Pirkx is an employee benefits platform aimed primarily at freelancers and ‘gig economy’ workers.
Members – who must either be self-employed, directors of limited companies, or employees at companies who have joined the scheme – receive a package of benefits and discounts aimed at helping to extend their income and enhance their health and financial wellbeing.
Membership costs just £4.50inc per person, per month.
Pirkx is the brainchild of, among others, co-founder Stella Smith.
“Once upon a time I worked in finance” she tells us “And after I came out the back end after the crisis, I started working from home and setting up small businesses.”
One of the businesses Stella started was a small building firm, where she quickly grew trust at the new company by taking staff out for a Christmas dinner.
“Most building firms didn’t take staff out for Christmas dinner – I didn’t know that. But when I did it, it fast forwarded trust. It also brought them into the business, it made them want to grow it and to make it successful.”
“If someone does something nice for you and they don’t have to, that makes you feel good about them” says Stella.
Keen to bring this learning to bear on her massage therapist app, she sought to provide benefits for the freelance therapists who used the app to find clients, but found it much more difficult.
Sensing an opportunity, she asked the team at the Financial Services firm she was then working at to list all of the employee benefits providers in the UK, and circle the ones related to salary deductible items.
“What was left that wasn’t circled was compelling” she tells us, especially when you consider the “four to five million people in the contingent workforce, and around 10 million more employed by the SME sector without benefits”.
Stella and her business partner Craig Caveney along with the wider team then set about building Pirkx, a platform designed specifically for delivering benefits to these groups – providing discounts, access to face to face Skype calls with GPs, links to the money advice service, and more.
“No one else is doing [employee benefits] specifically for contingent workers in the way we are, not that I’m aware of” Stella tells us.
“And we’re cheap” she adds. This is important in particular for the SME market where “cost is a main barrier”. “If you’re a coffee shop with three people on minimum wage, you can get Pirkx for £37.50excl a year each. It’s affordable.”
But Pirkx are also on a mission to offer more than just discounts.
“We’ve very much got a social impact element” Stella explains “We put more money back in your pocket, but we’re also about wellbeing – not just financial wellbeing but health. We’ve got eye tests, gyms, virtual gym classes, a GP helpline, and we’re looking to grow this out in terms of nutrition and lots more moving forward.”
This puts them in contrast to their competitors – “I think as Pirkx moves forward, we’ll separate more from our peers – I like the idea of adding training, but you’ll need to give us a chance, we’re only a few months old!”
“We’ve had an astounding journey” Stella says “We built the tech from scratch in 14 weeks last year, and we were ready to go by early autumn.”
“Obviously it was a soft launch then, testing with known connections. We had originally intended to start sales at the beginning of January, but ended up starting a little bit earlier than that.”
Instead of beginning the sales process at the end of January, Stella tells me, the company was profitable by then. The firm quickly raised its full SEIS allowance – “and a bit more” Stella adds – and the raise is being put in large part towards the UK sales team. “We have a huge sales pipeline that we need to get through” says Stella “people are already in our CRM database waiting”.
The brand has “already employed an MD for Pirkx Australia” says Stella “and we’re now looking at the US and South Africa. We think there are statistics that show that Pirkx lends itself to expansion there too. I think Pirkx is a story which resonates not just in the UK but around the world.”
“By benefitting from SEIS, we were able to attract investment at a much earlier stage that we would have been able to without it” Stella explains.
“Our objective now is to grow the business by continuing to use EIS”, funds from which, she tells us, will be used for the business’s international expansion.