Diarmaid O Fátharta is a start-up founder based out of the PorterShed who has been spending the past 18 months or so developing a CRM system with a twist for creatives – and he’s gearing up to launch the project later this year.
“I chose Tonnta as the name, which is Irish for ‘waves’,” Diarmaid says.
“I’m trying to create a platform for artists and creatives who are engaging with people on multiple communication channels such as Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, and all the rest.
“And the problem there is that these creatives have multiple channels to keep on top of which is essential for a healthy sales funnel – which they don’t recognise as a sales funnel because they have their own ways about it – but the idea is to help them create a unified location to manage everything as opposed to hopping from one location to another; because creatives do lose sales without having a streamlined system in place.”
So, if a creative is pinged by a person on Instagram, responds to them on Gmail, and then is sent another message through a different platform, the whole communication would be streamlined and stored in a single location in Diarmaid’s unique CRM system.
It’s easy to see how this solution would be appreciated by so many people who are painters, illustrators, sculptors, graphic designers – a myriad of creatives who are already established who want to pursue their passion without losing out on revenue opportunities.
But as Diarmaid points out, he’s having to rethink how he frames these ideas – through distinctive language, in order to avoid the usual terms that some might deem clinical or cold. He’s trying to make a system that is not only useful for his prospective customers, but one that resonates with them, too, as he explains.
“Another thing that I’m trying to learn as I go along, is that artists don’t really use the same sort of language that we would in business and tech. So, even the likes of ‘prospects’, ‘leads’, and other lingo – it kind of turns them off, and it doesn’t align with their values.
“So, I feel I can bring them on a journey to teach them some of that, but I need to provide a product that aligns with their language and their needs, as well.”
The start-up idea sprung up during lockdown – and Diarmaid has carried it with him ever since. His partner, well-known Galway artist Finbar McHugh, mentioned to Diarmaid that he would always try his best to keep up with messages of interest in his artwork, but it was near impossible to do so.
And so Diarmaid set about trying to make a CRM from scratch – specifically for established creatives to get maximum value and engagement from.
The product evolved from Diarmaid’s conversations with artists as he began his market research – and he continues to do the customer discovery as he iterates, remodels, and tinkers with the idea as it comes to fruition.
“Recently, I talked to someone who’s a teacher in New York, and she teaches the Irish language. That’s her full-time job, and she works for herself, and what I learned about her is that people like her would usually have 20-30 people [clients] per week, and they would be with her for a few months. So, I wouldn’t be targetting her because the customer relationships she has are very intimate.
“It’s more so for people who go to scale and have lots of volume coming in of messages, so it’ll be interesting what comes from that.”
So, what about the overall picture, then? What does Diarmaid envision as the ultimate goal for the next while with his start-up, Tonnta?
“The overall mission would be to curate a solution – or multiple solutions – for creatives and artists – because I feel it’s a market that’s been growing and growing over the past few years.
“There’s a wave coming in. I feel the energy of it coming in, and I want to be at the helm of that wave to be able to provide at the very beginning,” Diarmaid says as he mentions CREW Digital which recently held a showcase for creative entrepreneurs, something Galway has certainly been a hotbed for, for a long time.”
In addition to creatives like artists, Diarmaid also mentions that Tonnta would be ideal for life coaches, personal trainers, and other solopreneurs. He’s keeping an open mind about what kinds of people would get benefit from his start-up CRM system, but the idea certainly stemmed a little from the fact that Diarmaid has a lot of creative friends, which gave him a view into their professional lives – people like illustrator Ciara Coogan, and Finbar.
Away from that community – and the start-up community – there is another one that is also very important to Diarmaid.
As a proud member of the LGBTQ community, Diarmaid says that he gets a strong a sense of belonging from the people within it, but it also brings him lots of joy, too, and has helped him realise that he is well-equipped to do anything he sets his mind to – no matter the obstacle he wants to overcome..
“It takes you a while to learn about yourself and get to a point of realisation of being comfortable within yourself, so I guess that by itself is a big learning. And I think it helped me throughout life in terms of being vulnerable – even creating a business is quite vulnerable in my opinion as well. So, looking back at what I’ve done, I feel ‘well, I’ve done that, so I can do this.’
“And I feel the LGBTQ community gives you a sense of belonging, but it’s almost a symbol of belonging in society as well. I know it’s for the community itself, because there needs to be safe spaces, but I do feel that it does represent a good model of appreciation and respect,” he says.
Visit tonnta.io to find out more
By Trevor Murray