Thursday 22 February 2018

My Big Idea: Dad of two driven to make finding that car part much easier

Micheal McKeown at the launch of Engage Ireland's entrepreneurship programme for
over 50s
Micheal McKeown at the launch of Engage Ireland's entrepreneurship programme for over 50s

FIFTY-eight year old father of two Micheal McKeon had the idea for a business that matched used car parts with buyers in 2002, but it wasn't until 2011 after his Meath garage closed down that he could devote himself to building the business.

He has just launched, a "no find, no fee" website and app that aims to save time and money for traders and consumers.

"I've always been motivated by connecting people. My biggest pet peeve is when people don't call back when they say they will. Our research shows there are 30,000 phone calls a day going to Irish car dismantlers and used parts traders, and 80pc of these calls are for parts that they don't have in stock. This wastes a lot of time for customers and traders.

"So helps people to find used vehicle parts locally and quickly, saving both time and money. We don't sell parts, we find them. Users begin by identifying their location and car registration on our website, and specifying what part they are looking for. We send out this information to the closest traders to them, who have 20 minutes to respond. If not, the search goes out to the next 10 closest traders, and so on until the whole network has been searched. If you are on the go and want to find parts in a different location, you can do that at any time and even use GPS in your phone or computer to set it for you.

"When I first had the idea in 2002 I thought I'd have to use complicated technology like triangulation but GPS made it much more feasible.

"All the parts sellers in our network have a tablet device that supplies this information in real time, for which they pay us a small annual subscription. They are all registered ATFs (authorised treatment facilities) and have been fully vetted by us. There is no charge for searching and the maximum time a search will take is 60 minutes.

"Once the used parts closest to you are found, you will be notified by a free text and email. You can then choose to pay our fee, which allows you to buy the parts. For occasional users the charge is a once-off €3, but you can also buy units in bulk, meaning the more you buy, the cheaper it costs. There are 8,000 garages and mechanics in the country and I hope to secure 30pc of these. They will be my biggest customer base, but the service is open to anybody. It is all up and running though still in soft-launch mode. We've had 18 months of testing – I want to get it absolutely right. About 200 people have registered so far and a new site design will be rolled out next week. I am proud of what the company achieves in terms of recycling and carbon footprint reduction, by ensuring available used parts are found and undue travel is not undertaken to collect them.

"I funded the project myself and with the help of friends, as well as a €20,000 loan from Meath County Enterprise Board, of which I will have to pay back €10,000. Not having much money was not necessarily a hindrance – it forced me to be resourceful. The business is like Facebook – set up in garages with friends. My wife was ill while we set up, which was a challenge but that's life. My intention is to eventually look for investment to move into the UK and I have applied for a patent on the business idea."

Irish Independent

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