Entrepreneurial De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) Computer Science graduate Jason Nesbitt co-founded innovative loyalty reward scheme app LoyalFree five years ago and has taken the business from strength to strength.
LoyalFree gives businesses a profile showcasing their offers, reviews, images and more. It also pulls together all the vital information for an area, allowing users to benefit from using just one app for the whole of the UK. Jason and his team have continued to innovate with the introduction of new features including Augmented Reality (AR) and expanded their partnerships to work with 32 Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and 5 local councils to boost local economies.
Reminiscing about his journey to this point, Jason said: "I was interested in computing from an early age, I went to Groby College in Leicester to do my GSCE’s then chose to attend Loughborough College to study for a 2-year BTEC National Diploma for IT Practitioners.College gave me a really focused, specific education in IT subjects, but I also used to engage with coding for video games in my spare time and that really built up my enthusiasm for coding and website building.
"When I saw the Computer Science course on offer at my local university, it was an obvious choice to go to DMU.
"I loved my time at DMU, the course was fascinating to me and I particularly enjoyed the frequent labs and hands on experience with practical elements of computing. The enthusiasm of the lecturers was amazing and helped me immensely over the course of my degree, they had so much time for students and I have remained in touch with some of them since I graduated.
The task-based learning on offer, applying theory to real problems, was a great way to contextualise topics and I still use a lot of what I learned on a day to day basis. In many ways, I am where I am today because of DMU."
After graduating in 2010, Jason went to work as a Software Engineer and Business Analyst before taking the plunge and establishing his own start-up, LoyalFree, with business partner Sophie Hainsworth in 2016.
Jason said: "After we started the business in late 2016, we spent a lot of time at DMU's Innovation Centre. It is a fantastic space right in the heart of campus, where you are surrounded by inspiring people who are working on their own projects.
"Something I've missed since the onset of Covid is that sense of being surrounded by people bouncing ideas of each other and growing together. We attended a lot of start-up events during this time and the Innovation Centre was kind enough to help us secure wider exposure for the app launch.
"LoyalFree is a place promotion platform, an app that allows local businesses to promote their services. We work with 32 BIDs and 5 councils to provide promotional services for their local businesses. We facilitate loyalty schemes through the app rather than making customers carry a physical loyalty card.
"We also provide a 'trails' featured, which are curated lists such as: gluten free restaurants, blue plaque locations, dog friendly restaurants or other criteria centred around the users current location. We're pleased to announce we've now added new augmented reality technology to further develop these with more interactive elements.
"We worked on a Lego trail to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings with BID Leicester showcasing large Lego models placed around the city. We've also partnered with Bring the Paint to guide people to the locations of their murals for the annual event.
"We are fortunate to have a lot of scope in our work with BIDs and we do promotions like ' the best dressed shop window' around Christmas time to encourage the public to go around and look at their local shops whilst increasing footfall in town centres."
With five years of experience founding and running his business, Jason had the following advice for would be student or graduate entrepreneurs:
"One of the most important bits of advice I can offer is something I learned from my business partner Sophie: communication and meeting with your target audience is key to developing your business. If you’re sat by yourself trying to come up with a genius idea off the top of your head, without input from your potential customers, you’re not going to cater effectively to the target market.
"Get out there and speak to the people you want to be in business with, bounce your ideas off of people and see how they develop.
"Starting out on your own can be scary and fear is a subtle thing, you may find yourself unwilling to take action because you’re afraid of the consequence of failure and you shouldn't be. Approach things with a positive outlook and learn from your mistakes. As soon as you have done your research and found out what your customers want, start taking action to build the business and it will soon seem less overwhelming."
The LoyalFree app can be downloaded here.
Posted on Wednesday 30 June 2021