JOE speaks to AIB Start-up Academy finalist Mark Browne from Buska
The AIB Start-up Academy Final takes place on April 28th and we are profiling the 11 finalists on both JOE.ie and Her.ie in the lead up to that date.
11 companies have won a place on the AIB Start-up Academy which is already in progress. The winners are all on an intensive eight week course learning the ropes in the business world.
The featured company today is Buska and we speak to the man behind it, Mark Browne.
JOE: How does it feel to be part of the AIB Start-up Academy?
Mark: It’s a great feeling to have been selected to take part in the AIB Start-up Academy. I am feeling motivated and am looking forward to participating. Also, I am excited about the learning opportunities that a competition like this will undoubtedly bring for me as an individual and I can’t wait to start applying what I learn to the business.
I expect that Buska will be a stronger business at the end of the programme and will be better positioned for growth and success. To have been selected out of over 400 applicants feels like a tremendous validation of not only our business model but the hard work that has taken us to this point. We are fully charged and ready to go.
JOE: What are you looking forward to most about the AIB Start-up Academy?
Mark: On a personal level I look forward to collaborating with likeminded business people who are sure to be experiencing some of the same challenges that we have faced.
The participating businesses span a number of industries and in their own ways are uniquely different, I expect that we can be a great help to each other. I want to do my part and help them avoid some of the mistakes that I have made and if they can do the same in return we will all be winners.
On a professional level we are working hard to build awareness for brand Buska. I believe that the AIB Start-up Academy can be a great help to us in generating the awareness for our service that we so desperately need at this point in our journey.
Also, I expect that the Start-up Academy will be a fantastic learning opportunity. I’ll be all ears and look forward to applying some of the skills we are surely going to acquire. We are already seeing the benefits in participating in the academy and new opportunities have started to present themselves as a direct result.
JOE: Is there anything you’re nervous about in joining the AIB Start-up Academy?
Mark: No, I’m not feeling particularly nervous. Buska makes moving easy, we offer our customers a fantastic service and the customer feedback confirms that. Now is the time to push past basic emotion and get to work on achieving business goals.
All that said, I am not a person who is inclined to seek out the limelight so I will admit that there are some butterflies when it comes to giving interviews on camera but I am conscious that you can choose to embrace the fear or let it embrace you.
Every time I feel nervous I tell myself that something interesting must be happening. This is most definitely interesting and I see no reason why it can’t also be a lot of fun.
JOE: What do you think makes your business stand out from the rest of the finalists?
Mark: Buska is unique and stands out because we are innovating in a space where there has been none. We are creating the market for our service by providing a modern day solution to a very old but real problem.
Why would you buy cardboard boxes for moving when you can rent Buska boxes and have them delivered to your door? We incorporate free delivery and free collection into our pricing model which in the eye of the customer is a very attractive value proposition.
We have no direct competitors on the residential side of our business and only one direct competitor on the corporate side of our business. This is a unique and privileged position to be in when you consider that we have spent 17 months testing the market and are satisfied that not only does the market exist but the size of the market is in fact much larger than we ever anticipated.
Our aim is for Buska to become a household name and when someone decides to move home of business we want them to think about Buska and Buska Boxes. It’s not just a clever tag line, Buska really does make moving easy.
JOE: If you win the grand prize, what do you think you will do with the money?
Mark: The biggest challenge we face as a start-up business is generating awareness for the great service we provide. We have spent the last 17 months testing the market and polling our customers for feedback.
We have concluded that there is a huge potential market for us to serve but it is difficult to serve when the market doesn’t necessarily know that you exist. If we win the competition the prize fund will be spend wisely and creatively.
We already have the Buska boxes in sufficient quantity to scale (thousands of them) and we have the logistical capabilities in place which will allow us to scale quickly so the prize fund will be used in its entirety to market the business.
We want to be everywhere our customer are so we will use the cash investment to fund our attendance at tradeshows and events such as the Ideal homes exhibition. We will revise and improve our digital marketing strategy and improve our website to ensure the best possible customer experience.
Currently we reinvest all available cash flows back into the business but we do not have the available funds at this point in our journey to work with creative agencies like Rothco, we are excited by the prospect of working with professional marketers who will no doubt create the killer creative strategy that we need.
Advertising in the Irish Times & Maximum Media will help us reach our target market with an effectiveness we had not been thinking possible up to now due to the cost of running such campaigns. Our current marketing budgets can only take us so far so if we win this prize I know that we can achieve our goals in a much tighter timeframe. The prospect of winning is incredibly exciting.
JOE: Where do you see your business going after the AIB Start-up Academy?
Mark: The sky is the limit. We open in Cork on May 1st and I expect Belfast will be next after that. If we win the competition we want to be in a position to capitalise on the press we will receive so I am fast tracking the plans to open in every major population centre in the country.
Once we have turned on Cork, Galway, Limerick and Belfast I will turn my focus to the overseas markets. From the outset I have believed that Buska has great potential as a franchise model so I am convinced that the United Kingdom has great untapped potential.
If we can launch and be successful in the UK, I see no reason why Buska can't move into the great European cities and I really don’t see language as a barrier to entry in any major market place across continental Europe. I am itching to turn my focus farther afield but we have work to do closer to home first. We are on a great journey at Buska and we want you to come with us.
AIB are Backing Brave. To read more about the AIB Start-up Academy in association with the Irish Times, visit here.