by Kweli Wright
Birame Sock has always been a creator and an idea person. Originally from Senegal, she was just a teen living in Niger when she started to flex her skills as an entrepreneur. The very warm temperatures there gave her an idea to make frozen juices in her mother’s freezer and then hire someone to sell them in the streets. A businesswoman was born.
Fast-forward to 2002, and Sock’s next idea was set to up a business for music applications for cellphones called Musicphone. It was one of the earliest mobile-based music sending and recognition services. She sold that company in 2007. Afterwards, Sock developed an idea after seeing friends with enough paper receipts to fill a shopping bag. Instead of carrying receipts around, why not have one central place that could digitally store receipts and do away with waste and increase organization?
Today, this African tech entrepreneur is the founder and CEO of Third Solutions and the MyReceipts platform. We got a chance to chat with Sock during this busy holiday season, to talk about her growing company and the best business advice she can ever give.
TAP: In a nutshell, what does MyReceipts do?
B.S.: We provide consumers with the ability to receive their receipts online and use them for merchandise exchanges, keeping track of product warranties, and keeping records of purchases so they’ll be able to do their taxes more easily.
Besides there being value in getting your receipts online, MyReceipts eliminates paper waste. On the other side of things, merchants [get] to track customer behavior and target customers for marketing purposes.
TAP: How did you begin developing MyReceipts?
After I sold my MusicPhone company in 2007, I launched Third Solutions. As I love to say: “It was started from my bed and sold it from my bed”… because I never worked at a desk. I had been thinking about the concept of keeping receipts online since 2004 and decided to start Third Solutions as the main company.
TAP: Was there a specific thing that made you take MyReceipts from an idea to an actual business?
I started to realize quickly that consumer profiles were very valuable to businesses. We did a few beta tests and launched in Whole Foods in Silver Springs Maryland in late 2009.
TAP: Why might a customer use MyReceipts? Is it available everywhere?
The simple need to use receipts for a return or exchange or doing your taxes. The business traveler may want to use it for [her] expense reports.We’re working hard to add more services to MyReceipts in the near future. For example, if you’re the consumer who needs advice on health and nutrition, you can track the food products you have been purchasing and might be able to keep count of the amount of sugar you’re consuming or vitamin D in the foods that you buy. It’s about what you can do with the information and, at the same time, save on wasting paper.
Also, a number of consumers are looking to use MyReceipts because of the dangerous chemical BPA, which is found in the powdery film on receipt paper. Right now, we’re available at select Whole Foods stores, but can also be used with your existing accounts at Staples. Best Buy, The Home Depot, Office Depot, Wal-Mart and many other stores.
TAP: As a customer, do you simply decline a receipt at the register?
With any participating store, you have the option to decline the paper receipt and just provide your loyalty card or other identifying information. The information is then automatically stored online. For some of the retailers, as we build more relationships you can add the loyalty card and we can add the receipt. For example, if you make a purchase online with Amazon.com, you can then go to myreceipts.com and link the accounts.