies; we’ve been talking to a lot of HR [staff] and CFOs to work out what they really need and what they’re looking for. For the last two years we have been doing a lot of that, a lot of primary and secondary research. I was on the Ennis Innovate course run with Clare Local Enterprise Office. We had some absolutely amazing Enterprise Ireland mentors who were specialists in market research. We had a blueprint we could go to for our primary research [and ask] whether these factors are important or not. We’ve done a lot of market validation. I think that’s one of the most crucial things: Are you building something people want? We’ve changed things to accommodate that, and pared down things we thought people would want but in fact don’t. It saved us a lot of time and money.
What has been the biggest challenge your business has faced?
The biggest challenge recently was rebranding the business. It took four months of intensive brainstorming. We worked with an amazing team in Galway called I Speak English. It was really interesting but really hard. It’s so important and I think it’s something people do not spend enough time and money on. I’ve since read that a lot of VCs now have a branding partner because it’s so important. You have to get it right from day one.
What part of running a business comes to you naturally?
I’m lucky in that I’ve never had a problem coming up with ideas and working out solutions. I think that’s the dyslexic brain; I’m able to think with the other side of the brain and come up with different solutions. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, I’ve grown up with it. I knew how to run a company by osmosis. It’s a long process, you can make a lot of expensive mistakes. Having that skill alone was just brilliant, watching my mum and dad. That was a real gift that my parents gave me.
What has been the best reward in running your own business?
Every time I win a new client I still think that’s the best feeling in the world. That never goes. That’s what keeps you going, winning those clients, the validation that what you’re doing is needed or wanted.
How did you scale/grow your business?
By using social media and networking. I’m a huge online and offline networker. I’ve a load of online contacts. We use Michael Fitzgerald’s OnePageCRM. It has an amazing LinkedIn clipper tool. I love LinkedIn. I think it’s a phenomenally under-utilised tool. It tells you who to target. By integrating OnePage with that, it prepopulates your target list. Being second-time rounders, we know the mistakes we made before. This time we have a great action list of who we need to target and how we need to target them.
How do you get ideas to further your business?
Like most people, I’m signed up to loads of different business ezines. I read a lot; I skim. I love Fast Company magazine – really left-field thinking. Some of the LinkedIn start-up groups are fabulous.
What motivates you to stay running a business?
Loving what I do. There’s still not a day when I don’t want to get out of bed. To be paid to do what you love is something so many people aspire to. If you can do it after 11 years and still love it, that’s pretty cool.
What’s your vision for the future?
We’ve got a very strategic plan for rollout. We’ll be starting in Galway and Dublin, then multiple cities in Ireland, and then moving into the UK and further afield.
What’s the best business advice you’ve received?
Never be afraid to ask a question even if you think it’s stupid. Research, research – primary and secondary – as much as you can. Before you build anything, ask your potential clients, do a focus group.
What would be your advice to businesses starting out?
Get an advisory board around you if you can – formal or informal. Try and get them around a table even if you just do it once, and say “This is what I’m thinking of, what do you reckon?” Speak to other people who have been there. Find out the pros and cons of doing it. It’s all great winning awards and money, but it’s a long process. You really need to have a great support team around – friends, family, partner, colleagues – to pep you up if you need it. Know what you’re working towards. Ask questions. Ask as many people as you can. Don’t just ask family. Your family is always going to say it’s great. Get honest feedback if you can.
What’s your favourite motivational business quote?
Dalrymple is a really old Scottish tribe. Our family motto is “Think big.” It was always drummed into me by my dad.
What, if anything, would you do differently?
Launching the website. We all hold off too long to launch a site; I think I would have launched it earlier.
Phone: +353 1 514 3401
Interviewed by: Web Content Partner
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