In conversation with Stampify’s CEO, Conor Leen

Stampify, a company set up by Trinity graduates, aims to replace the coffee-stamped loyalty card with a more charitable approach

Stampify is giving the humble loyalty card a remodel as it shifts the focus away from free coffees, and, instead, aims to tackle world hunger. Founded by Trinity graduate and former BESS student, Conor Leen, the non-for-profit loyalty card has gone from strength to strength since its launch in October 2018. Having initially launched in five coffee shops in Dublin, the card can now be used between 13 different outlets across the city, with plans to expand nationally within the next few months. Participating businesses are not limited to coffee shops, with Stampify partners including Meltdown in Temple Bar, Arctic Stone in Blackrock, and Flax & Beets in the Powerscourt Centre. The team behind the new initiative is led by Leen, the CEO, and includes five other Trinity graduates. Leen sat down with Trinity News to discuss the concept behind Stampify, the ups and downs of the development process to date and the team’s plans for the future.

The idea behind the card is simple; you get a free card from any participating outlet and this card is then stamped any time you make a purchase – the same way a standard loyalty card operates. However, instead of receiving a free coffee after collecting nine stamps, you purchase your coffee and from this revenue the Stampify partner business makes a donation to Stampify. This donation is then given by Stampify to Mary’s Meals, a charity that aims to end child poverty in the developing world by providing “life-changing meals to some of the world’s poorest children every day they attend school.”  

“This donation is then given by Stampify to Mary’s Meals, a charity that aims to end child poverty in the developing world.”

Whilst it has taken months of hard work, brainstorming and several setbacks to have gotten Stampify to where it is today, the origins of the idea are also relatively simple. It was during Leen’s internship in Accenture during the summer of his third year in College that the original idea for Stampify was formed. Upon realising that his Tolteca loyalty card was full, Leen received a free burrito. On his cycle home he passed a homeless man on the street and it dawned on him that “I didn’t even know I had this for free, like I was ready to pay… whereas for this man sitting on the side of the street [the burrito] could have meant so much more to him.” For Leen, the fact that he received a free burrito was a welcome surprise but he admitted it was something he could have well afforded to have paid for; a luxury but by no means a necessity.  

This encounter proved to be somewhat of a “lightbulb” moment, leading Leen to consider the value of loyalty cards for customers and businesses, and the relative costs of a free coffee to businesses. According to Leen, the whole model rests on the basic economic concept of opportunity cost as ”a cup of coffee might take 20 cent to make…but it’s not just the 20 cent, it’s that you’re giving a free cup of coffee whereas a customer would have paid €3.” This is the basis of the main selling point of Stampify to businesses as instead of losing out on a full €3, they donate a proportion of that to Stampify to feed a child for a week thereby “increasing their revenue as opposed to their current system while at the same time supporting charity”.

“The development process from idea to launch has had its ups and downs for the team.”

Having kept the idea at the back of his mind for over a year, Leen got the chance to spend time working on it during the period between finishing his degree in Trinity and starting his new full-time role in Google. After deciding that the concept was something he wanted to pursue, he got in touch with five of his friends and fellow Trinity graduates, and formed a team in October 2017. Their time in Trinity proved beneficial to them in their new venture as many of the team were involved in society life during their time here; Leen himself was on the committee for the Trinity Cancer Society during his Junior and Senior Sophister years, with another team member having served as President of the society. Leen also served as the President of the Trinity Entrepreneurial Society (TES) in his final year. All six team members work full-time jobs, but have found a structure that works for them which allows for balance between their work life and Stampify. Each member has a specific role and clear responsibilities with the six of them “being good for splitting out the work, which you do have to be because we’re all working full-time”.

The development process from idea to launch has had its ups and downs for the team. The original idea formation proved to be one of the simplest steps for Stampify but according to Leen “the idea is only 10% of it, execution is what matters”. Initial difficulties included finding a charity to partner with them, as well as time delays due to communicating with consultants, such as their designer. The team also faced a major setback when their original business model had to be completely reassessed. The idea for the first few months focused more on making an impact within the local area, as Leen described: “When you complete [the card], the business will donate a burrito and provide it to a member of the homeless community.” This formed the basis for Stampify until June 2018 at which stage the team were informed that due to health and safety regulations, that system would not be possible. From there, it was back to the drawing board which mounted stress on the team. Leen admitted, “I’ve never been so stressed in my life, but I was also really enjoying working on it.” With help from Trinity Professor Sheila Cannon, the idea of raising funds and donating them to a charity replaced the original concept. While this pivot within the project took time, Leen believes that “where we are now is way better than where we would have been otherwise”.

Leen and his team have ambitious plans for the coming year; they plan to scale nationally within the next few months and also extend the concept behind Stampify beyond coffee shops and into the restaurant industry. On the back of their recent success, Leen has some practical advice for anyone with an idea or aspirations of becoming a budding entrepreneur. He encourages anyone with a vague idea to “spend a few evenings or weekends sitting down and actually thinking about it”. He believes that the next step is to just take the plunge, but he offers a word of warning; “It’s only when you go to do it that you get an appreciation for how hard entrepreneurship is.” Above all else, Leen says do not travel the road alone. “If you have an idea, go for it, but the important thing is don’t go for it alone. Doing entrepreneurship alone is not possible.”

Mary Hartnett

Mary Hartnett is the current Managing Editor of Trinity News. She is a Senior Sophister BESS student, and a former Trinity Life Editor.