Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Case study: Jacqueline McGonigle, owner, whatsonni.com

Jacqueline McGonigle, owner, whatsonni.com

What is your business? Whatsonni.com is a free web-based platform for users to promote all types and sizes of events and tourist attractions.

This forms a searchable database of what’s on in Northern Ireland — you can search by keyword, date or location. My role is all encompassing — sales, admin, marketing. You name it, I do it.

What innovations have you recently introduced?

A mobile version of the website at www.m.whatsonni.com, which is android and iPhone compatible.

When did you set the company up?

In 2009 after a ‘sudden moment’ — I realised that there was nothing that consolidated all the event/tourist information for Northern Ireland.

What was your biggest challenge?

A complete lack of finance or investment. I took a loan from a family member to build the website and immersed myself in social media. Now the biggest challenge is marketing — raising awareness of the service.

How will you develop the business?

The website is constantly evolving, with the focus on user experience and user friendliness. The goal is for whatsonni.com to be the first resource that people use to find out what’s on in Northern Ireland. We want to roll-out the model out across all Ireland.

How do you market your business?

On a shoestring, using social media, bartering and networking. I belong to Women In Business, Women on the Move, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Derry Chamber of Commerce and am a co-organiser of Open Coffee Mid Ulster.

How do you use social media?

We have over 5,000 fans on Facebook, over 2,000 followers on Twitter and integrate across all platforms including Linked In.

Has cashflow been an issue?

No, the revenue model is advertising and enhanced promotional packages/opportunities which are all payable in advance.

Has the recession been a catalyst for doing things more efficiently?

The business was created during the recession, so we have been lean from the outset. We have no unnecessary expenses: a home office, hot-desking and being creative in marketing.

Has the economic environment forced you to cut charges?

No, if anything the opposite. We offer value for money advertising and promotional opportunities and rarely have to negotiate on price. We have enhanced promotional opportunities available to suit all budgets.

How do you innovate?

We are always looking at new technology. We are currently enrolled on the i-factory programme through NORIBIC in Londonderry, which is a growth and innovation programme.

Are you trying to improve energy efficiency?

I don’t think we could be any more energy efficient than we are. Everything happens online.

We wouldn’t even print our details.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

As a home worker, networking is key for me — particularly with other self-employed people and small businesses who are in the same position.

That keeps me motivated.

Which well-known entrepreneur do you most admire?

At a recent event the key note speaker was Sarah Newman of lreland’s Dragons’ Den.

She really impressed me with her back story, starting from nothing and becoming a dotcom millionaire through sheer hard work, grit and determination.

What is your favourite gadget?

My smartphone — I can access my social media accounts, email and the content management system of the website from the phone.

If you could do any job, what would it be?

That’s a really easy question — I’m already doing it.

Smallbusinesscan is a portal site for discussions, articles and advice on all kinds of financial, legal, HR and tech issues that face start-ups and other small companies.

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