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Name: Ailis Mone

Location: Belfast, United Kingdom

Type of Business:

What does your business do?
ESTHER is the pocket to pocket giving app. Pocket-to-pocket giving is just like it sounds— giving money directly to someone who needs it. It connects donors with some of the poorest people in their communities, enabling them to give directly, while protecting everyone’s privacy. ESTHER works with local charities to find the people who need it most, and how our donors can help, through pocket-to-pocket giving. Then we wrap it all up in an app, so that you’re always three taps away from directly helping the poorest people in your city. How the donation works: 1. A new user downloads the ESTHER app and chooses how much they’d like to donate each month, and what they’d like their money to do. 2. We instantly take their first donation and pair the donor with someone in their city who needs their help. We process a donor’s direct debit, then show them an anonymised biography of the person they’re helping. 3. Recipients receive the donations on their ESTHER Card — a special debit card can only be used for specific types of product. As it’s used, we give donors anonymised updates on how their money is being used, and how it’s helping.

When and why did you start the biz?
We started the business July 2018. It is difficult to watch people struggling to keep their head above water, especially so close to home. It makes you feel pretty helpless. My options were to give to a charity, but I worried my money wasn't making an impact, or to give directly to someone on the street, but I worried that would do more harm than good. My background in technology was a strongly motivator in the beginning, but when we saw the impact it was making on the recipients, it became something we have a responsibility to do.

How Many People are in your Company?

Where's your office?
We have been in an accelerator for the last 6 months and have been gifted free desk space in the Ormeau Baths in Belfast. It literally has baths in it, but only for decoration. It is open plan and has a great community feel with start-ups happy to help each other out.

What's the toughest part of running your biz?
What is tough is getting the initial funding to automate certain functions. A lot of what we are doing is very manual. We know what we need to build to scale and there is a strong movement behind the product, but we just don't have the resources yet. But we will get there!

What's the most fun part?
The impact it makes on the recipient. For example, one lady had continued to turn down the counselling offered by the charity we were working with. When her income was raised by just £50 a week, she felt like she finally had the headspace to take on the soft services offered by the charity. That feels pretty good that we had a part to play in that.

Anything you would have done differently?
I would have quit my job a lot earlier. Up until recently I was working full time and doing this at the side of my desk. Traction had risen but I was holding onto the security of my job despite the fact it was time to take the leap.

What's next on the horizon for your biz?
We are launching our charity and donor web-based app at the end of August. We have partnered with the British Red Cross, who will onboard 5 people who have been deemed long term destitute and 100 of our donors will donate directly to them through the app. This is to validate that the expectations for the charity are scalable. If this goes well we are aiming to launch UK wide in January.

What advice do you have for others?
Think of ways to validate your product with as little effort and money as possible. At ESTHER we started off with no marketing budget or technology, while both working full time. We ran an MVP that was rough around the edges, but taught us a lot about how we should go about building the product and gained us a lot of credibility. If we ran straight into building the product we would have made a lot of mistakes. So learn cheap and fail fast, or you’ll just end up building the wrong thing in the right way.

How do you use Idea Cafe to help your biz?
At this stage of our business, a small amount of money can go a very long way. The small business grants you offer could be used to add flexibility into our technology to add additional programmes, and automate to scale/ reach more people. There is also a lot of great advise and resources, and given that I have not previously owned a business this will be very useful, and I will take all the help that I can get.

School (where, still in school, degree)?
I have a MSci In Mathematics, Statistics and Operational Research

Prior jobs or business?
Previously a QA Engineer, and then Product Owner in the New Ventures with Blockchain Team at PwC

Favorite Food?
Pizza (Obviously)

What are your pets' names?

Do any of these pets help with your biz?
No she has enough going on.

Is there any one person or event in your life that led you to go into business for yourself?
Seamus Cushley is my mentor and a strong influence in my life. He pushed me to be better and believed that I could do it. In terms of event, I was doing this at the side of my desk until I started piloting this product with some extremely strong women, who were just trying to keep their head above water. I was living in a bubble, and I thought these women we are trying to help have an inspirational amount of resilience. I owe it to them to show even half of that strength.

Anyone you publicly want to thank?
My Co-Founder Carol Rossborough. She is unbelievably positive and talented and inspires me every day.

Contact Info:
Ailis Mone
16 Glenavna
Belfast, BT370ZT



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