Bookinghero, Startup Journey: from 0 to 1

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StartupReporter publishes a new article in the series “Startup Journey: from 0 to 1”. In this series of articles, we would like to show founders not only through their innovative projects but also by talking about their personalities and the team.

Oleksandr Komarevych: Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your role in the company, and what is your startup about?

Rafik Bouanik: – My name is Rafik Bouanik; I am 46 years old from Denmark and the founder of Bookinghero

At Bookinghero, our mission is clear: to bridge the gap between the beauty and wellness industry and consumers, simplify the booking process, save time for all, and promote overall well-being. Our vision is to become the number one shortcut to beauty and wellness.

We aspire to create an all-in-one platform solution that enhances the experience for both users and beauty and wellness salons. We aim to streamline operations, saving time and money, particularly in marketing efforts, while enhancing quality and reducing costs.

Bookinghero platform

Oleksandr: Where did the idea come from?

Rafik: – For 20 years, I have worked professionally in the IT industry, but I have always known that I wanted to start a business. My vision came to life after the pandemic. I wanted to help and support salon owners after the challenging period of COVID-19 shutdowns, salon bankruptcies, and skyrocketing unemployment among salon staff.

Bookinghero began as an idea to be a valuable partner for beauty and wellness booking systems in Denmark. After interviewing 36 clinics/saloons, we developed our platform to understand their challenges after the pandemic, particularly in marketing and occupancy. 

Oleksandr: Why did you wait twenty years, then?

Rafik: – I wasn’t quite ready to jump into a startup. Having a stable income, family life, and full-time work takes up a lot of your time and makes you forget your dreams and desires. But when the time was right, I had no doubts about jumping into startup life. I got my idea approved by skilled entrepreneurs and then set about assembling a team and making a plan.

Oleksandr: Why did you not dare to start your first company right after university? In your case, did it come from having some role models in your family?

Rafik: – Like many other students, I was already heavily in student debt when I finished university. This means the first thing you should look for is a job so you can start paying off your student loan.

I don’t come from an entrepreneurial family, so throwing myself into a startup was pattern-breaking. 

Oleksandr: What is your advice for people who want to create a company and are looking for co-founders but don’t know how to find them?

Rafik: – When you start a project, you need to talk to people. I have used LinkedIn quite a lot, and my small network is. It is always a risk to involve people in a project. Only after you have worked with them for a few months can you see if they perform as expected and if there is a match. So my advice: talk to many people, be open, and don’t be afraid to tell them about your idea. 

Oleksandr: What’s next for Bookinghero and the product you are building?

Rafik: – We are about to raise our first round of capital, as our ambition is to expand beyond Denmark before the end of the year. In addition, we will also build a new AI lab, which will develop many new solutions for our platform and will have between 30-50 employees. 

Oleksandr: When you speak with your clients and sales prospects, which phrases are usually the most convincing for them? 

Rafik: – Sell your empty chairs in your salon to attract new customers for free, and use cheap marketing to target customers looking for your services.

Oleksandr: How would you describe your team in one word?

Rafik: – HEROES!

Oleksandr: Speaking about the team. Could you tell us about the uniqueness Imad and Sebastian have as co-founders? 

Rafik: – Imed is a technology guru. I will come up with the idea, but not often the finished technical solution, but Imed does. If the solution does not exist, he will invent it himself. There are absolutely no limits to what he cannot develop.

Sebastian on the other hand is my sales machine. He understands things without me having to say it, always comes up with pre-sales ideas that I haven’t thought about, and has the business gene that I don’t have. 

Oleksandr: What makes you unique in your role?

Rafik: – I have a complete overview of the project and am always trying to think far into the future. I am the type of person who believes in a solution several times before implementing it. I have lots of experience with solutions from my previous jobs and a reasonably good understanding of what the end user and the customer want. And I always think innovatively.

Oleksandr: Often, in an interview, I want to understand why you chose a specific project or problem and why you are so interested in this specific topic. Going a long way around, this brings me to the following questions: What kind of child were you? And, did you have someone who influenced you when growing up?

Rafik: – My childhood was a bit like everyone else’s. There were lots of sports and way too many friends. Only when my little brother got a computer did I become interested in IT. I think I was 17 years old. I wanted to be good at IT, and at that time, there was no Google. So I bought a big IT encyclopedia book and spent countless hours reading about IT technologies and terms.

I was fascinated by Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and their way of dominating the IT world. 

Oleksandr: Can you describe your conversation with your wife when you first mentioned wanting to start Bookinghero?

Rafik: – We had dinner one night when my son was 2. She was very supportive in her response. She thought the idea was good, but since she is a microbiologist and does not come from an entrepreneurial family, she had no idea that getting a startup up and running is a complex and long road.

Oleksandr: What can you suggest or offer as tips to founders during the “low points” a startup sometimes experiences?

Rafik: – There will always be periods when you feel “low points” about your project. It is a must to find mentors who can help you constantly see solutions and provide perspective from a different angle. I found a mentor called Kasper Hansen, who has been in the startup world in Denmark for 20 years. I could call him at 9 p.m. and get advice in 2 minutes, which gave me new energy and angled my thoughts differently. 

Oleksandr: Can you recommend some books?

Rafik: – Yeah, some of the Danish entrepreneur books that I have read several times and that have influenced me include Jesper Buch “Kick-ass – from Basement to Billion”, Martin Buch Thorborg “Entrepreneur Till I Die”, Morten Strunge “An entrepreneurial story about betting everything, losing everything, challenging the big ones … and winning in the end”, Werner Valeur – “From food packages to millions” Andreas Dirksen “Sign up”, Casper Blom “Just F*** do it”.  they are highly recommended for new entrepreneurs.

Oleksandr: What purchase of €100 or less has positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?

Rafik: – Believe it or not, I haven’t spent 100 euros on myself in the last 2 years. All my finances go to the project. But if I go back to before starting my project, it was probably a pair of wireless headphones so I could listen to some podcasts.

Oleksandr: If you had a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why?

Rafik: – “From Zero to Bookinghero” will show the evolution of a small salon shop with 1 employee into a huge salon with 15 or 20 employees. That is what Bookinghero represents. 

Oleksandr: What did you learn from being a founder?

Rafik: – What I have learned in the past 2 years on my startup journey I could never have learned at any university. You learn to find solutions yourself, think outside the box, and especially the finances you need to be in control when you bootstrap it all yourself.

You also learn to look at the competition to find out what works and how previous successful people have done it. It’s like reverse engineering when you see a solution that is just perfect.

Oleksandr: – What would you like to wish the readers?

Rafik: – If you have an idea, believe in yourself, do your homework, and ally yourself with people who are good at what they do. Expect to spend countless hours and never give up. Then you will make it. 

Bookinghero co-founders
Bookinghero co-founders