This month we caught up with Randa Bennett, Founder & CEO of Veeloop. Veeloop provides a simple, safe and convenient way for teens to shop online, whilst also teaching them to become financially confident, responsible consumers. Here Randa talks about setting up her business and how Covid19 led to the setting up of the vhelp App which enables sheltering individuals to reimburse volunteers for shopping.
The moment that ignited the spark in me to start a business was…
In March 2020, our growing business slowed right down as a result of the national lockdown. For the first time in 20 years, my co-founder Patricia Salume and I were not busy. But not for long! Like many people, we started supporting vulnerable neighbours with shopping but we quickly found exchanging money at the doorstep was really awkward.
Often vulnerable people didn’t have much cash in their homes to repay their neighbours so they had to visit the bank, placing themselves at risk of catching Covid. Others were relying on friends and family to bring them money, which just complicated the process.
Then there was the change problem. It was pretty embarrassing when I was told to keep one or two pounds when I didn’t have the right change. Medical professionals and retailers were also urging the public to avoid using cash. The whole cash situation struck us as both potentially dangerous and needlessly complicated.
We knew from our experiences of setting up VeeLoop that a better solution could be found.
So we created vHelp, an app to help vulnerable people securely reimburse volunteers for their shopping. This way we’re protecting the vulnerable, reimbursing the volunteer quickly and providing an audit trail to voluntary organisations.
The toughest challenge I’ve faced is (and how I overcame it)…
By far the biggest challenge was home schooling my eight-year-old daughter while leading a team to develop a complex app!
But other than my domestic issues, creating a solution for voluntary sector organisations has been challenging, but fun. We haven’t previously worked in this sector so it has required us throwing ourselves in the deep end and slowly building up our knowledge. There is always more to learn, so we’ve also started to hire people with experience of the charity sector.
The biggest success has been…
Surviving Covid-19 (so far) both as a business and as human beings. I can list awards and achievements but they really don’t count for much if we don’t see through this storm.
I’m very good at..…
No doubt this will come across as a bit arrogant, but I think I’m good at devising solutions and, importantly, seeing them through. Lots of people have great ideas but often fall at the first hurdles.
I love it when I face a problem and a solution starts brewing in my mind. Yes, they’ll be some frustrating moments and ups and downs along the way but within a few months I’ll have a product I’m proud of.
The type of person I look to recruit is…
I’m a fan of the quote “Hire for attitude and train for skill”. If people are eager, smart and willing they’ll achieve anything you set for them. We always live by this and ensure we have a positive culture where we encourage mistakes and learning.
The part of my day I most look forward to is…
I have two favourite parts. I love seeing my daughters in the morning and getting cuddles. I also love our family evening meal where we find out about each other’s days.
If I could give fellow entrepreneurs one piece of advice it would be…
Be persistent. It’s one lesson that I keep drilling into my children and my team: you will fail and you will fall but you’ve got to dust yourself off and keep going.
As former US President Calvin Coolidge said: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
Outside of work I can be found…
I’m addicted to HIIT workouts. It’s pretty much all I do for fun these days. But I really miss travelling.
My philosophy on life is…
To be grateful for the amazing life we have, for the NHS, for getting government support during tough times, and, well, just for being alive!
I grew up in a war zone in Iraq. We had a government that went around prosecuting everyone and a health system that had been run into the ground. When you’ve been through that sort of experience it makes you stop and think about how great we have it here, especially during a pandemic.
What was your business challenge?
We needed to create T&Cs, privacy policies and contracts for vHelp
How did you work with Ignition Law on this? What support did we provide you with?
We’ve worked with Ignition Law before and it was great. We approached them again but this time we didn’t have funding for the project when we were setting it up. Ignition Law proved that it cares about the community and the long-term relationship it had with us, so they supported us to get our product out rapidly during the pandemic.
What did you enjoy most about working with the team at Ignition?
I love the everyday language the team uses to communicate with us, non-legal professionals. Often lawyers forget that we don’t understand their language and overwhelm you with technical terms, but Ignition Law made everything easy to understand and used every-day examples. It is also great at quick turnarounds. This is essential when you’re responding to fast-moving customer needs.