My Big Idea: It's game on for entrepreneur with fun-based training method for client companies' staff
Jo Brennan, from Carlow and now living in Kilkenny, is the founder of Jamjou. Her company provides a game-based training programme for customer-facing staff.
"I have worked for technology companies for most of my career, in sales, marketing and business development for companies like Dell and Oracle.
But my family ran their own retail business, so I grew up in an entrepreneurial environment and always wanted to own my own company.
I left full time employment about six years ago to take on consultancy work, training front-line staff in customer services and sales, which was a natural progression from what I was doing before.
I found myself looking for a software product that would assist my training and help to keep people engaged and stimulated as they learned, but couldn't find something that fit.
At the same time my two boys were starting to play computer games. I began trying them out and investigating that industry, looking at how games could be used in training. There was a clear business opportunity.
I started small with a basic piece of software designed by a student. Once I saw its potential I contracted a developer and we built a more sophisticated product.
The end result was a cloud-based training programme which uses gaming mechanisms to train and engage staff, ultimately increasing sales productivity, improving customer service and reducing staff turnover. It presents users with real-life work scenarios, like an up-selling situation or a customer complaint, asking them to select the right answer. Users can compete against each other in a leaderboard system.
I launched it last year and the response has been great. Three people now work for the business. The name, Jamjou, is a play on jamming and jouer (the French verb for play).
The target market is large businesses in the hospitality, retail and contact centre sectors. All have the same challenges when it comes to frontline staff. Lots of customer-facing employees are young and tech-savyy which makes game-based training particularly effective. The Jamjou platform can be accessed via mobile devices.
Jamjou is as much a management tool as a training tool. It collects a huge amount of data which management can use to make better informed decisions.
We have clients across the UK and Ireland including the Jury's Inn hotel group across 36 locations, and the Prem group.
We are now talking to a big financial services company which is trialling the product. Later this year and next year I am planning a big push into the UK and hopefully after that, the US. Some of our clients should naturally take us into those markets too.
Running your own business is very liberating. It is a lot of pressure but I love it. One of the biggest advantages is the fact that you can manage your business around your life; you are not chained to a desk or to someone else's priorities. I have more flexibility in how and when I spend time with my two boys now.
As well as expanding into new geographical markets, I have ambitious plans for the product. I want to add more languages and functions.
We have one direct competitor but it is based in the US and targeting different sectors, so we are not under pressure in that sense.
The biggest challenge, like most startups, has probably been funding. Cash flow was tricky in the early days.
I invested my own savings and we also secured financial backing from Enterprise Ireland and debt finance from Bank of Ireland and AIB. The plan is to start talking to potential private investors next."