Thuli Hlongwane, a former IT Director tapped into the entrepreneurial market by launching two apps that connect people to the beauty therapy industry. Amongst other things, the apps connect salon and spa owners with beauty service providers and customers to salons and spas within specific geographical locations across the country.
PRIM-U is for customers while Primlancer is for freelancers. Launched in June in Android and iOS, there are currently 44 service providers in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town registered on both apps.
From being appointed as Head of Shared Application to Technology Director, Hlongwane is now the Managing Director of technology platform.
After twenty years as an IT programmer for companies like Woolworths and Pearson South Africa, she walked away from the comforts of the corporate world at the end of 2017 to establish a new app. Called Prim-U, the platform offers an Uber-like service for those who want a manicure, massage or make-up session.
IT News Africa had an opportunity to have a chat with Thuli as she gave insights on the new app.
1. What brought the idea of venturing into the industry and how was the industry like when you started out? How did you identify the need for this app?
The idea was brought about by the gap that I saw in the market for on-demand beauty appointment bookings for the customer’s convenience as well as a need for the beauticians to add flexibility to their working schedules. The concept is still very new, but people are receptive to the idea. I identified the need because of the passion I have for disruptive technology changes combined with my personal need for such services.
2. What does the app offer?
Prim-U App is for consumers to view, book and pay for services. Primlancer App is for the freelancers to get notifications and directions as well as managing their bookings and timeslots. It features a chat functionality for the Prim-U community that is accessible 24/7.
3. Could you unpack how the app works?
It is a booking platform for beauty therapy where the end-customer will see an aggregated view of freelancers based on timeslot availability and price per treatments. Payments are made using a secured link. The freelancer will also have the ability to view their bookings, schedule timeslots and update their product information. Available locations are also visible to freelancers if their customers would like to make use of a salon/spa/hotel/guest house nearby. The services, locations and customers can be rated after each treatment.
4. What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in SA (focusing on mobile apps in SA)?
Introducing apps as a female entrepreneur in a male-dominated IT industry. Funding is not readily available. Introducing change in a forever moving technology environment.
5. Could you unpack the challenges and journey of designing/building/maintaining/growing a successful mobile app (and what it all really entails) constant changes in the IT world?
Transforming the concept into a viable product. Finding the right partner to work with in developing the product. Testing and rolling out the product. The other challenge is marketing and getting funds to grow the product.
6. How do you plan to add value to the beauty therapy industry through the use of the Prim-U mobile apps in SA?
Give professional entrepreneurs access and exposure through technology. The current salons/spas that are not operating at maximum capacity will have an opportunity to use the Apps to improve their productivity and gain access to customers who they would not normally have had access to.
By Neo Sesinye
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