NP, was one of the early recruits to the Supported Self Employment Academy (SSEA) in Croydon. Although she experiences muscular skeletal issues, she had previously worked in property management. However, NP was keen to create property services that were different to the ones more typically found on the high street. Even though timekeeping sometimes difficult, NP was, from the outset, fully engaged in all of the discussions around starting her own business. Early challenges were about defining that business proposition – what would it look like? Who would be involved?
NP’s business idea, would be a cross between a property management company. Improving houses for sale as well as renting and selling property but with a lot more personal touch than the average agency provided.
NP was very keen to launch her business as soon as possible. She wanted to have a big launch party and had been persuaded by a friend to put a lot of time and effort and money into this to create a potential client list. However, her enterprise facilitator felt that it would be better to have a softer launch and gain some clients first, sort out the website and the strategy of the business. In the end the launch was a success, enabled NP to identify the people she was wanted to work with and provided the platform from which to develop her ideas.
However, the business was slow to develop and after further discussions with her enterprise facilitator, NP decided to work independently to reduce costs and to focus on building a client list. She also identified her need to have some help with managing her diary and completing tasks – in her words, NP she needed a professional nag to make sure things would get done! Although it was not possible to get this support paid for with Social Care funding or the UK Government’s Access to Work scheme, the enterprise facilitator was able to support NP get some support for rent and to explore the use of an electronic virtual assistant such as Alexa.
This was probably the most difficult time in NP business and reflected the wider economic condition in the UK. For the first year, NP undertook property management and whatever work that she could get enough money to keep her business afloat. After a year she told her entrepreneur facilitator that she had reviewed her original business proposition and decided to refocus her attention on the rent to rent sector.
Rent to rent involves guaranteeing the rental income for the property owner and undertaking all of the property management for a commission. Although this was a high risk strategy, the potential gains if properties are maintained at full capacity, are significant. This was a turning point of the business and by 9 months, NP was managing 3 properties, all rented out either directly or through AIRBNB.
During a discussion with her enterprise facilitator, it became clear that NP that was not able to assess profitability. A simple cash flow was developed that enabled NP to make some sensible decisions on advertising etc. and to improve profitability. The business continued to expand and the relationship with the enterprise facilitator shifted. Now it was less of a 50 50 meeting (where the input was 50% the enterprise facilitator and 50% the entrepreneur) and more of a business owner to business owner meeting. The relationship had changed and it became obvious to the entrepreneur facilitator that his support could be talking through the business and less about direct support to the entrepreneur.
It was at this time a mentor was found, to help NP. The Mentor ran a successful fire safety company and was willing to help NP through the next development and progression of her business. This interaction with the mentor was invaluable as it help NP to develop peer support which came in much more useful for future development.
From the early days of joining the skills academy with tentative thoughts about running her own business, NP has successfully emerged as the business owner of a rent-to-rent property company. Moreover, she has acquired a care home and created a subsidiary business. She is still in contact with her enterprise facilitator.