It’s a challenging environment for Irish SME’s as they seek growth, funding and stability. smeople is a new nework that provides Irish small business owners a different way to network, do business with one another and get funded. In this interview, Rob Marr explains why he co-founded What is smeople and who founded it? It was founded by myself and my business partner Gareth Duffy. It is asmall business online network [based in Ireland] where we can buy, sell, barter and network and also raise cash by pitching for it. The members vote on the pitch they like best and the winner is gifted the cash by smeople. What was the inspiration for starting this Irish small business collective? smeople was born of frustration – I run courses helping people become self employed and got fed up of how hard it was for SME’s to find sales, raise cash and cut costs. I wanted to tell them about this brilliant place where they could do business using easy social media functionality and also raise some cash. It would save them time, money and help them get the cash they need to get going or keep growing. Then I realised that site didn’t exist so I decided to build it myself!! [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrp71CxAJOA[/youtube] Also, from talking to people running small businesses, they all seemed to be saying that we need to come together to support each other in trade. It got me thinking that if we all just gave a small amount every month and, if smeople didn’t mind giving a chunk of that away every month, it might just work! They also wanted some social media that was designed to do business – not the other way around. Since smeople is about people, how are relationships between SME owners fostered? They use the marketplace to communicate. It is essentially a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook with added functions to allow the member to personalise their marketplace. They can limit their own marketplace to industry, county or town and change that whenever they want. They can also select their existing business networks and form mini marketplaces using the groups they already belong to. What kinds of resources does smeople provide to support small business growth? We have started just offering the marketplace and the fund. We have other plans to add training, experts corner and some other top secret but very exciting stuff in the new year! We also write blogs regularly offering tips, support and guidance from experts in their fields – we look for the issues members are facing and then get the answers for them. Tell us about the funding programme offered by smeople. As I mentioned, it is quite simple. You simply record a short video, preferably not longer than 2 minutes explaining what you are trying to do and what you will use the money for. The members get a vote every month and the one with the most votes gets the cash. It is a gift, not a loan. We then follow up a few weeks later to see how you got on. There is a great video on the site giving some great tips on what we are looking for Why did you decide to include this funding programme? Because it is independent, self funded and not reliant on board approval or excessive application processes – if you can get your ideas across then the members decide. I feel that being judged by your peers is the fairest way to do it as well – being a small business owner is tough and I am personally tired of decisions being made about my own business by people that have never even walked one day in my shoes. The only people that really understand being self employed are other self employed people How do you see smeople becoming a leader in the Irish small business community? We are trying to show leadership by putting our money where our mouth is and backing our own project. There is no state funding in smeople or actually any state or bank support at all. It is small business people taking a risk on an idea. Hopefully, we will show leadership by doing, not talking. Going forward, what additional ways will smeople serve the small business community? I think that will be up to our members to decide. This is going to constantly evolve we hope. We have created the two tools that we were asked for most with the marketplace and the fund. We will be lead by what our members want. We have some ideas as I have mentioned but if the members don’t see the value then we’ll rethink and redo. Many thanks to Rob Marr for taking the time to explain smeople and it could be a game changer for many Irish small businesses as they navigate challenging economic conditions. This online business collective takes advantage of how SME’s connect with one another and support one another. Please take a look and see if it could be a great resource for you. Did you like this article? Sign up for our RSS, join us on Facebook, on Twitter and on Google+ to get the latest Tweak Your Biz articles and updates.