Jacqui Meskell, Huggnote
20th August 2019
Launching a business can be daunting and exciting in equal measures. For our second Women Who Launch August candidate, we hear from Jacqui Meskell of Huggnote. http://www.huggnote.com/
THE ELEVATOR PITCH
Huggnote is a messaging app that’s all heart, whereby users express emotion (e.g ‘Thinking of You’) through music – no words required.
Huggnote is based in Limerick, Ireland. We have a small core team (mainly part-time) but are about to raise seed investment, after which time we expect to grow the team significantly.
Huggnote received pre-seed investment from Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund (CSF) and is otherwise bootstrapped (self-funded by the founders).
Our target market is anyone with a mobile phone who needs to express something meaningful to a friend or loved one. Our focus right now is Ireland and the US but with users in 130 countries and counting we are building an app with truly mass, global appeal. Strategising for multiple markets is challenging but so far so good.
BRANDS YOU LOVE
We love companies who do what they do well — especially when their product offering brings something positive to the world. Irish brand Butlers Chocolate Café is one. Outside of Ireland The Honest Company, the eco-product company built by Jessica Alba has had a meteoric rise. She saw a need, took on the big players and is winning in that space. So inspiring! Aligned with our own brand ethos we admire iconic brands that delight like Tiffany & Co (we aim to see Huggnote become the Tiffany of messenger apps!) And we’re always impressed when we see big brands do good —whether that’s supporting start-ups or giving back and thankfully there are too many of those to mention.
BIGGEST ‘WIN’ TO DATE
Seeing something we imagined come to life and then see that people all over the globe are using it truly feels amazing! Nothing makes us happier than receiving a message from a user telling us how their sister/friend cried when they received their hugg! Being awarded the Competitive Start Fund by EI meant so much. Also start-up life is hard and so winning awards is always a great boost (Google Adopt a Start-Up, DCU Ryan Academy High Fliers).
BIGGEST ‘SLAP IN THE FACE’
Entrepreneurship is hard and we’ve faced every problem imaginable. But we make a point of not dwelling on the negative – every obstacle is an opportunity to learn. And being a qualified yoga teacher helps. If you don’t do yoga, start!
ARE YOU SOCIAL WHEN IT COMES TO MEDIA?
Up until now since we’re in BETA we’ve been keeping a low profile and mainly use social media to define Huggnote as a brand but also carry out some A/B testing with different approaches to inform our marketing plan. We’re very excited to see where social can take us this year!
ON TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION
Innovation is essential — whether you’re in tech or not. Huggnote’s innovation is its simplicity and how we see music differently to anyone else. But also innovation is in our DNA — overcoming hurdles, creating the next stepping-stone, finding a way. Of course Huggnote is an app so in our case is also a tech product — but for us the tech is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Our tech roadmap is always led by our user and making their lives and relationships easier.
IS THERE A BUSINESS MODEL YOU WOULD LIKE TO EMULATE?
We really believe part of what sets us up for success is because everything about Huggnote is original but what we won’t be emulating —
are those revenue models that involve underhanded tactics or dubious ethics. We’re only about delivering value. Our business model is evolving as we grow and we’re very lucky to be both B2C and B2B.
IF YOU HAD A BLANK CHEQUE
Presuming it’s for the business we’d implement our five-year plan without having to play the ‘investment round’ game and focus purely on growing Huggnote as a global brand, whilst making the world a better place in the process. In the ‘giving back’ category — set up a foundation to help everyone follow their dreams — no matter their means. And on a personal/selfish note — buy a beautiful apartment in St Germain de Pres, Paris — a dream of my own! All that being said, it’s truly the simple things that make life worthwhile. Give us a scone, a coffee and Ballybunion beach and we’re happy!
YOUR TRAITS – BEST AND WORST
I try not to be too self-critical and so if there’s something I need to work on I see it as an opportunity to learn/grow. Currently working on being more realistic as regards expectations of myself and others, letting go of the past and learning to say ‘no’. My best traits are my capacity for love/empathy, relentless tenacity and positive approach to life.
IDEAL BUSINESS PARTNER
I’m sure all the obvious ones have been mentioned lots of times so I’m going to throw a bone to the bad-ass business women doing it their way and say Kris Jenner (‘Momager’ to the Kardashian clan). I heard her tell her story recently on a podcast and was blown away. I’m a huge advocate of women supporting other women and the Kardashians have built the first truly matriarchal billion-dollar brand. Respect!
Honestly, I’m already doing it! Co-founding Huggnote with my sister, best friend and ride or die Perry makes entrepreneurship such a blast. We make such a great team and I honestly can’t imagine doing this with anyone else.
BEST BUSINESS ADVICE
Someone once defined entrepreneurship as jumping out of an airplane and building a parachute on the way down. So my advice would be not to do it unless you’re truly passionate about it. Don’t do it just for the money. But if it is for you — dream big and let no-one stop you!
Huggnote is in live BETA and has just released its Summer Huggs theme! Readers can use it for free to say Happy Summer or anything else by going to www.huggnote.com.