Dr Jackie Mulligan, founder and CEO of multi award-winning ShopAppy.com, a platform that showcases and sells products, events, activities and services from local shops and businesses tells us what inspired her to start the company.
What do you currently do at ShopAppy.com?
As the CEO and founder of ShopAppy.com, my main focus is taking a strategic view on partnerships, investment, technology and how our platform is rolled-out across towns. I am really fortunate to have a highly motivated and passionate team who get on with speaking to businesses, on-boarding and dealing with much of the day to day operations. Critical for us to maintain our competitive edge is keeping in regular contact and exchanging new ideas as we engage with both place partners, customers, and businesses. We have regular weekly meetings and test out new ideas that can work for businesses and in places.
We’re always looking at new ways we can expand our business, and for example have recently partnered with Visa to help provide a greater number of small businesses the help they need to keep running and be ready to re-open their doors in response to the exceptional challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The partnership has enabled us to offer a free sign-up process until at least 31st July 2020, giving small businesses a lifeline to continue trading with local communities and grow their online presence without the cost or requirement to set up their own website.
Meanwhile, our business, which has won awards for its work to digitalise UK towns, is also working with local bike, taxi and courier businesses to introduce a delivery service that supports high street businesses and markets by enabling their customers to order products on the platform and get them safely and conveniently delivered straight to their door.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
I have always been interested in creativity and innovation, social psychology and community. My PhD was all about the relationship between these and it made me realise the impact of our physical spaces on our mental health, wellbeing, aspirations, and motivations.
I became increasingly concerned about the decline of high streets where small businesses were finding it increasingly challenging to compete. The knock-on effect was shuttered up shops, a loss of jobs in businesses and their local supply chains – which all led to an increasing sense of disaffection in communities.
I was also interested in the negative impact of home delivery on congesting our roads, increasing travel miles for products and wanted to work on shaping an alternative future based on happy people, happy places and a happy planet.
I also knew that people enjoyed having local businesses close by, but they wouldn’t survive if it couldn’t be made easier for customers to support them. I decided it was time to level the playing field and power up places, to create an online local marketplace for people to browse, book and buy local with ability to book services and easy collection of products after hours.
For Covid-19, we introduced local home deliveries which has proved game-changing, enabling businesses to trade through the crisis, to adapt their offerings and to stay connected with their customers. Through the support of partners like Visa, we can continue this growth journey, capitalising on their digital and brand marketing expertise to help drive small business sign-ups, amplify their local marketing and improve the consumer experience.
Who do you admire?
I admire small businesses, especially the ones adapting right now in the light of the crisis. The individual stories inspire me because they show the fighting spirit, tenacity and resilience of small enterprise but they also show tremendous loyalty to their local customers. Earlier in my career, I worked for the Millennium Commission with CEO Michael O’Connor; I loved working for that organisation because it was pioneering new attractions, events, experiences and architecture. During that time, there were many successes and a few failures, but he always said ‘if we didn’t have failures, it would mean we are not innovating enough’ – that phrase has stuck with me and has driven me to take risks and accept that the path might not always be easy. If you are trying to create or shape a new and better future, you have to know that there will be failures on the way. New paths are made by walking.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
I would not believe my initial business plan! But then again if you don’t embrace the possibility at that stage, you would probably never take the leap!
What defines your way of doing business?
Collaboration, creativity, focus, tenacity, relentless optimism and incredibly hard work. We are changing the game, going into unchartered territory and it is hard – we are in the business of change – changing the way businesses work and changing customer behaviour. Change is hard but change we must. Our team remains focused on the big picture, that this will be something that helps local businesses, communities and helps build better places to live and work.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Accept that it will be ten times harder than you imagine, and to ensure you have a support network in place to avoid burn-out. This will help you to extract yourself from the business and improve your decision-making ability. Finally, it’s important to realise that the success of your business is as much about know-how as it is about know-who – networks and talent will drive your business forward, you can’t do it alone.
To find out more information, local businesses can register to join ShopAppy.com or find out more about the platform’s new offering by visiting www.shopappy.com.