Launched in 2011, Norwich-based Epos Now specialises in the design and manufacture of electronic point of sale (EPOS) technology that enables retail and hospitality businesses to automate processes, report, manage stock control, customers and is accessible anywhere via cloud computing. The company has been a major disruptor in its market, enabling thousands of business of all sizes to access cutting-edge EPOS technology and connect to over 100 third party apps like Xero, Paypal or Apple pay at affordable prices for the first time.
After opening a small bar and restaurant in Norwich, CEO and Founder Jacyn Heavens saw the opportunity to supply basic EPOS systems comprising a touchscreen computer and a dedicated software package for a fraction of the average going price.
“There came a point when I realised I didn't know how to run a hospitality business and that without any kind of help I was going to fail. I was out of my depth with accounts, VAT, staff, customers and stock etc,” Jacyn explains. “To solve this, I just assumed I could just buy some hardware and software to help me. What I found was that no no-one was selling the technology online. When I finally tracked down a specialist company that the sold the combined hardware the software packages, I couldn’t believe they were actually charging small businesses upwards of £6,000.”
Jacyn found the EPOS market cornered by providers who were selling systems as part of professional services package, with the technology wrapped up in expensive professional and services he did not want. He realised that a basic EPOS package could be developed for less and with full pricing transparency, as part of a scalable model.
With no technological background or expertise, and entirely self-funded, Jacyn set out to source external providers for the hardware and a downloadable software. Within six months the company had created a £1,199 solution that was ready for the market. He used Google adwords, then at a cost of 5p per click, to help drive searches towards the website connecting with buyers in real time.
His excitement was short-lived. A dispute with the software developer in 2012 brought the fledgling company perilously close to bankruptcy and led it to develop its own software in-house, which it chose to do on the cloud. In hindsight, it was the best thing that could have happened.
“By developing on cloud technology, which wasn’t widely used back then, we basically future-proofed the business,” says Jacyn. “We also came up with the concept of building an application programming interface (API) first because it would allow us to build up relations with partners that could extend our open-sourced platform any way they wanted. We built it with the app store in mind and we made it a completely scalable system.”
The company initially struggled to afford developers and was fortunate to reach an agreement with the University of East Anglia to hire graduate developers free of charge for the first few months. “We didn’t realise how expensive software development could be, and we were growing the whole business organically from day one.”
Jacyn’s embraced technology and automation early on because he could not afford experienced people or legacy systems in areas such as accounting, telephony and HR. Because of this low-cost approach the company was able to grow organically without external funding, and has retained 100% ownership ever since. “We took all of that learning, which enabled us to become one of the UK’s fastest-growing businesses, and built it into the core of our product to allow our customers to do the same.”
The new solution rapidly gained market share rapidly. By early 2016 more than 30,000 retail and hospitality businesses were using Epos Now, which also boasts a 9+/10 rating on Trustpilot. The business offers customers 24/7 support and unlimited 1-on-1 coaching and training, and has onsite engineers available throughout the UK. “We are proud that companies like Universal, Westfield, Disney and Tempur beds use our systems,” says Jacyn.
Epos Now employs over 320 people across the UK and US and has prioritised its global expansion, opening its first overseas office in Orlando, Florida in 2015. It has also received multiple recognitions, including the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Innovation 2016 -- the UK’s highest accolade for business success, and a 13th place ranking in the Sunday Times Tech Track 100.
Jacyn describes Epos Now as customer-focused business that works hard but also knows how to enjoy itself. Its open plan offices feature a pool table, arcade machine and a wireless music system to help people relax and become more creative. Every quarter gather together to role play customer situations that have gone bad for them, to see how things might have been handled differently. Jacyn also organises staff visits to see customers on site so they can appreciate how important their business is to them.
“The biggest risk to the business is not educating new team members as it grows. When things go wrong it can have a catastrophic effect on our customers and we need everyone in our business to understand how much responsibility we have on our shoulders,” says Jacyn. “At the end of the day, all team members must understand the company’s goals and what they are fighting for. There must be a tangible correlation or you won’t get the emotional buy in. I see so many businesses get that wrong and if you do, you might as well not have hired them in the first place.”