Cormac McKenna - VillagePod

VillagePod Facts

Name of Business Owners:

Cormac McKenna

Company:

VillagePod

Number of Employees:

6

Famous for:

Loving local

What Supports Were Provided by The Local Enterprise Office?

Feasibility Grant and Priming Grant

Location:

Bray

Website:

villagepod.app

Social Media Platforms:

     icon-twitter   @villagepod

 Facebook@villagepod

Interview

Cormac McKenna SelfWhat year did you start your business and what can you tell us about those early days and how it all started? 

My co-founder Marijus Plančiūnas and I started working on VillagePod, a payments and marketing platform, in earnest in early 2019 although it had been in formation to some extent for a couple of years prior to that.  Marijus worked with me in my prior business and – as a technical lead – he complimented my general business skills well.  We set about building the platform from mid-2019 and raised external finance later that year.

What were the high points and low points in those early days, when you were a start-up?

In the early days of a technical start-up it can be frustrating as you build a product yet don’t have it in people’s hands.  We were very focused on getting something worthwhile into market and yet didn’t want to wait too long so we could get qualified feedback on what we were doing.  Eventually in November 2019 we managed to get a live product into market – that was both a high and a low in the sense that we were very heartened by the feedback we got but equally realised we had some way to go to get to where we wanted to be.  Thankfully as a mission-based business we found people were very much on our side and wanted us to succeed, and people really worked with us in a positive way.  We were able to recruit an incredibly talented and motivated team from our base in Bray which really is key.

 What was your big ‘break-through’ moment?

It’s probably still too early for us to point to a breakthrough moment, but our guiding principle has always been that we want to help people ‘love local’ and that means supporting local businesses and good causes. What we’re seeing again and again is that this is an incredibly powerful thing to tap into, and even if we get things wrong (yes, we get things wrong) that people are on our side and are really buying into our mission.

Your Local Enterprise Office (LEO) has supported your business. Tell us about these supports and what impact they have had?

We first availed of the Feasibility Study Grant which allowed us to do a lot of early work on what the platform could be.  We were also successful in obtaining the Priming Grant which meant we could start to build our team in Bray and continue with the development of the platform. The supports that we received from LEO Wicklow in the early days of VillagePod were instrumental in helping us develop our platform and gain credibility with customers and investors. Due to the nature of our product, it was also important for us to be able to demonstrate that we had real local support and support from the LEO.

2020 has been a very difficult year for SMEs with the COVID-19 Pandemic. How has your company responded?

Inevitably during the first lockdown we allowed everyone to work from home where and when that was possible. Most of the businesses we worked with were closed but we continued to work in the background to bring forward features on the platform that we knew people would value once things came back. Even now post lockdown we’ve moved to a more remote model of working and this will probably continue for some time. It has positives and negatives of course.  The team have been incredibly adaptive but it remains to be seen how effectively we can build a team with only a remote workforce.  Watch this space!

Did you receive any assistance from LEO Wicklow in response to COVID-19? If so, how did it benefit your business?

Yes, we were able to use the Business Continuity Voucher to help us with corporate finance advice around fundraising. This was very helpful, especially in such difficult times.

Are you optimistic about the future?

We sure are!  We’re just getting started and are energised by the way people show us how they love supporting local businesses.

What’s next on the business agenda for your company?App. View

We’re currently in discussions with communities and businesses outside of Wicklow with a view to bringing VillagePod to their localities. The app is being supported by 60 local Wicklow businesses, we believe every community on the island should have a pod and we’re committed to doing this and hopefully going beyond these shores too.

In the future, what will be the biggest challenges facing Irish businesses?

In the near term, dealing with the uncertainly of Covid-19 is the primary concern, but as we finally emerge from it, I think we need to continue to help local businesses with digital tools that can help them serve and engage their local communities and help bring visitors to discover what they have to offer.  The shift to digital and move to online doesn’t have to mean that local businesses struggle.

What’s is the best piece of advice you would give about running a business?

I think it can be an incredibly rewarding things to do but anyone starting their own business should also know that it can be a challenging, lonely place sometimes. Especially during a pandemic 😊

Cormac's 'Top Tips' For Success

  • What are your ‘Top Tips’ around attracting new customers and keeping existing ones loyal…

Take care of your current customers and it’s much, much easier to attract new ones.  Your current customers are your calling card.

  • What are your ‘Top Tips’ around keeping on top of costs and cash flow?

It’s important to constantly challenge your cost structures and evaluate how things could be done better/faster/cheaper.  I’m constantly amazed by what things are being developed to help small business managers than didn’t exist 2 or 5 or 10 years ago.  Keep re-evaluating and figuring out how to make small improvements.

  • What are your ‘Top Tips’ around getting the best out of your team?

We’re very fortunate to have a talented and motivated team who really buy into what we are doing, so that’s a great start.  Beyond that setting clear expectations of what we need to achieve and allowing two-way feedback is really important.

THANK YOU

 

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