Meet Max Jennings
Serial entrepreneur Max knows how to build a successful web startup but his latest venture helped family life too. Here’s his story.
1. Why did you start Hoop and what were you doing before?
I started Hoop with some friends to make it easier to find what’s on for kids. Before Hoop, I used to spend ages wading through parenting forums, Googling around and looking at notice boards in coffee shops to uncover new things to do with my daughters. I couldn’t believe that there wasn’t an easier way to find out what’s on locally that they’d enjoy.
Most parents are overstretched, so we thought a mobile app would be most useful as you can access the info you need while on the go.
Before Hoop, I’d worked online on bunch of web start-ups. Most notably, I co-founded VoucherCodes.co.uk – a popular money saving website.
2. What were the biggest sources of inspiration and support when you were starting out?
I started my first business straight out of university. During those early years I was largely making it up as I went along and was largely living on instinct. For inspiration I mainly looked at the tech companies I admired and tried to unpick the way they grew their businesses.
One standout tech company I’ve always followed closely and admired is Basecamp. They have a successful project management tool for small businesses, but more importantly their founders have always been ahead of the curve when it comes to the discussion on company culture and things that really matter to build a healthy business. For example, they are big proponents of a four day work week, and how to create a culture that supports a good work-life balance for their team. They’ve published a few great books on these topics.
3. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since starting the business?
Building a business is super challenging and there’s countless opportunities to get distracted along the way. If you don’t have a clear plan of where you want to get to, then it’s easy to lose focus and dilute the impact everyone’s work. In practise, this means staying focused and saying ‘no’ to a lot of opportunities, which can be difficult.
When building a team, try and work with smart, nice people. Life’s too short to spend time with people you don’t respect and enjoy being around.
4. What has been your proudest moment/biggest achievement so far?
I’m most proud of the feedback we get from parents that use Hoop and the kind words they have to say about Hoop.
Parenting has a lot of ups and downs. Hoop tries to make it a little bit easier, connecting you with fun things happening locally that your kids will love.
We’re lucky enough to get feedback on a daily basis from parents thanking us for helping them get out of the house and discover new activities their kids enjoy.
This is why we started Hoop, so it never fails to impress.
5. What piece of advice would you give to anyone starting out?
Speak to your customers. Get their feedback on your product or service. The feedback they’ll give will be invaluable.
6. What piece of investment did you make in the business that was worth every penny?
We’ve always invested a lot of time into new team members when they join the company.
Time is your most valuable resource, particularly in a smaller start-up; so where you and your team focus it can be expensive.
We work hard to offer an induction programme that brings new starters up to speed about all parts of the business. This is a big investment from us, but the commitment really speeds up a new starter’s understanding about the business that gives them the foundation they need to grow within their role.
7. Which element of marketing has made the biggest impact on your business?
If you can build a product or service that customers love, then your marketing will become ten times easier. It’s very easy to overlook the impact that a great product can have on your growth. All forms of marketing become more effective if you have a good ‘product market’ fit.
New customers are more likely to recommend you, if they’ve had a great experience. This makes all your marketing channels more powerful. For every new customer you get, you know that you’ll enjoy a multiplier effect as they share your product.
8. What do the next 12 months look like for you?
Continuing to spread the word about Hoop! Reaching more families and activity providers across the country.
Could your business benefit from working with Hoop? Get in touch.