Veeloop - Client of the Month - August
Another month, another inspiring story from two amazing women.
Meet Randa and Patricia, founders of Veeloop.
Hi Patricia and Randa! Let’s start by talking about VeeLoop. What is VeeLoop’s mission?
VeeLoop is an online payment approval service for kids and teenagers - the concept is very simple, the child picks items online and when they go to checkout, they choose to pay with VeeLoop. We then take this basket and send it to Mum or Dad, who in their own time will review the basket, approve or reject the items selected by their child, and then checkout.
Our vision is for VeeLoop to become the main online payment method for young people and the one stop for parents to approve kids’ orders from multiple retailers with the convenience of one checkout journey. We also plan to add a range of digital money management tools, such as an allowance, to help parents introduce their kids to virtual money and guide them through today’s online world.
How did you come to found and run VeeLoop?
Randa: The idea for VeeLoop came into being when I got frustrated with constantly being nagged and followed around the house with a laptop by my 14-year-old Layla, to complete online purchases for her. That was when I had the light bulb moment: “Why can’t she send me that basket and I look through it in my own time? I’m going to be even more receptive to her requests after 8:00pm when the kids are in bed and I have a cuppa in hand.”
I started speaking with other parents and teenagers and found this problem happens in most households with older kids and teenagers.
Patricia: This is unsurprising given kids access to devices and the internet. According to eMarketer, by the end of 2017 96% of teens in the UK will own a smart phone, providing far more opportunities for them to shop and spend money online. Randa has a background in technology and she started building the company in her spare time. I then joined her and we are now both working full-time to grow Veeloop.
How does VeeLoop seek to help families navigate the digital world?
Randa: When we grew up, our exposure to the outside world was through going out and about and perhaps talking to friends on the phone, we used to go shopping with mum and ask her opinion and permission to get something, all relatively easy for parents to oversee. Today our kids tend to do most of these things through the little screens.
VeeLoop is trying to ensure parents are still kept in the loop when it comes to online shopping, we are giving kids independence within a safe environment by allowing the parents to guide their kids in the world of online shopping.
Patricia: Online safety is also very important - VeeLoop takes away the need for a child to ever share their personal details online, which is a concern for parents. And this is based in reality - a report by Norton Internet Security concluded that young people are most at risk of cybercrime. Given the fact that our lives are so digital now, it is essential to educate children and teens on digital financial responsibility and online safety and VeeLoop is a tool to help parents do that.
Where does the name VeeLoop come from?
VeeLoop represents the virtual loop we create between kids and parents in the digital world. We make it easy and safe for kids and teens to shop online and give parents visibility and some control over their kids’ online expenditure.
What are your ambitions for VeeLoop for the next 5 years?
VeeLoop will be ‘The Payment Method’ for kids and teens globally. We started in the UK but we are looking forward to scaling the business internationally, especially now we have interest from a large global retailer based in America.
We also want to add cool features to help families manage their digital spending and educate their children in financial management. The first feature on our roadmap is VAllowance, where the teenager will have a set allowance that they don’t need the parent’s approval to spend whilst the parents still get visibility.
We’d love to hear about your background and your journey to VeeLoop. Could you tell us about yourselves and your career histories?
Randa: I was born and brought up in Baghdad, Iraq. I came to the UK in the late nineties, first stop was to learn English (I wished I had paid enough attention at school!). I got my first job as a temp, then joined an apprenticeship programme at a top IT consultancy at the time which started off my career in technology. I spent 18 years in the corporate world working in various roles, but I always knew my heart was in starting my own business, I was looking for the right idea until VeeLoop was born. I love the challenges and unpredictability that comes with starting a business, no two days are alike and the constant hustling helped me develop professionally more than any other role I’ve taken on.
Patricia: I grew up in Brazil and came to London with my best friend after university to learn English – the idea was to go back home after 6 months but we are both still here.
My career has been very varied as I have travelled and moved a lot. I started in advertising and Marketing before social media and digital existed.
In the UK I worked in local government for many years - going from funding project manager to business development when councils started commercialising and selling services.
After completing an MBA and having my son (he is nearly 5) I left the full time local government job to work freelance as a business consultant. This gave me the opportunity to work with very interesting people and projects. For example, I worked for large corporates, looking at things like food supply chain and sustainability and also worked supporting other technology startups.
Whilst consulting I met Randa, who was looking for help with VeeLoop, and that is how I got here!
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your careers so far and how did you overcome it?
Randa: I personally find the most challenging thing is how to deal with rejection on a regular basis. You get better at it and you pick yourself up and move on but it takes a lot of practice and self belief to overcome this without letting it demotivate you. No matter what your business is, when you start out you have to develop thick skin and be prepared for rejection and the naysayers telling you it won’t work.
Patricia: I agree with Randa. And I would add that when you build your business you have to ‘wear many hats’ and deal with every aspect of the business and areas that you are not familiar with - that is a daily challenge. I believe the way to go about solving that is do your research as there are so many resources out there to help, and some of it is free; there are also so many networks where entrepreneurs help each other and those are great to ask questions - there is always someone out there that has gone through the same as you and is happy to help.
And finally, having a mentor in your industry is a great help.
What achievement are you most proud of?
Randa: Having an idea and then bringing it to life exactly how I always imagined it makes me very proud.
Patricia: securing our first retailers was a very proud moment. It is a great feeling to get to a positive outcome after going through the sale process.
How do you strike a balance between your personal and professional lives? Do you have any special strategies, such as a morning or night routine, or do you use an AI personal assistant?
Randa: I like to keep all intelligence real, so no Artificial Intelligence for me. It sounds boring but the reality is professional mums have to be constantly planning ahead, plan the meals for the week, book that shopping slot, cook for Monday night, ensure I stay on top of the kids full diaries and their busy social lives.
Patricia: I don’t have any special strategies but I try to separate some of the time for family and be present in the moment - so when I am with my family, I try not to check my phone all the time and concentrate on them and what we are doing. When you run your business you can also have some flexibility around when you work so we can fit in school parties and meetings, which helps.
What I find difficult is time for exercise - that always end up at the bottom of the priority list, however I do enjoy walking and always walk when I can. And you do have to compromise -sometimes, my house is not as tidy as I would like!
There are many start-ups and entrepreneurs within the Law Boutique Community. What top tips would you give to early stage start-ups and entrepreneurs?
Randa: Firstly, tell yourself you can do it, secondly, don’t expect or try to have all the answers before you start. The best way to kick off any project is to talk to your potential customers/users and take it from there.
Keeping yourself motivated at the very beginning is very hard, I personally found a way through it by starting to follow cheesy motivational quotes on twitter and reading stories of how some big names started out, this helped me a huge deal. It’s also important to remember that the world has more naysayers than yes sayers, so share your idea with friends and family but don’t let the negativity get the best of you.
Patricia: Don’t be scared of what you don’t know, there is a massive amount of resources out there to help people who want to start their businesses so go out and find what you need.
Find a network of people in a similar situation that can help you keep motivated and support with practical things too!
Finally, if you could go back to the start of your careers, what would be the best piece of career advice you would give yourselves?
Randa: I wish I had the confidence and courage to start a business earlier in my career. Sadly I thought starting a business was for a certain set of people and doubted that I had what it takes. Don’t get me wrong I’ve had brilliant experiences in the corporate world over the years but my heart has always been in starting my own business. So happy I’m finally doing it.
Patricia: Earlier in my career I have been held back by lack of confidence so I would say ‘Believe in yourself and keep pushing and experimenting to find out how much you are capable of’.