When your tagline is basically Hailo for beauty treatments, you've got our attention. Niamh McHugh and Louise Dunne are the two brains behind the latest Irish startup, Pucker, an app that connects customers with beauty professionals. We talk shop with these sharp businesswomen. You're going to want to take notes.
The elevator pitch?
Niamh: Pucker is a platform which instantly connects clients with vetted, freelance beauty professionals and mobilises the salon industry.
Can you recall the exact moment the idea clicked?
Louise: I had been working in MAC Cosmetics and running my own freelance make-up business for 10 years and began lecturing in make-up artistry in a college. I had often expressed frustration at how difficult it was to find new customers and felt like I had to advertise on many different channels to get work. Niamh had the same problem as a customer and couldn't believe how difficult it was to book a beauty appointment late in the evening or last minute. The idea really clicked for us when we did our research and realised how many other people had the same problems as us.
How did you two meet?
Niamh: We met while working in a creative college. I was working as a digital marketing executive while Louise was working as a lecturer in make-up artistry. We struck up a friendship and soon realised we had a lot in common and worked really well together.
The best part of start-up life?
Louise: The best part of start-up life is the culture of the start-up community here in Ireland. We have found that people are willing to pay it forward and this is probably one of the only industries where you actually get to meet your rockstars. In the last few months we have met the leaders in our industry and they have actually been willing to help us. The day to day uncertainty is something which is also really exciting, you never know what is going to happen next.
The worst part of start up life?
Louise: It is hard sometimes not being able to switch off. We live, eat and breath Pucker and we are constantly glued to our emails. Saying that, we found this difficult to answer because we genuinely love every minute of it.
You've lamented the lack of female founders on the tech scene - how would you like to see this change?
Niamh: We need to encourage girls from an early age that starting their own business is an achievable goal. Although resources are minimal, a movement is happening within the tech industry which brings to light the fact that women not only do well but can really thrive in this space. The number of tech companies with female only founders are few and far between and there are often times when we are the only women in the room at events. However, now we are meeting with other female-led start-ups to combat this issue and we hope to organise events in the future to encourage others who may be interested in starting their own business to take the next step.
Any words of advice for someone who wants to try and set up a business?
Louise: Research. People around you will tell you that you have a great idea but until you research and do surveys and focus groups you won't know how your concept will stand up in the real world. Speaking with our customers and professionals has been the most important thing we have done to date and their feedback has been invaluable.
Niamh: Just do it. The best thing either of us ever did was give this idea a shot. I never would have expected how amazing the experience would be but taking the leap and going for it has been incredibly rewarding. It is said that doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will and I would definitely encourage others to follow their dreams and do what it is they want to do.
Who are your business heros/heroines?
Louise: Mine would be Marie Forleo, Barbara Corcoran and Oprah, of course. I admire them all for different reasons but I really admire strong, independent women who have come from nothing and have built really successful businesses on belief and determination. I always say that if you can see it in your mind you can hold it in your hands and all of these women embody that idea.
Niamh: Mine are Emily Weiss of Into The Gloss and Richard Branson. I really look up to people who are fearless and are thriving in their fields. Emily Weiss is building an empire, which now includes a skincare line, from an interest in beauty and I love following her journey. I definitely admire what she is doing.
Which business idea do you wish you had?
How do we get our Pucker on?
Louise: To book beauty to your home, office or hotel, log on to lovepucker.com. We have the top beauty professionals in Ireland on our platform who will travel to you for hair, make-up and nail appointments. We cater for everything from girls nights out to weddings, weekly blow-drys and manicures. Sign up and stay up to date on our journey and be the first to know about the launch date of our App.?We also post regularly on our blog.
Follow Jeanne Sutton on Twitter @jeannedesut
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