Warren Heal is the CEO/founder of RentMyItems, an online rental marketplace that allows person to person renting of items owned among friends, family and communities within an online community.
I spoke to Warren Heal about how the idea for RentMyItems came about. He also shares some tips with entrepreneurs just starting out.
Could you quickly give us some background information about yourself? Tell me about yourself growing up?
I was born and raised in Brighton, the oldest of 4 children. Then, in 1994, I went to university in Kingston to study Business Studies.
How did you get into business? Were you exposed to entrepreneurship as a child?
Both sides of my family have always been entrepreneurs and have never had regular “9 to 5” jobs and so it was always something that I wanted to do. It’s just that I was employed for 12 years before setting up RentMyItems. I have, for many years, wanted to set up an online business.
Who was your inspiration growing up and why?
Difficult to say. Various family members had different traits and I hope that I have picked up advice and skills from them all.
What was the inspiration behind RentMyItems? How did the idea come about?
I came up with the idea one afternoon when my lawnmower was not working one day and I thought it would be great if I could just rent my neighbour's for an hour. After doing so he then asked if he could rent my bike from me for a week for an upcoming holiday, and that's when RentMyItems began to come together.
So Warren , what is RentMyItems? What are you guys are trying to solve?
RentMyItems is an online rental marketplace. In essence we are using modern technology, with the internet, to build a community-centred online marketplace which facilitates person to person renting of items owned among friends, family and communities.
The website rentmyitems.com launched in September last year and anyone can rent a household item for free – in fact basic listings for all households will always be free. We are well aware that sometimes people need specialist equipment and we are delighted that we have Hire Station on board as a corporate listing company, so if anyone is doing any specialist work they can see if Hire Station has what they need. Though our main aim is to get people renting and lending within their local community.
What were you doing before you founded RentMyItems?
I have worked in the music industry for over 12 years, predominantly in the licensing and digital fields.
What was your biggest challenge during the starting up phase?
Dealing with challenges of website development and funding.
How were you able to get traction for the business in the first couple of months?
I was interviewed on BBC Breakfast, BBC Radio 5 Live and 10 local BBC radio stations on the day of launch. Additionally coverage has been achieved in The Sunday Times, Guardian, The Independent, , Woman’s Own, Green Magazine, Yahoo Finance, MSN Money and WebUser magazine, which highlighted RentMyItems.com as one of the 40 Best New Sites To Save You Money. This coverage is down to our great PR, Paul Savident.
Raising money is always such a hot topic when starting a business, How have you been able to fund the business?
The business has so far been financed by myself and family and friends.
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
We continue to receive press exposure and offer free listings to our users without taking commission on completed rentals.
Would you say the business has changed from the first initial idea?
Not as yet, however we plans for additions to the site in the not too distant future.
What would you say has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
The day-to-day experience of launching a start-up is never dull! However the highlight has to be our launch day, the 19th September. It was extremely satisfying to see a year’s hard work finally come to reality, and to do so with such great press coverage was the icing on the cake.
What can we be expecting from Warren Heal in 2012?
Continuing to build RentMyItems into everything we want it to be….and hopefully a Summer holiday!
What three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
Be sure that you 100% believe in your idea before starting out.
You will always need more money than you think.
Turn all the negatives into positives by learning from your mistakes and not making them again.