This week we’re bringing you the last instalment in the career interview series so thought we’d finish with a bang! Recently we had a chance to catch up with Leah Hutcheon, CEO of the software start-up – Appointedd. Since founding the business in 2011 Leah has made some notable achievements. These include being featured on BBC’ Scotland’s ‘The Entrepreneurs’ and raising over £220,000 in finance. Leah was kind enough to chat with us about her company and what role digital marketing has had in her success.
Can you tell me a bit about your company, Appointedd?
Appointedd is an online booking and business management software. It allows all kinds of different small, independent, businesses to take online bookings from their website, Facebook and really any online presence. Then once that booking is made the software can manage that booking right the way through their business. The whole business can be managed all in one place.
What were your motivations for becoming an entrepreneur?
The idea for Appointedd came from a pain point I had myself. As a magazine editor I was used to being busy all the time and managing everything online. The only thing I couldn’t seem to book was my hairdresser appointments, or anything engaging with independent businesses. I thought if I had that problem, who else was experiencing this too?
I saw a way to fix the problem whilst taking control of my own career. I’ve always been a hard worker and I really wanted to reap benefits of that by working in an environment that I chose to create. At this point I was still working and doing a lot of freelance work on the side. The whole idea was to get to a point where I could pay myself a salary and get to work alongside the small businesses that inspired me.
I feel so lucky to have such a fantastic team. We all work really hard and have an incredibly supportive atmosphere. Together we’re creating a great product to add value to people’s lives and that’s what I’ve always wanted from my career.
What’s next for Appointedd?
We’re at a really exciting point in the business. We’re hiring loads of new people. The team is going to grow from four people to around ten. So that’s huge for us.
We’ve also just signed some distribution partnerships with really big companies across the world and beginning to get ourselves a launch pad in other countries.
So at the moment what’s next for us is growing the team and scaling out the software and we’re doing this through partnerships with people who are already serving our target market.
It seems that you love to keep yourself busy! Are there any other projects that you’re involved in?
I’m the Director of Future Leaders for Entrepreneurial Scotland. I’m also an Ambassador for Women’s Enterprise Scotland, which is an amazing organisation that supports female entrepreneurs. They make sure women are being heard whilst raising awareness of women in business. Lastly, I’m also involved in Girl Geek Scotland, which is centred around women in technology. Through all these organisations I’m building a fabulous network of people who care about similar things. It’s been a great experience that has allowed us an opportunity to connect with other business owners and potential customers.
What role does digital marketing have in your job?
Digital marketing has been absolutely invaluable for Appointedd. We connect with about 90% of our customers online and that’s not always through traditional digital marketing. I read something the other day that said SEO now stands for Search Experience Optimisation and I thought that was quite interesting, the idea that not everything comes from a Google search anymore.
Actually, for us, SEO doesn’t play that big a role. A lot of the small businesses we work with aren’t necessarily out looking for online booking and management software. This is where social is important for us as they might read one of our blog or Facebook posts and that peaks their interest, then they’ll look into the product. We’re also beginning to get a lot of people talking about us online. This is great as we don’t constantly want to be pushing messages on our target audience.
Online marketing is really important to us, but it has taken a while to get it to deliver great results. It’s not a quick win. Facebook & Twitter are often seen as easy wins as they can be ‘free’ in a money sense. It’s important to remember how much time you have to dedicate to build an online presence and as a small business time is often the only resource you have.
Anything you’d like to add?
If you’re thinking about starting your own business start as early as you can. Do something really small in an area that you love. I’ve loved every minute of my challenge but looking back this is the advice I’d give myself.
People see online start-ups as a great investment because they’re scalable and have the potential to make millions. The reality is it’s very high risk, if you can’t raise the money or build the software you’re out of business.
If you have an idea start small and simple and build connections in that industry. The chances are no one’s going to steal your idea so don’t be afraid to share it. Start where you are, use what you have and make what you can because it takes longer than you think.
Thank you Leah for giving us an insight in to what it’s like to start your own software business. We look forward to seeing the direction Appointedd takes in the future! You can keep up with Leah over on LinkedIn & Twitter.
Interested in learning more about digital marketing jobs?