2016 was a big year for Darren Tenkorang. He entered and won StartUp Sussex with his app TRIM-IT. He graduated from the University of Sussex in Business and Management. And to top it all off, he took up a place on the New Entrepreneurs Foundation Scheme, being selected as one of the top 50 young entrepreneurs in the UK.

The vision for TRIM-IT is to revolutionise the barber industry. Darren and his team have created a marketplace to help guys find the best barber or stylist at the most convenient time and location. The app is designed for these fast-paced times where men are ever more conscious about their appearance. The key benefits to barbers of using TRIM-IT are an increase in sales, an improved customer experience and an added revenue stream. For users, it saves time waiting in the queue, rewards them for their loyalty and gives them a more informed choice.

Darren thinks they won because “the StartUp Sussex judges liked the simplicity of the idea and the problem we were solving. No one likes waiting hours in a long queue and I could articulate that in a very clear and fun way. Also, the fact that I wasn’t coming with a raw idea. I actively showed the judges that the team and I were capable of building and selling the platform.”

Darren told us that there were several challenges getting TRIM-IT up and running. “Credibility is always a challenge for any start-up. The idea may sound good to our customers but without a proper track record it’s difficult for potential customers to trust we can deliver on our promises. We have tackled that by investing heavily on branding and building a professional image of ourselves.”

There have been many successes with the venture to date. So much so, that Darren found it hard to choose just a couple. “Our first paying customer was a big deal for us. As a founder, it’s so easy to get focused on the tech. Getting validation that someone not only finds value in what you have created, but is prepared to exchange cash as a token of appreciation is crazy. Winning StartUp Sussex was another. It gave our whole team a confidence boost, the money was great, but it was also another form of validation that people believe in us. I learned a lot during the programme. Especially about testing our assumptions and the importance of validation. I learned that it was key to be myself and that people buy into you when that happens. And the power of persistence.”

It looks like 2017 and beyond continues to see a bright future for Darren and the TRIM-IT team. They were crowned Commercial winners of the Big Idea Challenge 2017 run by London Metropolitan University Accelerator. They’re currently on their seed funding round. They have over 320 barbers signed up to the platform, with some as far away as Spain and America and will soon be launching a new service called ALINE – a digital queueing system.