Luke Hepburn was dragging two kids from store to store in a desperate hunt for ‘that perfect birthday present’ when the idea for his Penrith-based start-up—CheckOut Friends—popped into his head.
’I thought to myself, this could be so much easier’, he said. ’There are so many good local businesses, but finding a store with the right item can be tricky and time-consuming.’
Luke started mocking up some designs for a mobile app and website that would address this issue, and CheckOut Friends was born.
A ‘word-of-mouth marketplace’, CheckOut Friends enables businesses, brands, consumers and communities to discover and promote local products and services.
Finding help to grow
Although Luke immediately started getting positive feedback from shop owners and partners, the start-up faced a challenge when they began working on a prototype and discovered the costs involved with developing their platform.
After finding out about Jobs for NSW’s funding through Facebook and LinkedIn, Luke decided to apply for a Minimum Viable Product grant to develop the working prototype.
‘Our advisor helped us every step of the way’, says Luke. ‘The grant really helped us attract some amazing local talent to take this further.’
CheckOut Friends used the $25,000 grant to hire specialist developers to finalise their prototype app.
They’ve now completed a round of audience testing and are soon to launch the final platform.
Living and working locally
From a team of one, CheckOut Friends has grown into a nine-person small business with over 1,000 businesses ready to join the platform.
‘We have a promising development pipeline of great ideas and we believe we can help retail and small businesses in general’, says Luke. ‘That’s our top priority—to create a fair playing field. Nothing beats the experience of physical retail when they have what you’re looking for.’
In the future, Luke, a Penrith local and basketball tragic (he chairs the Board of the Penrith Valley Regional Sports Centre), is committed to growing CheckOut Friends out of Western Sydney.
‘I love promoting Western Sydney and we want to build a local team to bring this to life’, he says.