Two best friends. One incredible mission. The story of Blue Light Card.
As Blue Light Card welcomes Australia into its global community, co-founders Tom Dalby and Steve Denny reflect on what the business has achieved over the past 14 years – and what it means to them and millions of frontline workers to be here.
Blue Light Card, the discount service exclusively for frontline workers and emergency volunteers, launched in the UK in 2008. But its origins started much earlier, when two eight-year-old boys became best mates.
Steve Denny and Tom Dalby met at primary school, and quickly bonded “We delivered newspapers and did other odd jobs. Even at that age we knew we wanted to work together,” remembers Steve.
After high school the boys went in different directions – Tom to university and then work, Steve into the police force – but they remained close. It was in a session at the gym that the seed for Blue Light Card was planted.
As a police officer Steve had seen a gap between members of the public wanting to show their gratitude to frontline workers, and how workers could accept discounts or savings ethically. “Officers were discouraged from accepting small discounts because it was seen by the force as bribery. But the community and local businesses really wanted to say thank you,” he explains.
Tom understood the public’s need to show support for the officers, doctors, nurses, paramedics and others in the community who often put themselves in harm’s way for people they don’t know. “I was at Steve’s swearing-in ceremony when he became an officer, and there was a lot of talk about the community being there to support these incredible people who do this really hard job. Whenever Steve had to go to a call, he was always going to a bad situation. People don’t call the police because everything’s fine. I think it takes a very strong person to go into the situations that Steve had to attend.”
But it isn’t just police officers who do a tough job most of us couldn’t cope with. As Tom and Steve were inspired by what Blue Light Card could mean to more people, healthcare workers were an important inclusion, especially for Steve.
“When we had complications with our first child it was a real worry,” he recalls. “But the hospital staff were absolutely incredible, just an absolute seamless team who worked brilliantly. I don’t even know how they did it, but it was amazing to watch. And everyone will need that kind of help sometimes – hopefully not often, but sometimes. So, we knew first-hand why people wanted to give back and say thank you. But there was no way to do that. Blue Light Card was the answer.”
Making a difference to real people every day
Tom and Steve launched Blue Light Card in the UK from Steve’s spare room in 2008. Their childhood dream of running a business together became a reality and Tom admits their different skill sets have made for a great partnership. “We always had a lot in common, but our differences really complemented each other when it came to Blue Light Card. I’m more of a people person and so tend to focus on our partners, whereas Steve is great at tech – and, honestly, he just gets stuff done.”
By August 2014 Blue Light Card had 100,000 members, and four years later it hit the 1-million mark. Today the UK business has 2. 9 million members, and partners with some of the biggest brands globally, including P&O Cruises, The Body Shop, and Hello Fresh to provide discounts and savings. In 2022 alone the company saved frontline workers over £100 million. While the business has changed and grown, the mission stays the same: a commitment to do more for the frontline workers Blue Light Card is here to support, making their lives easier, more affordable, and more fun.
Real people, real lives
While the co-founders focus their efforts on always trying to do more, both admit when they see and hear the difference Blue Light Card is making to members, there’s no better feeling.
“We gave away free tickets to a soccer game and one member contacted us after the fact. She said it was the first time her severely autistic child had been able to enjoy a day out like that and feel just like everyone else. She said the best part wasn’t the free tickets it was the moment, the memory, that her daughter and their whole family got to experience and will be able to relive. So, for us it’s not about stuffing in as many members to an event as possible. It’s about making those events special for families who don’t get to do that kind of thing very much. That was really special to hear,” says Steve.
“That’s the really nice part,” agrees Tom, adding that he and Steve attended a Blue Light Card Services Day in a theme park (where members can book heavily discounted tickets and numbers are kept low to avoid big queues and wait times) with their own families and blended in with the crowd. “It was a real pinch-me moment. Standing in a queue for a ride, hearing all of these members talking about what impact Blue Light Card was having on them financially. That was really powerful and very heart-warming. An unforgettable feeling.”
Blue Light Card Australia
When it came to expanding Blue Light Card, Tom and Steve say Australia was the obvious choice.
“There’s a clear allegiance between the UK and Australia – apart from when it comes to cricket,” smiles Tom. “In all seriousness, though, impacts of the bushfires, floods and the pandemic have called all Australian frontline workers to action in recent years. The community wants to give back and show gratitude for what the SES volunteers, nurses, firefighters and others have done, and are still doing. Blue Light Card finally makes that possible.”
Steve agrees. “Blue Light Card is there for the members. We’re a community and we want to make the lives of all frontline workers and their families a bit easier. It’s not just about helping out with the weekly shop – which we aim to do – it’s about making holidays more affordable, and quality time as a family more fun. With the rising cost of living right now, Blue Light Card can help ease some of those strains.
“Blue Light Card isn’t just a job to us, and the people who work with us would all say the same,” Tom continues. We wouldn’t have gotten to where we are today, including launching in Australia, without our incredible team. They share our vision and believe in what we’re doing for members.
“Blue Light Card is a community, and we’re on a mission to help as many people as we can.”