When Neil Jirele graduates from the University of Iowa in 2016 his list of achievements won’t be limited to a degree in Finance and a minor in Spanish. During his tenure at Iowa, he also became a business owner, founding AppyHour, a mobile technology app that connects local businesses to their customers.
Having just released the newest version of AppyHour for iPhone and Android, Jirele and his team are poised to further refine the experience for both business owners and students, and eventually introduce the app to other metro areas. We caught up with Neil to learn more about AppyHour and his vision for the company.
Tell us about your mobile app, AppyHour.
AppyHour is an app designed to give establishments in the Iowa City area an easy, efficient and measurable way of informing customers about local deals and specials. Business owners can log into the platform and upload scheduled deals – or “on the fly” specials – and customers can simply open the app to see what deals they can take advantage of in their vicinity.
What was your inspiration for the app?
AppyHour started because – as a student – I saw a need for this type of platform. Before AppyHour it was a time consuming and tedious process of scouring the internet to see what bars and restaurants are having deals. I also saw a different side to the issue – the fact that business owners were having a hard time communicating their deals and specials with current social media platforms. It takes a long time to build a following and once you have one, you’re only pushing your content out to that limited audience. We saw an opportunity for an app like AppyHour because both groups needed a better solution.
What’s it been like owning your own business while being a full-time student?
My background is in finance so I didn’t have any technology experience when I started AppyHour. But I’ve been working on this for 1½ years now and I’ve learned a ton about software and the software development process. As a founder my role is taking the idea from a simple idea to a reality. That includes everything from drawing out what the platform will look like, building the team, coming up with financing, handling marketing and creating an overall strategy.
At the moment I’m the only student working on AppyHour. My co-founder has a full-time job but continues working diligently on making AppyHour the best it can be!
AppyHour is still relatively new. What are your plans for the future?
As of right now, the app is free for establishments and is local to Iowa City area. As we gather more feedback on the current version of the app from both customers and establishments in this area, we will be able to refine the app and begin to introduce it to other areas. We’re still in the early stages but we have a big vision for the company and are excited to see what’s in store for AppyHour’s promising future.
How did you select MidWestOne for your business banking needs?
What brought me to MidWestOne was a referral from a friend, but what kept me here was the amazing support from the employees at the Iowa City location. There are several locations in downtown Iowa City where we work from and the people we’ve worked with are very knowledgeable and sincere. Our banker – Kara Sabo – has provided incredible customer service and we can tell she really cares about our company and us being successful.