A tech entrepreneur is aiming to transform the way we tip and boost transparency around who actually benefits from our gratuities.

Latvian Renate Kalnina founded web app Gratuu in 2015 after an embarrassing situation where she realised she didn’t have any cash to leave a tip in a restaurant in Manchester’s Northern Quarter – and the venue didn’t have the facility to leave one electronically.

The beta version of the platform is currently being tested in restaurants, including Spanish eatery La Bandera in Manchester city centre.

“That experience resonated with my personal experience when I was working as a waitress 11 years ago – I always saw the tips that were rightfully mine,” she told BusinessCloud editor Chris Maguire in a podcast you can listen to below.

LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL

“Combined with everything that was happening in the industry at the time, it made sense to come up a way for people to transparently and fairly tip those who deserve it.

“When it is an electronic transfer, you cannot follow it – and often staff can’t follow it either.

“With service charges there is immediately a business overhead from an administrative and National Insurance point of view.

“So staff are losing even more of the gratuity money.”

Salford-based Gratuu, which came through NatWest's Entrepreneurial Spark accelerator, is a collaborative partnership between Kalnina and technical lead Lee Hazlehurst.

The firm earns its income by charging a fixed fee of 3.5 per cent on tip donations.

“It is very simple to use. Everything is automated,” she continued. “It takes the admin and compliance issue away from businesses so they don’t have to worry about it.

“If customer service teams share their tips they can electronically receive the money in their bank accounts on a weekly basis – they decide how they are going to split it.

“Customers can also see how tips are split – there is full transparency.”

Kalnina, who came to the UK 11 years ago, has a global vision for the business.

“The United States is the ultimate market for tipping gratuities – we’ve already had early conversations with the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce,” she said.

“They find our proposition very attractive.”

She also works as a lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University and has bootstrapped Gratuu for the last two and a half years.

“The glamour associated with being an entrepreneur and having your own business is all smoke and air!” she said.

“It’s hard work, tears and sweat, disappointment and rejection – and you need to keep the strength to keep going.”

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