The best piece of advice we were given from a fellow entrepreneur is whatever you do, become an expert in something.
Location: Baltimore, MD
Product / Service Offering: We are a mobile application that crowdsources real-time information about what is going on at bars and restaurants near you.
Co-founder Interviewed: Dave Phelan (CMO)
Other Key Management Team Members: Phil DiMuro (CEO)
This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope that these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you?
I am a finance major from Susquehanna University. I worked for an engineering firm for three years after college. I have always been motivated to build a business and work for myself. I loved my job and the people I worked with, but I knew I wanted something more. When the opportunity for Loople came, I knew I had to take the risk. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I quit my job in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and moved to Baltimore, Maryland. There have been a lot of ups and downs, but I have loved every second of it.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
The idea for Loople began when Phil DiMuro was a sales representative for Boston Beer. He would sell to bar and restaurant owners where he saw a huge problem. Thousands of bars and restaurants offer specials on a daily basis to draw in a crowd, but there was no easy way to communicate these amazing deals with consumers. Consumers are looking for this information, but there was no easy way to find it. We wanted to create one platform to connect businesses with potential customers.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
We are solving a problem for two stakeholders. Businesses are looking to increase sales. They offer discounts to drive traffic, but struggle to effectively market to potential customers. Traditional media is expensive and nearly untraceable. Loople provides businesses with a tool to reach consumers in their area, who are already looking to go out. For users, there is no easy way to find out what is going on at bars and restaurants. You can go to Yelp for reviews, search individual websites on Google, or make a reservation on OpenTable. The missing piece is the real-time information about a bar or restaurant. We are the easiest way to find this information!
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
Real-time information about a bar and/or restaurant is always changing. Competitors struggle to find this information and keep it accurate. They search the web for data, but many businesses do not regularly update their sites. We have a user verification system in a process similar to Waze. Any bar or restaurant owner can add, edit, or delete a special. Our engaged user base allows us to have the most accurate real-time information available.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
When we first released Loople, we made a lot of assumptions on what we thought we wanted. We quickly realized that people were downloading the application, but not coming back. We started conducting focus groups, surveys, and dove into the data to understand why. We discovered that our product was way too complicated and people wanted a way to quickly see the closest specials near them. We removed four buttons from the main screen and added a list view. Our retention doubled almost overnight and we adopted the mentality of always listening to our users. We have iterated over 25 times on both iTunes and the Google Play store.
Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
By far the best resources are mentors in the startup community in Baltimore. We are first time founders, who understand we do not know everything. Baltimore is an extremely tight knit community, who wants to see each other succeed. This has helped us get to where we are today. I definitely challenge other entrepreneurs to be willing to be vulnerable and ask for help.
We self-funded the initial beta, raised a friends & family round to launch, and received a convertible note from Accelerate Baltimore to continue growth. Honestly, being a consumer facing application on the East coast makes it very difficult to raise money. We wasted a lot of time trying to chase down funding, but chasing sales revenue would have been more beneficial for us. The biggest piece of advice for other startups would be to focus on growing sales rather than chasing money because you will be in a much better position when raising in the future.
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Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?
The beauty of the internet is that you can learn anything you want to with the click of a button. There are so many resources out there for education online, whether it is Youtube, Reddit, Google, etc. Use these to your advantage. As first time founders, there is so much that we didn’t know, but we were able to learn and implement into our business.
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
The biggest challenge we have is balancing time. We are a two person team trying to do a million different things. We are trying to utilize different technologies out there to work smarter. This will allow us to automate certain projects and accomplish more to grow the business faster.
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
The best piece of advice we were given from a fellow entrepreneur is whatever you do, become an expert in something. As you build your business, you will pivot and adapt on a daily basis. Even if your business fails, always be learning and growing. This philosophy will lead you to be successful in your life.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?
Loople has been an incredible learning experience and we are excited for what the future holds. If you have any feedback or advice for us, we would love to chat. Feel free to reach out at email@example.com .
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