A former Connacht tugby player has been named Ireland's Best Young Entrepreneur for 2018 - a competition run by the State's Local Enterprise Offices. Conor O'Loughlin's company Glofox provides business management software to fitness studios and gyms, and specifically targets a wave of boutique fitness studios.
"These are fitness studios that engage a more personalised experience through providing group or class based exercises, so the likes of yoga studios, pilates studios, cross fit gyms for example, and brands such as Barry's Bootcamp, Soul Cycle and F45 are leading the way here," Conor O'Loughlin's explained.
Glofox's software allows gyms and fitness studios manage their membership and process their payments, which saves time in administration, increases membership revenue and improves membership retention.
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The idea for the business came when Mr O'Loughlin played rugby. He had an interest in technology and software development, and used to develop apps during his free time between training and playing matches.
"Following my rugby career, I didn't really know what I wanted to do, so I set up an agency that provided custom development work across a range of industries. It was through providing this that a client - operating group exercise classes - came to us with the problem where they were using a clunky, complex system, and they were relatively under served in the market.
"We had a small technical team at the time, and we managed to bootstrap the development of an MVP over the space of about a year, and then when we got initial seed investment through the business angel network and Enterprise Ireland, it allowed us to focus full time resources on that," he said. "For me it was this nice marriage of fitness and tech that I felt passionate about, so I threw everything into that then."
There were challenges for the Glofox founder, leaving the rugby field to tackle the world of business. "There are so many challenges along the way. Initially it was the isolation. With rugby, you're in this bubble where you are told where to go, what to wear, your whole life is mapped out for you, and then you're on the other side and you're a little bit more unsure and less confident about your decisions," he said.
"The other big challenge that I saw was dealing with different mindsets of people who are motivated by different things. The biggest challenge we have at the moment is being able to recruit and retain top talent, and as we start to grow, to really believe in our vision and our purpose. There are people who are motivated by different things and being able to get everybody to buy into a shared vision and a shared goal is quite a challenging thing," he stated.
Mr O'Loughlin has found recruiting talent to work in a tech firm in Dublin is particularly difficult. "From my perspective you've got every American multi-national setting up an EMEA HQ here. It's definitely a war for talent, especially in software engineering. It's not getting any easier. We've got a passionate team that really believe in what they're doing, and they are part of a small team so they can really see value in the work that they put in. So we have something to offer that's slightly different."
Glofox is a team of 40 working an office in Sandyford in Dublin. The company has recently set up an office in New York, backed by Bank of Ireland. "The US represents 65% of all of our new business, " he said. "It's our primary market, so for us to be category leader, we need to put our flag in the US and claim that territory," Mr McLoughlin said.
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