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Meantime help Eggbase go free range
A Cumbrian agri-IT business has grown by 400% and expanded its reach from Cumbria to across the UK and Ireland, and even as far as New Zealand, thanks to a cloud-based software application developed in collaboration with Meantime IT.Eggbase Ltd provides a suite of software applications that help egg producers, pullet rearers and egg packers to manage their flocks and track eggs through the system. Launched in 2011 by owner Anne Fleck, the Eggbase software covers all aspects of egg production, from monitoring bird and egg numbers to managing feed and water consumption, medical processes and legislative compliance.
A qualified chemical engineer and expert in custom-built databases, Anne's egg management software was an immediate success with producers in the north of England, and within a few months it was being used to monitor and manage 20 flocks. However, its popularity and the speed with which the software took off proved a stumbling block for Anne, who found herself spending the majority of her time travelling around northern England installing the system.
"The problem was I was running around like the proverbial fly," says Anne. "My clients were spread across the north of England and they all had different hardware, different operating systems and differing levels of computer skills.
"When Eggbase is installed and up-and-running, it creates efficiencies for all concerned. But I was spending a huge amount of time - around three full days a week - travelling to see clients and it just wasn't an efficient use of my time."
A victim of Eggbase's huge success, Anne found herself unable to grow her business outside the north of England. She was limited geographically by the distance she could travel, and the time she spent on the road and with clients was preventing her from developing her products and approaching potential new clients.
So, in 2013, she approached fellow Cumbrian business, Meantime IT, specialists in creating bespoke cloud-based software. Based in Kendal, Meantime's systems create efficiencies and streamline processes for clients as diverse as South Lakeland District Council and Heathrow Airports Ltd.
"I knew I was different to Meantime's usual customers, in that I already had a system that worked, and worked very well," says Anne. "What I really needed was for them to create a cloud-based system that didn't need me to be physically there to install it for each client.
"I spent a lot of time researching IT companies, because it was really important to me to find someone who could take what I'd built and smoothly migrate it to a cloud-based system. The software is very personal to me and I have a lot invested in it. I was thrilled when I discovered Meantime and found out that they were right here in Cumbria because I never thought for a second that I'd find an IT company based here, who could do what I wanted, within my budget. I thought I'd have to outsource to a different continent."
However, after an initial meeting with Meantime's MD Fenner Pearson, Anne was confident that the IT company would be able to take her successful software and turn it into a scalableproduct that would enable her to expand her business beyond all expectations.
Fenner explains: "This is the sort of project Meantime excels at. Many small and medium sized businesses become too big too quickly and end up tying themselves in knots trying to deal with the resulting increase in admin. It's not always possible to take on extra staff to deal with an influx in business, and the staff that are there are so busy doing repetitive tasks, they can't focus on growing their business.
"Anne's correct in that it's unusual for someone to come to us with a fully-fledged product, but what we were able to do was take her Microsoft Access-based system and create cloud-based software to allow multi-level user access, automate tasks, allow remote access, and give Anne the ability to deliver online training. The result is a system that can be accessed by all its users from anywhere in the world, with Anne able to deal with her clients from her office in Cumbria."
The cloud-based system has transformed the way Anne and her customers work, and the business has grown by a huge 400% in just 12 months.
"When I approached Meantime, the software was being used to monitor 20 flocks," explains Anne. "Now, it's over 100. Not only that, I've been able to expand into the whole of the UK and Eire, and am currently moving into other parts of Europe. I can now offer the Eggbase software globally and to a much wider range of end users.
"The whole USP of Eggbase now is that it's online, and it's accessible anywhere from any device. It has different user levels so producers can manage remote farms, they can put those farms into groups for benchmarking, and they can access data at the touch of a button and view it on their smartphone, even if they're on the other side of the world."
Although Anne has been able to expand into other countries with Meantime's help, she finds their presence in Cumbria a huge comfort.
"It's very important to me that Meantime is in Cumbria. I can sit down with the team and discuss things over a cup of coffee, and they really listen to what I need and are excellent at interpreting it. The attention to detail is very satisfying, they're logical, they're thorough and I can't speak highly enough of them.
Thanks to Meantime, I've freed up three days a week that I can spend growing the business, and I've been able to take it to a level I never thought possible."
Anne Fleck, Eggbase Ltd.
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