Grocery Coupon Site Bubblegum.ie Helps Irish Food Manufacturers
Recently I heard Philip Dargan of Bubblegum.ie on the Ryan Tubridy 2Fm show. He came across so well I just knew I had to interview him. Bubblegum.ie is a grocery coupon site which is in its early stages but already getting great exposure. Philip explains what motivated him to start the business, what he hopes to achieve for Irish Food Manufacturers, what he has learnt along the way and how Social Media has been great for spreading the word.
I’d spent a lot of time in the US so was familiar with the whole coupon concept which wasn’t being done in any meaningful way in Ireland. When I found myself out of work in October 2010 and also found out my wife was expecting twins (who are now six months old), I decided that this was what I was going to do. The jobs market was contracting and I figured out I’d better give myself a job if nobody else was going to. The company name was as a result of my six year old daughter asking could she have some Bubblegum whilst I was going through my list of possible domains and finding them already gone.
I’d been thinking on and off about a coupon company for some time, trying to figure out how the pieces went together then a show aired in the US called “Extreme Couponing” and the public reaction to it was very promising. It was around the same time I’d done my own big coupon shop to test the market, so I felt it would be a good move. I registered the company and the domain, created a Facebook page and started posting offers I’d found and coupons I could track down. I tried to build up the consumer side of it for six to eight months before approaching trade clients. I had to have something to sell to the clients, it would be no good me going to them and telling them that this was what I wanted to do. I had to have the solution for them in advance.
What is your business background?
My background is quite distinct, I’ve been working since I was seventeen and have almost eleven years in IT including ecommerce and IT management for an international corporation. I’ve also got many years of sales and marketing under my belt including the likes of Coca-Cola, Heineken, and Eircom.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned from setting up Bubblegum.ie?
I’ve learned several things from it. They are mainly:-
1) There’s never enough time. I’ve got a six year old as well as the twins so my family time demands are large. I’m lucky that I have an extremely supportive wife and family. They keep driving me onward.
2) Never take no for an answer in business.
3) Know your clients customers as well as your customers.
Does it cost a company to place their vouchers on your site and what do they get from it?
Yes it does, but it’s not as expensive as they may think. As for what they get – the most secure and only socially shareable coupons in the market. I use coupons.com software to power the site; they’re the industry leader and are about two years ahead of any other coupon software out there. They also get me. I’ll advise them on the entire procedure and I market the site regularly through national media, effectively delivering customers to them.
I’m very strong on Irish business and really want to support the Irish food and drink industries. If we all committed to buying two Irish manufactured items per week (approximately €4 per week) in our groceries instead of the imported variety that would mean an extra €300m in the economy. That money would be paid right down the line and be re-spent in local economies. That can only be good for the country and for Irish jobs.
Bubblegum.ie is in its early stages so what sort of growth do you envisage?
Right now the site is the only dedicated grocery coupon site in the country. That’s all we do, however we have business contacts in other areas of the trade which will benefit trade customers. For consumers, I want it to become a destination site, their first visit when planning their weekly shopping. I have plans to grow the site in terms of market penetration and delivery of offers.
It works extremely well. I regularly engage with fans on the Facebook site and the feedback is fantastic. When I set up the Facebook page I asked 36 of my real life friends to like it and share it out, since then it’s grown to almost 2,500 people who actually want to hear about the offers that are on the site. What’s surprised me is how few people are on Facebook in terms of communication. I run a separate mailing list and the Facebook friends aren’t on that, but they account for slightly less than 10% of that list.
Can you tell me anything about the discussions you’re having with the government about food imports?
Unfortunately, I can’t say anything about it. All I can say is that there are several members of government working very hard to ensure indigenous Irish food manufacturers don’t get left behind in the European market.
Bubblegum.ie could work anywhere. Would you consider broaching other countries or Franchising?
It’s always a possibility, but right now I want to concentrate on the Irish market, in particular Irish manufactured goods. We’re trying to help Irish producers increase sales and this means that they may be able to secure jobs and in some cases create more.
What is next on the agenda for Bubblegum.ie?
To be the destination site for consumers to come to get their coupons and manufacturers/suppliers to come to coupon their product. By printing a coupon from Bubblegum.ie, the consumer is committed to act on buying your product. They’re already looking to save money, this way you can ensure that they pick your product over your competitor’s.
I must say that Philip was a pleasure to interview and his site is so simple to use and saves you money. I have it bookmarked. I’m sure if you have any questions for Philip he’d be happy to answer – just comment below.