Our Start-up of the Week is HubSku, an e-commerce platform that provides independent retailers and resellers with their own online shop.
E-commerce platform HubSku was set up by Freda McEnroe, who has 15 years of experience working in tech. She worked in the travel technology industry for 10 of those years, during a period of huge transformation for the sector.
“Travel was the first industry to connect the supply chain, eliminating the need for small local agents and tour operators to hold an allocation of hotel beds and other services,” McEnroe told Siliconrepublic.com
“By connecting the supply chain, all parties got access to the same availability, allowing smaller operators, with the correct software connections to offer the same inventory as larger operators.”
Looking at McEnroe’s start-up today, it’s clear that she drew inspiration from the experience she gained working in that industry. On top of that, she also has an MBA from Trinity College Dublin and was the recipient of Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund for female entrepreneurs in 2018.
‘The ultimate goal is to make buying things online and local as easy as buying from Amazon. I should be able to give my local retailer the benefit of my online purchase’
– FREYA MCENROE
HubSku’s e-commerce platform enables independent retailers and resellers to promote and sell thousands of products from their own unique online shop.
It eliminates the operational effort associated with traditional e-commerce, while customising and automating customer service, which allows smaller businesses to grow their online offering without any increase in costs or investment. McEnroe believes this helps SMEs to compete with large online retailers.
With HubSku’s system, small businesses don’t need to stock-hold every product offered online, as the platform connects an online shop to multiple, live suppliers’ inventories. This enables independent resellers to have a large online offering.
“The ultimate goal is to make buying things online and local as easy as buying from Amazon. I should be able to give my local retailer the benefit of my online purchase,” McEnroe said.
“Nothing much changes in the supply chain – the product may still be shipped to me directly from France, Germany or the UK, but the local retailer gets the retail margin and some of my money stays in the local community.”
‘You don’t actually need to have a physical presence to sell. You only need to have a customer base and a strong value proposition’
McEnroe notes that Irish consumers spent more than €4bn online in 2018. Around 70pc of this was paid to businesses outside of Ireland, directly from websites in other countries. “These businesses are contributing nothing to our economy or local communities,” she adds.
“We have created a platform that acts as a virtual hub of product between suppliers on one side and resellers on the other. All product pricing, availability, imagery, descriptions, reviews and the other things needed for online sales are stored centrally via supplier connections. This information is automatically published to each reseller’s online shop.”
Orders are then processed through Stripe and routed directly to the supplier for direct fulfilment. Customers receive automated messages with order confirmation and follow-up from HubSku. Using Amazon Web Services and a Postgres database, the start-up splits the customer payment, allocating the correct amounts to the supplier and the retailer.
McEnroe says that the HubSku team has been exploring new verticals for the model, including community healthcare, fashion and pet food.
“We are actively selling a range of pet food via animal rescues, where the rescue has become the retailer. This is a great example of how this model can really disrupt retail.
“You don’t actually need to have a physical presence to sell. You only need to have a customer base and a strong value proposition. Why would anyone want to buy online via Amazon or Zooplus when they can get their dog food from a local rescue?”
It is avenues such as this that HubSku plans to explore in the near future. The service has worked well thus far, according to its founder. Since it was launched in January, the start-up has processed over 1,000 orders in the UK and Ireland through its platform.
The main focus now, and going forward, is growing the recurring revenue trend and establishing a formula that will scale, according to McEnroe.
As she has worked to get HubSku off the ground, McEnroe stressed the importance of finding a good balance in the early days of starting a business.
“Position your working situation so that you can work part time and have a survival income. You will need this time to get some basic research off the ground before you can even go for basic supports.
“Consider the issue of your team early on – all investment seems to be dependent on the strength of the team, so take time to evaluate partners and seek advice on structuring and shareholding options for your team.”
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