Entrepreneur Spotlight: Stephanie Meagher

Stephanie Meagher

Co-founder & CEO at toddl.co. Ex Zalando | Ex Lehman Brothers | McGill | ESSEC

I’m Franco-Irish but was born and raised in Montreal. I moved to Paris for business school when I was 22 and ended up spending the next 15 years living abroad. I have worked in Europe and South-East Asia across several industries including investment banking, technology, public health and in different startups. toddl.co is my third startup company and third baby, because I also have 2 kids, César, 4 years old and Phaedra, 2 years old. My husband, Maxime, is Swiss-French and is an entrepreneur in the tourism industry.

What is your company all about?

Our mission at toddl.co is to digitalise the kids’ education market. For this, my co-founder Lorin May and I have built a marketplace to help parents discover and book activities for their kids. We launched it one year ago, and today it is the largest catalogue of kids’ activities in Barcelona, with more than 1500 listings from 500 providers. We are also developing a software for education providers to help them automate and optimise the management of their businesses, so they can free up time to focus on what matters most: the kids. We will be launching this new product early next year!

Why did you choose to set up a business in Barcelona?

Spain has one of the fastest-growing startup ecosystems in Europe, and Barcelona is one of the most established startup hubs within Spain. Coupled with the easy lifestyle, cultural diversity, good weather and proximity to the beach – it made it an easy choice when my husband (also an entrepreneur), and I decided to move here as a family 3 years ago.

How did you come up with the idea/concept for your business?

I was looking for a swimming class for my little boy and was shocked to discover that there was no easy way or “centralised platform” to discover and book kids’ activities in Barcelona. I had recently learned how to code and wanted to put my new skills into practice. So I thought: let’s do something useful and develop a marketplace for kids’ activities! 🙂

How do you market your business and which strategies have been the most successful?

Our marketing has been essentially organic, through word of mouth, parent WhatsApp groups, social media, flyers etc.

How do you build a successful customer base in Barcelona?

As with any project, the first step is to “get out of the building” to speak to your customers, get to know them well, empathise to the point where you understand their wants and needs – and then build a product or a solution that solves these. I think ultimately you have to respect your customer deeply and treat them as a good friend. Our customers are both parents and education providers. As parents ourselves, we are quite the experts on that segment, however, as newbies in the kids’ education space, it’s really important for us to speak to our providers so we can get to know and understand them.

Is Covid19 affecting your business and if so, how do you deal with this?

We launched our business during the pandemic, the day before the government announced restrictions on kids’ activities. No joke! 🙂 So yes, Covid19 disrupted the market, and many providers sadly did not survive. However, there are a number of new businesses that emerged during the pandemic; and together with those who survived, there is a general openness to opportunities that may help grow their businesses. And of course, parents who went through months of disruption and closures, are now desperate to get their children back into in-person activities.

Is it mandatory for you to speak Spanish as an entrepreneur in Barcelona?

I would say it’s mandatory if your market is local and your clients speak Spanish – how do you make friends, sign contracts and develop partnerships if you don’t speak the language? Also, if you’re at an early stage, it can be really helpful if you don’t want to miss out on some of the public or local private incubation programmes or funding opportunities. However, if you’re just setting up your business in Barcelona but your clients are not Spanish – then, you can always outsource the administrative part of the work.

If you hadn’t relocated to Barcelona, would you have set up the same type of company in your home country?

I was living in Geneva before moving to Barcelona – working at the UN – so I would have probably continued working in that field if we hadn’t relocated! That said, there is likely a need for our product in Geneva.  Although we haven’t had a chance to explore the (French-speaking) Swiss market in detail, it is definitely on the expansion list!

What advice would you give someone who is interested in starting their own business in Barcelona?

Go for it! Just make sure you are ready for the ride. Building a business can be exhilarating, but it can also be very hard. My advice (which is not specific to Barcelona, per se) is to not be too attached to your initial idea (the odds are you will pivot at least once if not more), get ready to experiment, rejoice in the learning process, push your limits and reveal your weaknesses, celebrate small successes, and be ready to fail, and fail again. Being an entrepreneur is a huge project of humility.

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    05.03.2022 Barcelona Expat Fair