By @SimonCocking great interview with HenandStagSligo.ie co–owner, Fergal Quinn
Describe the company – the elevator pitch …
Based on an online platform, HenandStagSligo.ie organises and plans group weekends in Sigo with most of our business in the hen/stag market. We normally arrange everything from accommodation, daytime activities, meal, pre-club bar & nightclub, and any necessary transfers. We have over 100 hen and stag party ideas available ranging from Surfing in Strandhill to Clay Pigeon Shooting.
How are you different?
The main difference is our team is based in Sligo. This allows us to develop strong relationships with all suppliers and an unrivalled knowledge of the area. In addition, our team is based ‘on the ground’ in Sligo during the weekend. This means we are on hand to react quickly to anything that might go wrong during a weekend such as a group being delayed or requiring changes to their itinerary. This compares to some of our competitors who are based in other counties with no team on the ground.
Why will the company/product do well?
Our business model revolves around creating business for our partners rather than profit from packages. This allows us to offer hen and stag packages at the best prices. In relation to the product – hens and stags will always be around and it’s unlikely to change in the near future. There can be a huge amount involved in organising one which means there will always be a place for companies that specialise in organising and planning them.
— Hen and Stag Sligo (@henandstagsligo) June 5, 2017
Where are you based?
Our company is based in Sligo and specialise in designing and arranging weekends based here.
When was the company launched?
We started to develop our site in mid-2014 and launched it ready for the 2015 season.
What have been your biggest wins to date?
At the start, when we booked in 100 people a weekend, we would have viewed it as a very busy weekend. We had a weekend this year that had 450 booked in and all went according to plan. The more ‘big weekends’ we do, the more we are able to do. Certainly not a walk in the park during the weekend but we have got very good at identifying what problems can arise and make sure we are super prepared going into the weekend.
What type of people are you trying to attract to your product?
Our main market is hens/stags but we also get a decent amount of corporate bookings, in particular for team building.
What tips would you give to others looking to build their business?
We identified a very large market of which we were looking for a slice. I guess it’s sometimes easier getting a small piece of a big pie rather than a big piece of a small pie.
In relation to developing a business based around an online platform, you have to be patient and work hard at getting picked up by the search engines. It can take years before you start ranking and it takes quite a lot of work. Try to become as knowledgeable as possible about SEO and paid advertising. You should know your product better than most – with the right skills, you might be best positioned to manage your SEO and paid advertising.
Tell us about your team?
We have between 10-15 people working with us. I look after the IT side of things ranging from SEO to working with IT engineers to develop systems.
Shane is the main man when it comes to looking after bookings, itineraries etc and he manages the reservations team.
Con, Kevin and I look after the parties with us each weekend. The personal touch is something that differentiates us from our competitors who are based outside of the town. It is one of the main reasons we get such good reviews and, in turn, repeat business.
What are your long-term plans for your company?
We had a very strong year in 2017 and have had consistent year-on-year growth since we started. However, I am very confident there we are still firmly in the growth phase and a good bit to go before we reach maturity. Some people have asked would we consider replicating the model in other towns. We might consider this down the line but would need to partner with someone in whichever location we choose and have an on-the-ground team based there. The relationships we have established with our partners in Sligo and our in-depth knowledge of the town really are one of the competitive advantages we have over our competitors. If we were to expand elsewhere, we would have to ensure we can replicate the level of service there before we consider it.
What are your favourite tech gadgets?
IPhone is my favourite. I used to be a Blackberry man but changed about 7 years ago and never looked back. Incredible functionality but can be nearly attached to you at times (like holidays).
What tech gadgets do you wish you could use to help you?
We would do with GPS trackers on some of our hen groups. We sometimes have problems with groups turning up late which can lead to significant problems particularly if a restaurant is looking to re-sit tables and a party is in for the first sitting. Sometimes groups don’t even know where they are or how far out of town they are – a GPS tracker would help here (in theory).
— Hen and Stag Sligo (@henandstagsligo) December 13, 2015
Anything else you’d like to add/we should have asked?
Maybe what’s the best part about our business? This is when we are full tilt looking after all the groups on a Saturday and all is going according to plan. It’s great dealing with such volumes of people who are normally in good form and in a real party mood. It can give you a real buzz, particularly when you get great reviews after the weekend.
How do people get in touch with you?