Later this month, Peter Jenkinson will compete against some of Ireland’s freshest-faced entrepreneurs in Enterprise Ireland’s Founder of the Year competition. But the business he is running has roots that go back more than two decades.
Jenkinson is chief executive of Wrkit, a HR solutions company which offers a suite of online options to firms that want to give rewards and bonuses to their employees. It has more than 400 clients, employs 25 people, and has been given high-potential start-up status by Enterprise Ireland.
It was established in 2017, but its origins are in Jenkinson’s previous business, Groupschemes, which offered lifestyle benefits to companies and was enjoying a decent degree of success.
Jenkinson, a former pilot, set up Groupschemes in order to achieve better deals on insurance for himself and his colleagues in the airline industry, but expanded to serve other sectors.
“We were in the space for a long time, albeit with a very narrow product. The change to Wrkit was partly led by our vision, but also by what customers were saying to us,” he said.
“With some regularity, various clients in Ireland and Britain were asking: ‘Would you ever think about doing a wellbeing tool? Would you ever think about doing a learning tool? Would you ever think about doing recognition programmes?’”
A decision was made to dramatically pivot the business in order to realise what Jenkinson and his colleagues believed was the potential for significant growth.
It switched from offering lifestyle savings only to running an online portal with six modules, including wellbeing and recognition programmes, which employers can use to keep their workers engaged.
Lifestyle benefits like vouchers, e-codes and shopping cards are still available to Wrkit’s clients, but so too are exercise classes delivered via video, workshops on subjects including leadership, and online courses in everything from photography to financial trading.
Before making the change, the company was growing by between 2 and 5 per cent every year. But after 2017 things snowballed for Wrkit, to the point where it has achieved more than 25 per cent yearly growth in recent years. “It was the right change of tack,” Jenkinson said.
While they already counted Apple, IBM and Musgrave’s among their clients in Ireland, Wrkit’s founders now also count Deliveroo, FedEx, Fitbit and more among their customers.
“In 2017, our business was 80 per cent Ireland, 20 per cent UK. By the end of this year, we’ll be 35 per cent in Ireland and 35 per cent in the UK, with the remaining 30 per cent in other markets,” Jenkinson said.
“Since the change, we have targeted 25 per cent growth every year, and we’ve achieved that. This year, we will have achieved 35 per cent growth.”