Last year I came across a problem. Every morning I would buy a flat white from my local independent coffee shop on the way to work. I'd get Thai food twice a week from central Manchester. And every so often, I would treat myself to a pedicure at an amazing little nail salon in Prestwich. Every time I would go, the cashiers would ask me if I had a loyalty card. Yes, I had one. Did I have it with me? No, I'd forgotten it/ lost it/ I had a few lying around somewhere. I tend to pay on my phone now, so I rarely carry a purse around. In fact, I'd visited so many places and collected so many loyalty cards, the only one I ever really held onto to redeem was from the one large coffee chain who have their own app which was installed on my phone.
This got me thinking. Surely there was a simple solution. An app on your phone which was available to use at all the little independent cafes, restaurants and services- those back-street takeaways, the little antiques shop you visit once a year, the florist you rave about and turn to for all those special occasions.
I began researching customers, and as it turns out, there are many people like myself who love collecting stamp cards, loyalty points and customer loyalty rewards but often misplace or forget about them. I also researched local vendors, and as it turns out, many of them would love to offer an eco-friendly, paper-free solution to entice and reward their consumers. However, creating, implementing and marketing a web-based option is just not affordable and too time-consuming.
From this, Pay Box was born. I took a massive leap into the unknown, and decided to go for it. I created a business plan, a website from scratch, and I began to build an app (without code). I must admit, this was no easy task. I have zero experience in app building, or technology in general; I was working in retail when I began my journey with Pay Box. But, it turns out, if you persevere, learn fast, and remain dedicated, you can find a platform which doesn't use code. Getting the app to Appstore on both Apple and Android platforms was perhaps the most challenging part. The process was complicated and there's mountains of paperwork and licencing.
So where are we at now?
Pay Box has just been published and is now available to download. YAYYY! The good news is, the app functions, and it allows customers to collect and redeem points. It allows us to get to market quickly, and of course, the more downloads we get, the more brands will want to participate with us. Reid Hoffman famously said “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late.” I took this advice, and as much as I wanted to wait and make the app ‘perfect’ (there are some features missing, and visually it is not 100% design ready), I have decided to keep my business lean, and focus on launching my app and getting people using it and talking about it. I didn’t have lots of money to invest in starting the company, so building the app from scratch was my only option to launch my idea.
From 10th March, myself and a few Pay Box representatives will be working hard for the next 3 months to participate with businesses up and down Manchester, bringing great rewards and choice to the app. We will also be working hard on our marketing campaigns, to make Pay Box known to the masses and get people to start downloading and using the app. Our vision is big: we want to be the only loyalty app you need on your phone, and after making our mark in the Northwest, we plan to expand into all UK major cities by 2022, and eventually, our customers will be able to earn and redeem points all over Europe, on everything from hotel stays to vets bills. In doing this, our dream is to employ and invest in hundreds of people, and to build the kind of company which really invests in the development its staff, and in the wider community.
Why do I need your support?
Dedicating my full time to the business has been challenging. I’ve invested most of my savings into the initial start up of the company and its growth for the next 6 months. You can support Pay Box by downloading our app and telling your friends and family (this would be amazing), or, if you have some spare change, make a pledge of your choice and help to fund the app of the future. Your pledges will be used to professionally update the app, so that it has all the proper functions and efficiency that you would expect of an app in 2020. The app I have built now is in effect, the pilot run, but, realistically, we need to work with a professional coder to help complete our app and change the way companies connect to their customers.