JOE speaks to AIB Start-up Academy finalist, Topper Technology
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 Topper Technology and we speak to the woman behind it, Jenny Reynolds.
JOE: How does it feel to be part of the AIB Start-up Academy?
Jenny: It feels fantastic to be part of the AIB Start-up Academy. The experience week on week has been absolutely wonderful. I feel so privileged to be amongst such a bright and dynamic group of participants.
The course is thoroughly thought out and structured, coupled with exceptional speakers delivering engaging and thought provoking content. I’m so grateful and honoured to be part of the experience.
JOE: What are you looking forward to most about the AIB Start-up Academy?
Jenny: I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to engage with experts in the field as well as the opportunity to meet like-minded entrepreneurs in the Start-up sphere.
I welcome the challenge of putting my current business through the theoretical models that will put ‘Topper’ to test and determine if it is robust enough to come out the other side intact and functional.
I also look forward to dropping all my preconceived views about my business and attending the course with an open mind, in the hope of applying the lessons learned to refine the product and release a new and improved version to market.
JOE: Is there anything you’re nervous about in joining the AIB Start-up Academy?
Jenny: I know Topper Technology is really special and unique. We have first mover advantage in this space. We have an immense opportunity ahead but it’s critical that we embark on this journey earlier rather than later before the threat of a new competitive rival.
Ireland could be the country to make the first major impact on the SME segment worldwide. The only thing I would be nervous about is ensuring that I manage to convey that message clearly within the short five minute pitch to the judges.
JOE: What do you think makes your business stand out from the rest of the finalists?
Jenny: We are passionately committed to the success of SME business. In a competitive market place all sole trader, service provider businesses need the flexibility of carrying their business in their pocket.
Topper ensures you never miss a sales opportunity by providing your customers 24/7 access to book your services / events online, allowing you to process debit and credit card transactions with ease whilst also providing a great customer relationship management tool to assist you with all of your marketing and promotional needs.
Topper is purposefully designed to bring the currently immobile SME market to an efficient ecommerce platform.
Our mission is to provide all the perks of state of the art business management technology to the segment we believe deserves it most, without the extortionate expense!
Looking at the Irish market alone, according to the ISME (Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association), ‘although it is currently estimated that there are approximately 200,000 SMEs in Ireland, the most recent official CSO figure relates to 2012, when there was over 185,500 active enterprises in Ireland and 99.7% of them were SMEs.’
The CSO Business Demography results for 2012 found that 68% of Irish private sector employees work for an SME. They account for 52% of total employment. I feel the key difference with Topper is that we are built to help thousands of SME’s succeed, not just one business alone.
If Topper are lucky enough to be chosen, AIB will prove that they truly back brave and the 184,944 SME businesses in Ireland will collectively experience the benefit of the AIB Start-up Academy.
JOE: If you win the grand prize, what do you think you will do with the money?
Jenny: To win the grand prize would be an absolute dream come true. I have personally invested over €30,000 in the business to date developing the technology after completing extensive market research and collating and acting upon customer experience feedback.
Our ‘Topper’ iOS APP is now live on the APP store and available for download on iPhone devices. Winning the cash injection would enable us to create and release an Android version of the APP as well as further enhance and define the technology to match market requirements.
The advertising spend with both The Irish Times and Joe.ie, Her.ie, SportsJOE.ie and HerFamily.ie would be incredible support for the launch phase of Topper as it would provide the ideal avenue to reach our target market.
Through use of the allocated advertising spend we could release engaging content to inform all SME’s that they have a fantastic tool with free download available to them which facilitates immediate access to an ecommerce platform and enables them with all the tools and technology they require to efficiently support significant growth in their business.
From my experience in the AIB Start-up Academy thus far, the coaching and mentorship from AIB specialists, Maximum Media, Rothco, WHPR, Starcom and Radical would be truly exceptional and invaluable to the business. If Topper were fortunate enough to be considered for the prize, it would certainly be utilised to the max to speedily create success across the SME segment in Ireland and the UK.
JOE: Where do you see your business going after the AIB Start-up Academy?
Jenny: Just like the song from Yazz in 1988, ‘The Only Way Is Up!’
It’s exciting times for Topper as we move towards our official launch to market date in July 2016. Starting off with the SME market in Ireland, our next port of call is the UK market where we expect our largest volume of traction.
Remarkable statistics from the National Federation of Self Employed & Small Businesses Limited (FSB) in the UK would certainly indicate the opportunity at hand. Some examples are as follows, ‘SMEs account for at least 99% of the businesses in every main industry sector’, ‘The combined annual turnover of SMEs was £1.8 trillion, 47% of all private sector turnover in the UK.’
‘In 2015, there were 1.3 million employing businesses and 4.1 million non-employing businesses. Therefore, 76% of businesses did not employ anyone aside from the owner’ and finally ‘The overall business population includes three main legal forms: there were 3.3 million sole proprietorships (62% of the total), 1.6 million companies (30%), and 436,000 ordinary partnerships (8%).’
It’s clear to see that SME businesses constitute the majority of both the Irish and UK market. We believe these businesses are at the heart of the recovering economy and we want to facilitate their growth potential in an efficient and supportive manner through use of the software we have built bespoke for their requirements.
We look forward to becoming the ‘Go to APP’ that brings the currently immobile SME segment to an efficient ecommerce platform. We pride ourselves on being a ‘Topper’ for every SME business we support on this journey and we look forward to witnessing their success as they are finally equipped with the technology they deserve to support substantial growth in their segment.
AIB are Backing Brave. To read more about the AIB Start-up Academy in association with the Irish Times, visit here.