Tech start-up of the week: Pucker

23 Feb 2015

Pictured: Pucker's founders Niamh McHugh and Louise Dunne

Our tech start-up of the week is Pucker, a Dublin-based company whose app connects freelance beauticians, stylists and hairdressers with last minute clients. Think of it as a Hailo for beauty.

“Pucker is a platform which instantly connects customers with vetted, mobile beauty professionals and brings beauty to your home or office,” explained Pucker co-founder Niamh McHugh.

McHugh and co-founder Louise Dunne have built an ingenious app that can enable a client to book a beauty professional within just a few taps on their smartphone.

The market

“In our research of 200 women in UK and Ireland,85pc of women had trouble booking a beauty appointment,” explained McHugh. “Current platforms for booking mobile beauty professionals like Gumtree or Facebook are not secure or trustworthy.

She said that the supply side 70pc of all service professionals want to be freelance but do not have a platform to do so.

“Pucker is providing a platform for this multi-billion euro industry. We have the opportunity to give mobile beauty therapists a lot more business and connect with new professionals.”

The founders

“My own background is in sales and marketing and I have also worked as a freelance fashion stylist for the last three years so I understand how difficult it is to get last-minute beauty professionals for shoots. I have also experienced working late in an office longing for a manicure,” McHugh explained.

Louise Dunne has over 10 years’ experience in the make-up industry and has worked for MAC cosmetics at the world’s second busiest make-up counter as well as managing her own freelance make-up business and lecturing.

“Our industry experience led us to develop Pucker out of our own frustration and then validated the idea with focus groups and surveys. When we realised how high the demand was for a service like this it was a no-brainer.”

The technology

“The business is currently operating through our website where customers can book appointments and we connect them with one of the vetted professionals on our database.

“Our app works in a similar manner by connecting the customers and professionals using location based services,” McHugh explained.

“The ultimate goal is that Pucker will be the global platform for connecting consumers with vetted, mobile beauty professionals to bring beauty to your home or office.”

Dunne explained that Pucker has been acquiring customers from the outset which has been key in shaping the technology.

“We were lucky enough to receive some press during the Web Summit and the bookings have been growing ever since.

“Beauty is all based on trust and reliability and we are extremely strict in our vetting process, we only hire the best professionals and we are ensuring that once our customer uses Pucker they can’t live without it.”

McHugh said that the biggest challenge is making sure that the supply side and demand side are in line with each other and consistent.

“Quality is very important to us and we want to ensure that as the business scales that the quality is always intact.”

More female founders needed

McHugh describes the start-up scene in Dublin as exciting but laments the fact that the number of female founders is considerably small.

“The Irish start-up scene is incredible. We are based in StartLocal which is an incubator run by FCR Media on Waterloo Road and we are working in an environment where everyone is on the start-up roller coaster and everyone supports each other. It is an amazing thing to be a part of and the support has been great.

“The only negative has been the lack of female representatives in the space and there definitely needs to be something done to encourage more women in business.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years