Suzanne Lestrade-Orji is the founder of RentMyGarden, an online dedicated garden finding and advertising service. The website allows users who own gardens to rent them out for events, barbeques, parties etc. I recently caught with Suzanne as we spoke about her business, journey, and advises for young entrepreneurs.
Hi Suzanne, Thanks for doing this. How are you doing today?
I'm doing well, thank you.
Tell me how you initially got into business?
I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit from a young age and having been a Freelance French and English Translator since 2004 alongside any full-time Marketing job I have held; I have always seen the benefit in creating something for yourself and creating a second or third income for yourself.
Between 2005-2006 I worked solely as a Freelance Translator and Proof reader, I learned about keeping accounts, tax, and the benefits and pitfalls of working for yourself and with other contractors. Since then I have always been looking and praying for an opportunity to start a business.
How did the idea for Rent My Garden come about?
Some years ago, the first property I ever bought had a 60 ft garden. With the property market declining and the mortgage rates rising I unfortunately had to sell it and was wondering why I couldn’t use my good size garden to make extra money. The idea, the name for the business and the scope all came to me at once and I wrote a very rough business plan and bought all the URL's immediately and that's how RentMyGarden began.
Tell me about the early days, what was the hardest part of starting the business?
I consider myself still in very early stages of business, having been operational for only a year, so the "early days" for me was the setting up stage. Finding a good developer with a very tight budget was challenging and finding trustworthy people to work with to develop the idea into a business was equally as challenging. However, I have come out of that phase now, thank God, and my challenges are future facing; everyone I speak to loves the RentMyGarden idea but the challenge is getting those who would benefit from it to know about it! It’s my Marketing challenge for the year.
What is Rent My Garden? And what are you trying to solve with it?
RentMyGarden is the dedicated online garden finding and advertising service for all your needs. If you have a garden, you can advertise it on our website for renting out periodically throughout the year and create a second income for yourself. We do not take a commission, all you pay for is the advertising your garden with an annual package starting from as little as £25 a year. If, like many people in big cities such as London, Birmingham or Manchester, do not own a garden, you can find one on our site to host a barbecue, an event, wedding, picnic, storage or even growing your own food.
We aim to ensure that everyone has a chance to enjoy the great outdoors and 'live life outside' without having to go camping far away for it, or wait 2-3 years for an allotment, or pay extortionate prices for a venue when we have thousands available all around us. Many people who have gardens do not actually use them to their full potential so its about re-using what we already have for environmental purposes and rebuilding a sense of community which we have lost in the UK. The website aims also to reduce the need for national and local parks to be reduced to create allotments, which is currently happening, and to reduce the need to build new venues when we can recycle existing ones. Lastly it is a vehicle for a second income.
How have you been able to fund it?
Personal finances have been funding the business which has been difficult at times as I am married and have a family to take care of with my husband. Investors always look for high turnovers before they invest; banks, want to see you invest a certain amount before they do so my initial options right now are my own finances and some of the exciting new investment options that are out there right now like Crowd Funding.
What sorts of advice do you having for entrepreneurs looking to raise money for their startups?
As mentioned above, there are some new and exciting options out there for funding, so keep your eyes open and don't reject anything until you have thoroughly researched it. Putting some of your own or borrowed money into your business will give you the impetus to ensure it does well and will show others especially investors you believe in your idea.
About the first few months, how excited were you, tell us about how those months felt, what happened?
I was very excited! I had not long given birth to my first son so all good things were happening at the same time. When I got my first 'sale' I was so excited and I had a fantastic sense of achievement.
How did you initially get traction?
Social Media. It is a fantastic tool that surpasses physical word of mouth and is essential in today's Marketing planning, especially when you have a small budget.
What are the most crucial things that you have done to grow your business?
Kept going, employed a good accountant, networked, and attended a few entrepreneurial seminars and talks to keep learning.
What would you say has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
1) Actually getting business 2) being selected in the Wonga.com and Real Business Future 50 business's list and 3) getting some good press coverage and 4) very recently being selected in the Mumpreneur UK and Viking 100 list.
What should we be expecting from yourself and the Rent My Garden team for 2013?
More visibility from the business from a Marketing perspective as our goal is to reach the whole of the UK.