How Trinity Start-up ‘Locallee’ plans to save shipwrecked SMEs

The waves of restrictions that have been strangling Irish commerce in order to curve the effects of Covid-19 have wreaked havoc upon all levels of business within our domestic market and further afield. One group which has been particularly affected are the 248 small and 344 medium enterprises within Ireland. Many retailers within this group were left without major footfall, and with only 32% of these retailers having a functioning website, their source of sales dried up, starving them of any opportunity to survive Covid-19. This is where 3rd year Computer Science and Business students Seán Larkin, Franklin Ume Obiekwe and Daniel Grace have come together to design a much-needed platform for small retailers, enabling them to be able to connect with their customers online.

The Team

Seán knows firsthand how much of an impact COVID-19 has had on small business in Ireland. His parents are owners of an SME themselves, and while they have been fortunate enough to weather the hardships, many Irish businesses have had to endure during this time; some of their friends and many others in a similar position have not been as lucky. Seán asked himself what he could do to help small firms not only recover but prosper post-pandemic, and quickly identified the potential power of the internet. E-shopping has skyrocketed in light of restrictions cutting off the chance to shop in person, with Amazon alone seeing profits shoot up over 200% over the course of the pandemic.

The team’s efforts have culminated in ‘Locallee’, which hopes to act as an online shopping centre for local businesses. Locallee hopes to address current small retailer’s challenges by allowing businesses to meet their potential demand online, while also providing a host of online resources to allow retailers to perform to the best of their abilities. Locallee’s potential is obvious; with a model reminiscent of Amazon’s and with Ireland’s S.M.E.s forming the backbone of the Irish economy, Seán, Franklin and Dan are confident in their ability to scale their project as traffic rises. Seán and Franklin already have some experience in this field, having been successful in reaching the knock-out stages of a start-up accelerator competition within Tangent with their commerce app, Digitill. This prior knowledge has been instrumental in creating a product with real potential.

Where They Are Now

Locallee’s sign-up process takes less than thirty minutes providing retailers with little to no e-commerce experience the opportunity to benefit from this mode of trade. No technical experience is required by Locallee users, bridging a skill gap which in many instances can be the death of retailers trying to ply their trade online. Seán highlights how the likes of Squarespace, while allowing retailers to establish a website, lacks the marketing and other business functions needed to create monetary value. Locallee hopes to change this.

The team highlighted the trojan effort taken to get their idea off the ground, the platform is currently in its developmental phase, with focus being placed on creating their ‘minimal viable product’, or the first workable version of their business concept. Dan has been handling the technical side of things, while Franklin has been busy establishing platform features needed to add value to the user experience. Even with well north of one hundred hours of individual work put into the project each, the team also wanted to mention all the help they’ve been glad to receive so far regarding their project. In particular, Tangent’s Joe Lanzillotta and Alison Tracey have been a great help to Seán and Franklin’s previous projects and they are glad to have their expertise and support, as well as that of Tangent’s C.E.O. Ken Finnegan, with this new endeavour also.

Plans For The Future

In the immediate future, the Locallee team will be testing and refining their software and business models in a select group of towns across Ireland. Seán, Frank and Dan are hopeful that before the end of the year, Locallee will be boosting local businesses across Ireland.

During our conversation, the team alluded to the further potential of Localee’s ability to provide not only a platform, but also support to their patrons. They firmly believe that Locallee will also be able to assist businesses using the platform in regard to the fulfilment of orders through the design and provision of an order and delivery model. This scalability is not only restricted to how Locallee can function, but also to where it functions. Small retailers across the globe have all been faced with a lack of customer interaction, and with a meteoric rise in e-commerce, many need to shift the way they operate to stay competitive within the evolving retail climate. Countries within the E.U. and the U.K. are an obvious first choice. In Seán’s view, after expansion throughout Ireland, the allure of the United States economy is not out of the equation further down the line. All of this hope for the platform’s future is validated by the fact that Locallee possesses the ability to enact real positive change to small retailers across the globe.

Get In Touch

You can check out Locallee’s brochure website here, and if you wish to hear more about the project, the team can be contacted at @locallee2021@gmail.com

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