Niall Sheridan, process engineer, and digital entrepreneur has developed a fully customisable cloud-based management system for crèches.
What’s your background?
My background is in engineering, specifically in process controls. I worked in this sector for many years, and it’s something that I am very interested in. My wife also happened to work in childcare.
When did you start on the project?
We started the project almost a year ago when I was looking at some of the process requirements regarding room and water temperature controls within a crèche. I then met with my business partner, and we started to explore the business and other technologies.
Tell us about your product and service?
eCreche is an online tool for the management of childcare facilities. In recent years there has been a considerable increase in the administration involved in running childcare facilities in Ireland and across Europe.
What motivated you to start the company?
The crèche sector is a hugely administrative business. It’s also a sector in a state of flux. Over the last three years, the administration has become more and more onerous. Our inspiration was to create a piece of software that would aid crèche owners and workers to alleviate the hardship of this onerous administration. It also happens to be a very large market both in Ireland and abroad.
What was your light bulb moment?
Being in a crèche one day helping with a heating problem, and realising that the problems a crèche faces are the same as any industry with strict compliance regulations. I knew that if one business had these problems, then a great deal more must have as well.
My wife Jenny happens to work in her sister-in-law’s crèche, and I was asked to come up with a plan that would help streamline some of their administrative tasks.
How have you validated your product?
At this stage, we now have many live clients and are adding more each week. We also give a free trial of our offering, and in the vast majority of cases having trialed the product, clients tend to buy the system.
What is the commercial need?
As we use technology ever more frequently to manage aspects of our businesses, having one platform to do it all can be a huge boon to a crèche.
What does your product offer?
There is no single manual or book on how to run a crèche. We have undertaken countless visits to crèches all across the country, spoken to inspectors and government organisations, listened to their requirements and built something that is actually of use.
How is your product different?
Our competitors focus exclusively on the child and reports for parents. We concentrate on the full business, owners, staff, parents, children and a system that helps in all aspects of running a crèche. Our system is also very flexible so as new regulations come on stream our system can cope with any change.
How do you make money?
We have a simple revenue model of charging one euro per child per week. Crèches pay this fee directly, and all the features are included in this price. We also supply tablets, if required at the cost of €100 per tablet.
What’s your biggest sales promotion channel?
Direct, while we use a variety of sales channels the most important one for us is directly visiting crèche facilities and provide owners/managers with a demo of the system before setting up a free trial.
What’s your vision for the future?
eCreche is built in the SAAS (software as a service) model and we believe what we have and are building could be the de facto software for the childcare sector globally within five years.
What does success look like for you?
In five years we plan to be available in all most English speaking countries and across the EU. We would hope to have captured the majority of market share in both Ireland and UK by then and have built up a global team, with our base in Ireland.
What milestones have been achieved so far?
Since we launched in November the phone rings almost every day with new registrations and trials every week. In six months we would hope to be in 100+ crèches in Ireland and have begun to step into the UK market.
How do you promote yourselves?
We make good use of digital marketing tools as well as offline marketing ideas, but we rely considerably on word of mouth and face to face meetings.
What makes your company stand out?
The crèche owners we meet are pleasantly surprised and appreciative at how we have covered and streamlined so many aspects of their business. eCreche encompasses all aspects of running a crèche, from logging child information to cleaning rosters, staff attendance and so on. We consider that we are simply the best product on the market in this segment.