female leader, women leading the way

Louise and Steph, founders of gift matching service Needi.co.uk, discuss how to get into tech.

Our old IT manager would laugh now at the idea that we built a tech company. But the initial idea was not actually built around technology, it all started with people and how to gift sustainably.

As a pair of female entrepreneurs, we started out with strong business and sales skills, but were new to technology and had to get to grips with the tech side of things quickly. We can now talk about platform development, artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithms with confidence and have some extremely experienced advisors too.

Getting started

The idea came first, and we spoke to LOADS of people about it to sanity check if there was a real need for an online marketplace like needi. We found experts and advisors in the areas we needed and got some training to ensure we understood what we needed to do.

If you’re a total novice starting from zero and want to start a tech company, the secret is in doing your due diligence.  Think of a problem that you are passionate about solving. Your passion is important or you’ll lose focus and momentum.

Do your market research to check whether other people find it a problem and want it solved too. Just because it’s important to you doesn’t mean it is to everyone else. Part of this process is looking into how other people or companies are currently solving this problem – with or without tech.

Once you’ve done your due diligence, all you need is to come up with a clever way to solve the problem yourself – and get some serious tech advice on intelligent solutions to the problem.

The initial concept stage is the easy part – now comes the real challenge!

Financing the idea

Many new businesses start with ‘sweat equity’ – in other words they do all the work themselves to get the business off the ground. We were no different and, instead of starting with AI, we did it the human being way and manually matched gifts to purchasers (from Steph’s bedroom!)

Sales were generated through social media and mailers and we self-funded the build of our current site.

We kept our network and supporters up-to-date with needi’s progress and extended our reach by investing in PR and marketing. Phase 2 required external funding, so we created a pitch deck showing the concept and performance and raised £140K from personal connections that led to angel investors.

We also have a commitment from a venture capitalist who approached us. They specialise in female founders looking to positively impact the world and they will provide an additional £250K in funding.

Seeking investment is important and we would suggest starting early and building a strong network around this.

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FIVE Success factors

  1. A clear brand and vision are essential – this ensures that your passion and energy is represented in a way that feels totally authentic.
  2. Trust your gut! We are both experienced business women with a wealth of experience between us – trusting our instincts more has led to some fantastic business decisions. The worst decisions we’ve made have been when we’ve had a crisis of confidence and not trusted our gut!
  3. Do your research. No matter how great your idea is – until you can prove it’s wanted by many people – it’s just an idea.
  4. To ensure our website delivers what we want, and our customers expect, we had to develop a very clear call to action and the technical means to deliver the service both reliably and consistently. This meant a crystal-clear scope for the developers and a thorough understanding of the functionality. Project Management skills are an absolute necessity for this!
  5. Get support. Starting a new business can be scary, lonely and full of unforeseen obstacles. Get some help. These were part of our supporting resources:

We also met some amazing mentors through https://www.bethebusiness.com/ and would totally recommend getting a mentor. Also, LinkedIn has been SO valuable for us in giving us access to people who have been supportive in many different ways.

Some tech companies are just in it for the money and that’s resulted in some people having a negative view of tech companies. However, we want needi to be successful, profitable and kind. This influences the way we treat staff, customers, merchants – everyone! We want to create the sort of company that you’d want your daughter or son to work at – where people are nurtured, listened to and given the opportunity and space to thrive, get creative, and be appreciated.

We have arrived at a place where we’re confident with the technology and understand the business dynamics, which has ensured our team and stakeholders are 100% on board with our vision. At the end of the day if you don’t DO anything, your idea will always be in the ‘if only’ category. Action is the key – get started and do something!

About the authors

Louise Doyle and Steph ScholesLouise Doyle, Founder and CEO of the unique personal gift-matching service needi, is passionate about empowering people and the power of gift-giving. Louise’s business acumen, leadership and strong sales background has given her the expertise and experience required for needi to form partnerships with some of the leading independent merchants across the UK offering the very best in unique and luxury products. A Global Sales Director with 15 years proven success in sales, recruitment and business development. Her tenacity, entrepreneurial mindset, passion, drive and leadership skills earned her the accolade of youngest and first ever female Director for a fast-growing Global enterprise.

Steph Scholes, Co-Founder and Sales Director of the unique personal gift-matching service, needi, is a positive and empowering Sales Leader with a successful track record in project management and sales. Steph’s talents include the ability to recruit, train and develop high performers and implement innovative sales and marketing strategies. Her ability to deliver through others is demonstrated through her previous, loyal following of teams and this will be no different at needi.  She is dedicated, passionate and courageous in her work and inspires others to do the same and the reason why her teams thrive under her leadership.