Interview with Stuart Thornton, CEO & Co-Founder at hoolah
The founder series explores the minds of business owners and their journey to make a difference in their industry. We interview these business founders to understand the life lessons that mold them into who they are today. We also learn more about their company, their products or services, how they are different from their competitors, and the problems that they are trying to solve for their customers. The information that these business owners provide to us helps inform other entrepreneurs who are looking to make an impact in the business world. We all can take these lessons and apply them to our entrepreneurial journey. We want to thank every business owner who volunteered their time to participate in these interviews and share their knowledge with the community.
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Great to meet you. Thank you for doing the interview. We want to know more about your journey, early struggles, success, and some wisdom that we can pass on to others who are interested in walking your footsteps toward becoming an entrepreneur. We know that being an entrepreneur is not all glory and fame, but there are hard times too. We believe that others who are interested in being a business owner can gain insight from other business founders like yourself. Again, we want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule. Let’s get this interview started!
Let us start with some basic questions to learn more about who you are as a person.
Can you tell everyone your name, please?
Tell me about your education?
I had a typical English path to education culminating in my undergrad in Business Studies. It included a focus on management science, so I ended up with a bachelor of science rather than arts. Ironically what I enjoyed most was the focus on entrepreneurship.
Can you give an example of an early lesson in life that helped shaped who you are today?
I decided a role early in my career based on money and brand. It was a harsh lesson. I learned early that your career should be one that you enjoy and that you see your return on investment in learning, development of you as a person and achieving great things. I’ve not made that mistake again. You certainly don’t go into the startup world for cash flow!
We all have entrepreneurs whom we look up to in our industry. These business leaders help influence, shape, and drive our ambition to succeed. These entrepreneurs could be someone that we have worked with on a project or could be someone that we look up too from a distance. For example, Bill Gates is a big inspiration to me not only because of his work in Microsoft but his outstanding contributions to society.
Who would you consider to be a significant influence on you professionally and can you explain why?
That’s a super question and a difficult one as there are many I admire and each for their own reasons. Firstly I admire anyone that can embrace great sacrifice, to change their lives, put it all on the line. There are many around me, and although it rarely gets spoken, I admire them all for trying.
Of the better-known entrepreneurs, there are many around us but also many that have shaped the large global brands that we see today. I loved Ray Kroc, of McDonald’s fame, for his ability to bounce back from failure, and have such single-mindedness to succeed. I often look at his quotes for inspiration.
Jeff Bezos is a worthy mention. I have the photo of him in the very early days, hard at work with an early Amazon placard sitting on the wall in a dingy office. To me, that’s all about persistence and hard work. You get out of life what you put in.
Jack Ma is someone closer to home. His ability to inspire groups of people to work together and his wisdom on how to treat people is noteworthy. His success and that of Alibaba is the motivation and desire of his people to succeed and to work harder than others.
Richard Branson is a person that I enjoy reading about — especially the history behind the Virgin empire. It was his combination of smarts and hustle — an essential blend for success in my opinion — that helped him and the company rise against industry behemoths.
Thank you for providing a background on who you are as a person. I always find it fascinating to learn who a person is and their early life lessons. Let us move forward with the interview and discuss what you are doing now and how you are making a difference in your industry.
What is the name of your company?
Where is your company located?
What services or products does your organization provide?
Our product is a simple payment option that merchants use on their online checkout (and in the future in their stores) to offer to their consumers to pay for their purchases in installments with zero interest.
What problem is your business trying to solve?
Up to 75% of e-commerce consumers look, add items to the shopping cart but don’t buy. This is a massive missed opportunity for retailers. hoolah helps solve this problem for merchants by allowing consumers to increase their personal affordability with a buy now and pay later payment option enabling interest-free repayment in 4 equal installments.
How is your business unique against your competitors?
In Singapore, and in Asia, there are few direct competitors. The bank cards are probably the closest to a competitor — however, their solutions are entirely different to hoolah. hoolah differs with an agnostic appeal to all consumers — no matter the bank they use as well as taking a broader approach to who can use. Plus there are no hidden fees or contracts — everything is completed in real time. This flexibility and broad appeal are the unique values of hoolah, as the focus is on conversion and bringing the merchant closer to the consumer. Our model is simple and easy to use for both merchant and consumers — helping all partners in the process benefit.
How did the idea for your business come to fruition?
It all started from hearing retailers ask about how they can solve this issue of conversion and cart abandonment through payments. It was something a gateway company could advise on — but not necessarily deliver a solution for. Combine this with a couple of companies using a similar model in other markets to great success — it was a clear opportunity. However, it was a mix of hard work, startup hustle, bringing the right people into the team at the right time and the support of our seed investors that have enabled us to reach today. I do think though we can only truly use the word “fruition” when we are a recognised brand with a long list of merchants. We are just starting that journey now.
Where can people go on the web to learn more about your business?
Final question. We want to thank you for the interview. We have one last question to ask you about imparting some wisdom to future entrepreneurs.
What three tips would you give to other entrepreneurs who are starting on their journey?
1. Believe in your business so much so that you have an unerring, passionate and narrow-minded view that it will be a success. Sacrifices will be made, so you better be able to live with them.
2. Hustle. Everyday. However, run your startup like a business.
3. Find great cofounders who love the idea as much as you — it’s never a solo adventure to success.