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The first place to look for a lost item

Help clients to cut their costs and you will survive even thrive in the recession, according to the founder of a new online venture.

Richard McGuinness, chief executive of Wefoundit.ie, believes he has hit upon a winning formula for these cost conscious times. His site provides a managed lost and found service to corporate clients. His only problem is getting people to understand how the service worked.

‘‘It can be difficult for people to get, as they think their ‘lost property’ book stuck under reception is working fine, but that is already a cost to them if they have staff spending considerable time each week managing it,’’ said McGuinness. “We can save people a significant amount of money while increasing their level of customer service.’’

Wefoundit.ie

Wefoundit.ie targets customer-facing service providers including hotels, car-hire and bus companies, airports and airlines, nightclubs, sports grounds and theaters. ‘‘We make every genuine effort,’’ said McGuinness. ‘‘People can drive up to our office in Finglas to collect their items, or they can be couriered next day or posted out.

‘‘If someone calls having lost their iPhone on your premises, and they get the feeling that you do not care, or are not following up actively, they will get a very negative impression of your company.’’ Established last June, Wefoundit.ie is based in Finglas, Dublin. It employs four people.

‘‘We collect items from our client sites on a regular basis and bring them back to our depot to be recorded, photographed, categorised and stored by our staff or ‘seekers’.

‘‘As much information as possible is taken from the item, such as a Sim card or bank card. In one case, we found the owner of a beautiful ladies’ coat using a dry cleaning tag discovered inside,’’ said McGuinness.

Before setting up on his own, McGuinness worked for ten years as a sales manager for IT and tele comcompanies. He said that recent advances in technology had made his new service possible.

Google of lost property

‘‘We are looking to be the Google of lost property, so all items that come in go into our high-end database, which is immediately searchable. Our website is vital to what we do, and we get great feedback via Facebook. Many of our clients are nightclubs, whose customers are very comfortable interacting with us over the web,’’ he said.

Finding the right revenue model is, McGuinness believes, a vital step for all start- ups.

‘‘We levy a small fee on the hotel or car hire company to manage their lost property, and assure them that all items will be properly stored and dis- posed of if not retrieved. We levy a small charge, typically e5, on the owner when they claim their item,’’ he said. The company also makes money by selling some un- claimed items, although McGuinness said that the majority of items in this bracket were either recycled or donated to charity.

A very clean process

‘‘We have a very clean process from the point of collection, through to either reuse or recycling. Other items, which are not retrieved, are donated to Oxfam,’’ he said.

In starting out, McGuinness has tried to keep costs down by seeking out free services and facilities wherever possible.

In his own case, Finglas based businessman Brendan Palmer of Electronic Recycling, agreed to provide free office space, administration support and storage space at the outset.

‘‘Brendan’s assistance has been great for us,’’ said McGuinness. ‘‘It has kept our costs low, which is very important at this early stage of the business. ‘‘Being able to lean on Brendan and his experience in logistics and material recovery has been great. I would advise other businesses who have some free office space or spare storage space, due to the downturn, to support small start-up companies in a similar way.’’

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