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Tell us what your business does and who founded it?*
Hubangel is an App and a website that gives people savings through special offers from local retailers while at the same time raising money for great causes. Not for profits (hubs) connect to local businesses in a mutually beneficial shopping arrangement. Not for profits provide the audience and the retailer provides promotional offers. Offers are redeemed through the Hubangel app. You pay as normal. For every sale recorded on the App, the not for profit earns a commission. #ShopSaveGive
When did you start and where did the idea for your business come from?*
Standing outside a supermarket on an annual club collection is not one of my favourite things to do but I do it for the cause. I don’t like to do it because I know people are already hard pressed and I know the donation I seek is one of many being sought and the small prize I am offering is only a token gesture. During one of those sessions I got to thinking…. I have massive admiration for the volunteers who fund raise, collect, cajole, persuade and give freely of their time and talents for different community groups from sports clubs to arts, education to vital social services. I am also someone steeped in business and I’ve always felt a need to give something to the many business people who support and contribute to the myriad of good causes in their communities. What if there was a way for not-for-profits to give something back to local business, some thing of real value, what if they could gives a benefit to their members and fund raise for the cause at the same time. From those hours standing with collection bucket in hand came the simple but powerful idea of Hubangel.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?*
My mother ran a small drapery business all her life so I grew up with it. I have being running different businesses for many years – inside larger organisations and since 2007 for myself. My very first business was a second hand school book shop when I was just 16. Running your own startup with a business to business and business to consumer model is something I really relish – I love the connection to merchants and the community that the business opens up.
What planning did you do before you started up?*
We assessed the market as best we could and could see nothing like Hubangel. We also did a lot of work on our business plan and a huge amount of analysis and design work. Once we made the decision to invest we started by building a prototype to help us make sure our concept was viable. There was no shortage of planning but having the resources to execute all we wanted to do was another story!
Which entrepreneurs do you admire?*
I admire anyone who translates an idea into a reality and makes a new product or better still defines a new market. Due to my professional background and origins as a programmer, I tend to follow tech companies but am always impressed when I see real disruption at play whatever sector it comes from. In the tech sector Google did it, Facebook did it, Groupon did it. In retail grocery Lidl and Aldi have done it.
What challenges have you faced how have you overcome them?*
I think every startup faces and overcomes challenges all the time – it is the nature of a startup, and if you don’t rise to the challenge you fail. In Hubangel we just get on with things and don’t stress over what we cannot control. In the early days it was a challenge to get a grip on our core proposition and ruthlessly take out features that did not differentiate Hubangel. That was a big challenge – we were too feature rich and needed to hone our service to focus on the important stuff. Funding was another challenge but thankfully we have successfully boot strapped our business to the current stage, that gives us a freedom and a control we value at present.
How have you promoted your business?*
Initially we worked directly with different retailers and not for profits to build what we call a “cluster”. This is basically a group of retailers in a particular geographic giving promotional offers to members of their chosen not for profits. As a social media product ourselves we have been using social media to promote Hubangel and that has yielded good early successes reaching people in places we had not previously addressed.
Where do you want to be in 5 years time?*
Not sure about five years but over time we want to be the “go to” place for anyone looking for local shopping experience and value. We want to be famous for changing how merchants promote their business and how not for profits fund-raise.
We’d love to be serving multiple countries and providing expanded Hubangel services to our users. Our road map is very well developed and the product architect in me is looking forward to expanding the product capabilities in various countries.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?*
Make it happen! Start small and keep it managable for yourself. Seek out positivity and enthusiasm, you don’t need people telling you it will never work! Read a few books on lean startup but don’t get too hung up on the theory and the advice. There is no shortage of ideas and plans in the world just a shortage of great execution and implementation. Find a small circle of confidants, listen to advice from them and then trust yourself to know what is best – after all you are the foremost expert in the world on your business. Ask for referrals to get good people to help you – initially recruit people who are known to you or to someone you trust. Get your funding in place as quickly as possible and keep an alternative or complimentary income source if you can. I could go on and on but I’ll end with simple advice to enjoy the journey and expect to both laugh and cry along the way!