The best business ideas come from solving meaningful problems and hoolah is a prime example. Joining us on the Future of Work, Now podcast, Stuart Thornton, CEO and Co-Founder of hoolah, shared that the fintech startup was created to help retailers solve four critical challenges.

These are getting customers to visit their store, getting them to buy, getting them to put more in their basket, and getting them to come back and buy again.

“What we’ve built is a buy-now-pay-later platform that connects merchants and consumers and offers an interest free repayment solution that allows them to split their payments into three over a sixty-day period. It aligns to consumers’ salary payments and budgeting, and has been helpful at a time when people are concerned about money,” said Stuart.

hoolah also promotes a more sustainable way of shopping through a commitment to “responsible affordability”.  Stuart talks to podcast host Simone Heng about this concept and about his journey as an entrepreneur.

Here are highlights from the conversation:


Where did the idea for hoolah come from?

I worked for a wonderful payments company and enjoyed what I was doing, but I kept hearing from merchants and retailers who wanted to solve those four critical challenges. At the same time, the buy-now-pay-later movement was growing in Europe and in Australia.

This was all back in 2016 and it took a few years to think about how we could launch this business in Asia.


Did you wonder why no one was occupying this niche in Asia?

The reality is that while Asia is a beautiful part of the world to live in, it is not an easy place when it comes to payments or technology.

Every single country is different and that ultimately creates a challenge. However, it is a wonderful opportunity if you can solve that challenge. This made it exciting when the light bulb flickered on and we had the idea of bringing this solution to Asia and solving these retail problems.


What’s unique about your approach?

The lending space can be aggressive, with business models that generate money from people experiencing bad debt or going into default. Right from the beginning, we wanted responsible affordability to be part of our values and this sits within our vision statement. We don’t want people to get into debt and it is in fact disadvantageous to our business model for that to happen. 

Ours is a more sustainable approach to shopping and that comes with an element of education and making sure that consumers are using hoolah in a responsible way.


How does this align to your own story? Is there a reason why you wanted to create a business with a purpose like this?

My father had his own business, which went through good times and bad times. He was always vigilant with money and very frugal. My mum balanced that with the idea that it is okay to want nice things from time to time. I think that discipline comes into how we position hoolah.

It is okay to want things from time to time and to go out and enjoy your lives, but you need to do it responsibly.”

Stuart Thornton | CEO and Co-Founder of hoolah


As an entrepreneur, how did you approach building your company culture?

Culture is something we thought about from the beginning as we felt it was important to create the right foundation. It  is a decision that has served us quite well. We have a great bunch of people in the business and we have merchants who want to work with us just because of the passion our team has for what we do. This culture is something we’ve really invested in and we even have a name for our team, which is the hoolahgans. 

When we think about what makes a good hoolaghan, customer obsession plays a big part. We also want people to come in and treat everyone else as they would expect to be treated and treat the company as though it is their own. We try to give back by creating a great environment for people to just be themselves and live their lives. 


Listen to the full podcast to learn more about hoolah and how it's changing the way we shop and pay for goods, online and in-store. You can also learn how the fintech startup is scaling with Salesforce here

Access the podcast on demand at our podcasts page, Spotify, and iTunes. You can also listen over at the Singapore Community Radio Twitch page, Facebook page, and website

Tune in at 1:00 p.m. SGT Friday, March 12 to hear from our next guest, Justin Peyton, Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer APAC, Wunderman Thompson.

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