20 Questions in the Wicklow Enterprise Hot Seat
Lets Holiday is an online advertising business. We provide an automated platform where holiday home owners can advertise their holiday properties to rent to holidaymakers for short term holiday lets. Own a property in Spain, Portugal or anywhere in the world list from free with us.
What led you to start your business? My sister bought a holiday home located in Spain and realised that she could actually make a small income from renting the villa to holidaymakers for short term lets. My sister used a local management company who did acquire a couple of holiday lets per year, but what if she could book the villa for three months of the summer? She would actually be making a large profit and still be able to use her holiday home during the cooler off-season months. I thought other home owners may also like to rent their properties too! So the idea of Lets Holiday was born.
How did you raise the start-up funds you needed? I felt so strongly about the idea of Lets Holiday that I used some savings that I had set aside for a rainy day and acquired three quotes for the complex database to be engineered. I chose the company that I felt would give the best after sales service and was delighted with the choice that I had made.
What was the most significant lesson you learned in starting your business? Do your market research! Understand exactly what you are getting into, there are consequences when you get it wrong. What I learned most is that you have to be willing to invest a huge amount of your time into any new business project, especially a web based business as they can be difficult to get off the ground. It’s not just a matter of throwing money at an idea it has to be backed up by hard work and hunger for success.
What’s the best business book you’ve ever read – if any (doesn’t have to be a business book, maybe a fictional story that inspired you in your business) For me Richard Branson’s Screw It, Let's Do It" would be a favourite mainly because of his positive attitude and I think that is so important in any business to stay positive, even when things are not going well. Richard Branson also known by his staff as “Mr Yes” seems to maintain a positive attitude, even when he fails he knows that he learned from it.
Who is the entrepreneur you admire the most? For me it’s Richard Branson without question! I can only admire the lengths that he will go to in order to succeed almost to the point of madness it would seem. Reading about his adventures and quest to be the first person/team to travel around the world on a hot air balloon you can understand how determined a person can be. I think Richard Branson found his own limits on those adventures and recognised his limitations. It takes great determination in business too.
What have been the biggest challenges in your business to date? The biggest challenges for me to date in business is starting Lets Holiday and marketing Lets Holiday. Someone asked me how do start a website like Lets Holiday? How do you get the first holiday properties on your website when you don’t own them? I think the answer is not to be afraid of any challenge. Getting the first properties added to Lets Holiday was a daunting task, but I got there. Producing complex pages such as villas in Portugal was extremely difficult as there are so many features on the page including Google Maps, calendars and so forth.
Marketing is not cheap so we are told, but it can be done on the cheap! Lets Holiday marketing to date has been hard work with little or no money spent. It has been very challenging marketing on a tiny budget.
What has been the proudest moment in your business so far – your proudest achievement, or moment of significance to you? The proudest moment for me is to actually see people using Lets Holiday to book holiday homes, it’s all well and good getting properties listed by holiday home owners, but to see holidaymakers making bookings and all running smoothly has been really rewarding. It’s been rewarding to develop a service that that people use. Our booking manager developed by Lets Holiday allows people to book online securely using Paypal the program is complex but again to see homeowners and holidaymakers use it has been extremely rewarding.
What was the best piece of business advice you ever got? My farther once told me that “people have to believe in you before they will believe in your business” and that “you have to sell yourself (as a person) before people will buy a product from you” Imagine trying to get investment into a viable business if you haven’t convinced the investor that you are viable or trustworthy.
Or trying to sell on product on a doorstep if you don’t come across friendly, it just won’t happen most of the time.
Can you recommend a good time management technique for other entrepreneurs out there? In any business there are aspects of the business that you like the least, these are the aspects that too often get left until last perhaps they even pile up and become a major headache, perhaps it’s the accounts or delegating to staff. Pay particular attention to the aspects of a business that you don’t like they can be your Achilles heel they do even have the potential to cause your business to fail.
Identify these issues and set aside an hour a day of an hour per week to deal head on with this aspect of your business, spend as much time on them as the areas of your business that you enjoy most.
What magazine do you never miss each month? Most of what I read is online Moz.com would be a favourite where one can learn and share the latest SEO tactics and marketing strategies, it’s really important for businesses today to fully understand the power of Social Media marketing I mean really grasp and understand it, it’s the future and your business success may depend on it.
What is your favourite film? Memphis Belle: A world War Two Movie. A heavy bomber completes 25 combat missions with her crew intact amazing considering the odds. Reminds me how lucky we are to live in times of peace in Europe.
What is your favourite ad – on TV, radio or viral? Would have to be this this Specsavers advertisement, it could be compared to what happens when you make the wrong decisions in business http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9J_q2OUzis
What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs thinking of starting a business? Choose a business that you have a passion for and it won’t feel like work. Choose an area of business which you have a huge knowledge of. If your business is internet based ask yourself the question how will people find my website? This is a massive challenge for web based companies, don’t underestimate it!
What do you like to do when you’re not running your business? Any hobbies? For me jogging and reading that’s what I enjoy most during time off work. There’s nothing like being aerobically fit for thinking and getting the energy that you need for life, it just happens to help a little for work too.
Have you found the self-employed formula for a work/life balance? What is it?! It can be very difficult to separate yourself from your business during evening and weekend time off, it very much depends on your business type and family commitments and it’s also very dynamic through the years as circumstances change. I think you should always live for today rather than “one day” I find that formula the best! It is very easy to fall into a tarp such as “one day when I have my business running smoothly I won’t do any work on weekends and evenings” it never happens. Forget about the one day idea and live for today, especially if you have family commitments.
What’s your website? Tell us your address.www.letsholiday.ie
Are you on Twitter? Share your profile if you like. https://twitter.com/lets_holiday
How has LEO Wicklow helped you and/or your business? The Local Enterprise Office Wicklow has mentored Lets Holiday and they continue to do so. Initially I met with Catherine Howard and she spent some of her valuable time giving me advice about the way forward with Lets Holiday The expert advice that I have received was second to none. Catherine’s ideas were ideas that I had never thought of and proved to be of immense value to Lets Holiday going forward.
If you could start up all over again, would you do anything differently? I would have taken social media marketing more seriously from the beginning it took me a while to realise and harness the power of social media and implement it into my business.