Our tech start-up of the week is Needit.ie, a new online directory and search engine for Irish businesses to advertise their products and services. The aim of the site is to help companies, tradespeople and sole traders increase their online presence and reach new customers.
Mark Mc Donald is the brain behind Needit.ie. He says he came up with the original format for Needit.ie back in 2010, but it was in May of this year that he relaunched the site after redeveloping it. Together with his wife Maria Reeves the duo are now focusing on growing the business from their Clonee, Co Dublin, base.
So how does Needit.ie work? “Users of Needit.ie can search for products and services in their area,” explains Mc Donald. As for businesses, he says they can create a free listing that allows them to show their contact details and product descriptions.
Alternatively, businesses can opt for a paid premium, which means they can add their company logo, as well as photos and videos, of their products and services.
Mc Donald says almost every type of business in Ireland is represented on Needit.ie. “We have listings for tradespeople, sole traders, retailers, financial services and, of course, many from the broad SME sector.”
Interestingly, he says that of the businesses that have listed on Needit.ie, between 20-25pc of them don’t have their own online presence.
Having previously worked in the food and beverage manufacturing industry, Mc Donald says he had built up a lot of relationships with small businesses.
“One common trend became very evident, namely the difficulty faced by small businesses who were trying to advertise on a limited budget. It was during this time that I began to look at the advertising options available to Irish business and began to develop the idea for Needit.ie.
“The business model is based solely on offering a quality online business listing at a very competitive price,” he adds.
Growing the business
In terms of financing the start-up, Mc Donald says Needit.ie has been entirely self-funded. “Not having to borrow at the start-up phase has really helped to give us a clean start.”
So what’s the plan for the remainder of 2012? “We want to establish the Needit.ie brand as being a one-stop online resource for suppliers of products and services within the Irish market,” explains Mc Donald. “We purposely chose a .ie domain in order to reinforce our aim of serving Irish business and the Irish market.”
He says the current uptake of business listings on Needit.ie has been very encouraging, as well as the feedback from clients.
“The very real challenge is to maintain and grow that momentum and in doing so ensure that we continue to offer the best platform for businesses to connect with people. The online marketplace is ever changing and anyone operating within that marketplace must continue to adapt,” adds Mc Donald.
As for challenges when setting up, he says the biggest one was having to come up with a business idea but not being a ‘techie’.
“I didn’t have the skills to bring it to life. I began a process of trying to find the right web development company that would build the site as I had envisaged. Enhance.ie became our web developers and we have built a sound working relationship ever since.”
Finally, Mc Donald’s advice for others who are thinking of setting up their own business is to test the market first if they have an idea.
“Get as much advice as you can. Local enterprise boards, local area partnerships and networking events are just a few examples of information resources. Use as many as you can and never think you know enough,” he adds.