Let’s Get Mobile with Noelle Daly & Mobility Mojo
Give a brief description of your company.
Mobility Mojo is a digital toolkit designed for hotels to self-audit and evaluate the accessibility features and facilities in their premises. Users then integrate and display this information on their hotel websites within a matter of hours. Once complete, visitors with different access requirements can find the vital information they need in order to feel assured to make a booking.
- How did you get the idea/ concept for your business?
Having worked in the disability sector for over 20 years specialising in accessible travel, I saw the same questions about travel recurring time and again. As a wheelchair user myself, I understood first-hand the specific issues people with access needs face when it comes to travel.
One of the main problems is that people can’t find specific relevant information about hotel accessibility to feel confident to book.
There’s often no uniformity in accessible standards, it differs country by country, and guests don’t always know what to expect on arrival.
Extensive research of the global accessible tourism market showed that 50% of people with access needs choose not to travel because of a lack of detailed information and a fear of something going wrong.
I knew that this is a problem that’s only going to become more and more important as our global population ages, but equally that using today’s technology, a solution could be found.
- Give a brief account of your education background.
International Accessibility Consultant in Accessibility Techonolgies and Environments. Chairperson and NSAI Convenor for Ireland on the European standards committee ISO TC 228/WG 14 Accessible Tourism and related services.
- Did you always know/ ever think you would become an entrepreneur when you were younger?
To be honest no I had never thought of myself as an entrepreneur, but I’m very glad I made the decision to give it a go.
- Is entrepreneurship a common trait in your family?
Yes, my father had his own company and my sister and brother both run their own business so I have always been exposed to the world of business.
- Did you have prior knowledge of the industry before setting up your company?
I had a huge amount of domain expertise on the end-user side but very little knowledge from the hotel industry side.
- What was your previous work experience (if any)? Do you think this gave you an advantage when setting up your business?
I Co-founded Spinal Injuries Ireland in 1993. This was a not-for-profit organisation supporting people with spinal cord injury and their families on a daily basis. It gave me a profound insight into the challenges and the joys of travel for people with accessibility needs and their families and friends.
I also set up a previous business in home swap for accessible homes.
I definitely believe my experience gave me an advantage because I found an innovative side of me that I didn’t know existed.
- How did you initially fund your business? (self-funded, government funding, etc)
We initially funded the business through grants, awards and self-funding.
- Looking back, would you have changed the method of funding you chose?
No, we were very strategic about where we applied for funding, we worked hard for it and were fortunate to be successful with many of them.
- What difficulties, if any, did you encounter when securing funding?
Almost all start-ups have difficulty getting funding because in the early days your business model is often still evolving and getting people to take a risk on you with their money is hard. So yes, we had very little money and what we had we used first and foremost to develop our technology.
- Did you encounter any financial difficulties in the first year of operation? If yes, what did you do to surpass them?
Yes, before we turned our business around, we were just about to shut the door on the whole thing. We had very little money and no idea what our next step should be.
The pivot happened when we won a place to pitch at the web summit in Lisbon. It was a chance conversation with a contact in the hospitality industry while there that changed our thinking about how we should approach the problem. It meant going back to the drawing board but this time the business model was far more robust.
- What characteristics do you feel benefited you most when starting your business?
Persistence, passion and a huge sense of purpose.
- To what do you attribute your company’s success/growth to?
We are still a very young company and there’s plenty of growing to be done, but I think one of the main reasons for its success is the ‘win-win’ scenario for both the hotels and their customers. What we’re doing will ultimately benefit everyone, businesses and customers alike, that’s a brilliant thing for any business to be able to say.
- What is your opinion on the importance of a professional network for an entrepreneur?
A professional network is crucial to any entrepreneur. I don’t really like going to networking events because I generally find them difficult to navigate but small groups and one on one meetings work extremely well for me. I’ve learned so much from other entrepreneurs, the pitfalls, the mistakes and the successful outcomes. I have found people to be enormously generous with their time, knowledge and expertise and I feel honoured and privileged to be part of a number of entrepreneur networks.
- Do you think entrepreneurship has changed in recent years?
Yes absolutely, there’s a lot more focus on entrepreneurship as a career choice, with a wide range of start-up bootcamps, mentorship, incubator and accelerator programs as well as business supports such as Enterprise Ireland.
- Would you ever consider starting another company or involving yourself in new start-ups again?
Yes, I think it’s easier to set up another business once you’ve already been involved in starting a business. You can accelerate far quicker because your familiar with how start-ups work. I would especially like to be involved in mentoring other people to start a business, I know it’s not for everyone but there’s nothing quite like it.
- If you had one piece of advice for a new entrepreneur, what would it be?
The idea you start with in the beginning is seldom the business you end up with. The most important thing is to be passionate about your business. Be prepared to pivot, you’ll know when you’ve got it right. Believe in yourself and be persistent.