ENTREPRENEUR Helen James is using the latest in mobile phone technology to allow shops, restaurants and other businesses to secure last-minute deals at the click of a button.
The 37-year-old from Sunderland has entered the leisure daily deals market with her mobile app Drop Your Hat after realising that local businesses had little means of alerting the public to final availability.
Businesses in Sunderland and South Shields can post deals at the eleventh hour in order to tempt customers who can then book or buy directly from the business.
The mobile app, which was developed by Gospelware in Gateshead, also differs from other deal services by allowing businesses to end the offer once they reach maximum capacity, solving the problem of overbooking and allowing them to attract only the custom that they need.
The app, which is available free of charge at www.dropyourhat.com for android and iPhone, also provides last-minute ideas for days and evenings out. James, who is based at the Software Hatchery at the University of Sunderland, is planning to roll out the service across the UK as it grows in popularity.
Businesses currently subscribed to the service include Customs House theatre and cinema, Tribeca Hair Design and French restaurant D’acqua, with Helen looking to double the size of the business in the next 12 months.
She said: “We’re recording about three or four businesses a week who are signing up for the app which is brilliant because I’ve never been in a position where businesses actually approach me.
“The plan is we’re trialling the idea in Sunderland and by the end of the year we’ll be operating in Newcastle as well. One of the beauties of an app like this is that it is fully scalable so it could go anywhere.
“We charge the business a monthly subscription fee where they can register so many offers and upload when they want to. This system is proving successful because it means the businesses are still in control of their booking fees.” James, who has a background in market research, came up with the idea while living in Argentina and came to Sunderland with her boyfriend to roll out the business plan.
During her time in South America she noticed that, despite there being a lot of tourists, there were lots of restaurants that were left empty by the evening.
She said: “It was on returning to the UK that I realised that there was a gap in the market for an app that provides businesses with an immediate way of promoting last-minute offers to fill empty spaces.
“I live in Sunderland and I think it’s often missed out in a lot of ways because most offers are centred around Newcastle.”
Sunderland Software City gave advice on funding, market research and starting a business.