Startup Spotlight: Martina Skelly, YellowSchedule

  • Martina_Skelly.jpg
Photography by: Sean Curtin

How did you get the idea for YellowSchedule, and how did you get it started?
When I missed a long-awaited hospital appointment for my eldest daughter it sparked an interest in looking at potential solutions around streamlining and improving the scheduling process. I had recently led a project to build a live booking engine for a network of 300 Farmhouse B&Bs throughout Ireland. It struck me that, in the accommodation sector, online booking had filtered down to the smallest provider, but that everyday services and medical appointments lagged behind. I conducted a feasibility study to look at the market, the competition and the opportunity before deciding that this was something I should do. My decision coincided with the downturn in the economy. I was finding it harder to grow my digital marketing consultancy as companies were moving budgets out of marketing and hunkering down in survival mode. I asked my brother to partner with me and set it up together as a business.

What is your background?
I worked in the multimedia team in Dorling Kindersley/Penguin Publishing in London and was responsible for digitising their Eyewitness Travel Guide series of books. I then worked in digital marketing in Dublin and when I moved to Limerick 12 years ago, eventually setting up my own digital marketing consultancy Activate Marketing.

How far do you think YellowSchedule can go?
Online scheduling is only getting started. A recent Intuit report indicates that over 80% of US based patients would book their appointments online if it was available. Currently only 11% can. Accenture estimates that by 2019 66% of patients will be self-scheduling their own medical appointments online. So, in the same way that we rarely make a travel booking over the phone or in person these days, the same will happen to online scheduling for services such as the seeing the dentist, servicing our cars, getting our pets groomed, booking medical appointments, seeing mortgage advisors etc.

Tell us a little about the team: who are they and how did they come on board with YellowSchedule?
My brother Michael had over a decade of IT development experience, including banking, security and SMS integration. I knew that he’d be perfect to build this company with me and that our skills complemented each other. Our executive team we met along the way as we grew. We targeted our chairman Howard Beggs specifically due to his impressive background growing Helix Health, the largest health IT company in Ireland.

 

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What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far and how did you overcome it?
Building a product takes time before you have anything that has the potential to generate revenue, yet most people with families have financial commitments. We had to work full time consulting and use our evenings and weekends to get YellowSchedule off the ground. A lot of great ideas die at this stage; it’s very hard to sustain the level of energy required to double job.

How has the local startup community helped you on your journey?
The Limerick startup community is friendly, vibrant and growing. People are very helpful in promoting and making connections for local startups. There is a strong network that extends from Limerick throughout Ireland and further afield. People here will make introductions for me, recommend my product to people they know and really keep their eyes open for opportunities that they can pass my way.

Who are your business role models?
I admire the people who ‘lean-in’ quietly, roll up their sleeves and build their companies. They’re not always in the public eye, and they don’t always court publicity. I look up to people whose companies have survived over a long period. My role models are people who have never sacrificed their morals to build their business.

What does success look like to you?
Success to me means enjoying my work and feeling that what I’m doing is having a positive impact for our customers. It means having a good work life balance with enough time to spend with family and friends, while not having to worry about bills. The ultimate success in terms of a business is building a company that can succeed without you. If you can put the structure and processes in place that you could walk away and someone else could run it, it’s a bit like raising a child – you need to give them ability to be self-sufficient!

What advice would you give to someone starting out?
It’s always going to take longer and be harder then you expect. You need to be extremely resilient. If you have a family, you’ll need to have them fully supportive and on board before you start.

Article by: Kayleigh Ziolo
Photography by: Sean Curtin

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