Independent focus: Cool As meets Loyal Free

loyal free leicester

If you’re a regular in the coffee shops around town then you might have noticed Loyal Free popping up around the city and county. Loyal Free is a new app service that allows users to collect rewards via their mobile phone. Always losing those loyalty card stamps? Well that’s where Loyal Free comes in so useful! They’ve partnered with some of Leicestershire’s best businesses already and having won and been nominated for a bunch of business awards, we caught up with the local duo behind the business, Jason Nesbitt and Sophie Hainsworth, to find out more.

loyal free leicester
Jason and Sophie celebrating the company’s first birthday

How would you sum up LoyalFree for anyone who isn’t yet familiar with the app?
LoyalFree is a free app where you can find deals in your close proximity for all types of businesses; anything from coffee shops to pubs to massages. It’s super simple to use and you can also collect loyalty stamps digitally. 

What do you think sets you apart from other apps and offer sites?
As a business we operate very differently to other companies – we have no staff or investment – it’s literally just the two of us! We also work closely with businesses and users to ensure we have exclusive deals and a great customer experience. Our app is unique in that we can support any business, from coffee shops to beauty parlours to pubs and even market traders! And we don’t believe in taking a cut of sales! 

Name drop a few of the local businesses that you work with and represent on the app?
St Martin’s Coffee, Smorgas Sandwich Bar, Set, Grays @ LCB Depot, The Beauty Box, The Globe, Bread and Honey, Wilko Loughborough, Costa Coffee Loughborough.

How did you first come up with the idea for the business?
The idea is an adaptation of Jason’s previous business, phone apps for restaurants. Last year Sophie added other dimensions to his business plan and it’s just all naturally developed from there.

loyal free leicester
All the best businesses have a Jack Russell as part of the team…

You studied at De Montfort University, how have they supported you on your journey?
Jason had such a great time at DMU with great lecturers. We have remained involved with them and regularly work at their great Innovation Centre where the enterprise team have been very supportive in writing features and inviting us in to deliver talks and training to students. 

How did you both start working together?
We’ve known each other for 13 years and attempted to set up businesses before. Our personal favourite was probably ‘Mumsi’ – the onesie for pregnant women. Still a great idea! But full time jobs never allowed us to concentrate on scaling a business. So last August during the Edinburgh Fringe we took the plunge to commit most of our time to working on LoyalFree and realising our true potential .

What makes you a good team?
Our skills are very different and rarely overlap. Being able to have Jason focus on technology and Sophie on sales and marketing has been critical to scaling the business up. We’ve been friends for 13 years so we also believe we have developed what we call ‘business telepathy’ where we can read each other’s minds in meetings. Or maybe we are just severely sleep deprived.

What advice would you go to friends looking to go into business together?
Make sure you really know each other – all the good and the bad because you need to be able to spend a lot of time together and be very honest with each other. We find it helps to allocate ‘friend time’ where we don’t talk about work but we are famously bad at this. We spent Jason’s birthday at a spa but had a 3 hour strategy meeting in the sauna.

What’s been the highlight of 2017 on both a personal and professional level?
Winning Start Up Runner Up at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards was a big moment for us – to be recognised on a national level alongside such amazing entrepreneurs was an honour! Other highlights include listening to a talk by Dragon Jenny Campbell and going into partnership with the team over at Love Loughborough. 

It sounds cheesy but every day is full of tiny milestones and highlights and that’s how we stay so excited! 

loyal free leicester
Some of Loyal Free’s awards

What are your main goals for 2018?
2018 is the time for LoyalFree to go national! We hope to be in at least 10 towns and cities around the UK by the end of the year by working with Business Improvement Districts, and to have users in the tens of thousands. Who knows, we may even start paying ourselves! One big step change will be when we look at integrating augmented reality into the app – a very exciting prospect! 

What’s your favourite thing about LoyalFree?
The staff… only joking. Our favourite part of any day is meeting passionate business owners and BID (Business Improvement District) Managers. 

We’re putting you on the spot… where is your favourite coffee shop in Leicester?
Cheeky question! We love all the ones on the app.. but it would have to be St Martin’s Coffee – one of our first ever customers and a great place to work over several coffees.

loyal free leicester

What’s your favourite album to listen to whilst working?
There’s just so many. We often dive into the Social Network soundtrack and pretend we are creating the next Facebook, but normally you’ll find cheesy musicals blasting out! 

You’ve won numerous awards already, what advice would you give to young entrepreneurs just starting out?
Take the time to enter awards and attend networking. It consumes a lot of Sophie’s time but it is such a worthwhile experience. General advice for people starting out would be meet as many people as you can to run through ideas with, listen to criticism with an open mind, make sure you have bags of passion and stamina and don’t forget to have fun! A lot of people forget to have fun when they start a business, but it is so important to be able to get up in the morning and love what you are doing.

If you hadn’t taken the entrepreneurial path, what would you be doing now career-wise?
It’s hard to even imagine. I don’t think either of us could have remained working in the corporate world… so perhaps we would be cruise ship entertainers? Come to think of it that’s something we could branch out to one day. Watch this space! 

To start collecting your own savings you can download Loyal Free for free on the App Store and find out more info from LoyalFree.co.uk. Also follow them on Facebook and Twitter to hear about new offers.