Co-founder, Niamh Barker talks about the peer-to-peer rental marketplace for British beach huts, where you can list your beach hut or rent one for the day.
I came up with the idea when… I was out for supper with friends about two years ago and we were chatting about the new business model of peer to peer market places …like Airbnb. Our friends mentioned a new business called BedsOnboard which is where you can book a bed on a boat for the night. I had a little ‘eureka’ moment and said why wouldn’t you do the same thing with beach huts? We have a beach hut on the South Coast and we love it but we don’t get to visit as often as we’d like. We occasionally lend it to friends and family for the day, so I thought, why not rent it out like Airbnb. When I started to look into it I realised it was even better, no-one else was doing it and Airbnb don’t do beach huts as most of them are not overnight accommodation.
The biggest challenge is… Finding beach hut owners to list their beach huts on our site and getting people (who are interested in renting) to register and help us build our Beachboard community. It is a digital marketing challenge… and one of those ‘chicken & egg’ business challenges. We need beach huts on the site and people to rent the beach huts to, all at once!
The team consists of... Niamh Barker (also Managing Director of The Travelwrap Company) and Maggie O’Sullivan (Ex-editor of Sunday Telegraph Travel now freelance writer and curator of The Travelwrap Company blog). Our contractors are a website designer, a developer and have just taken on a digital marketer.
My favourite quote… I have loads – here are three of my favourites:
• “Get comfortable being uncomfortable, the reward is a fuller more interesting life “– Melinda Gates
• “If you can’t tolerate being criticised then don’t do anything new or interesting” – Jeff Bezos
• “I am no genius but I am smart in spots and I stay around those spots”- Tom Watson
I am where I am today because of… I rarely give up and usually (not always) find a solution in someone or some thing.
I am who I am because of.... My drive, passion and perseverance (and a very patient and supportive husband)
The best advice I've been given... In business…”Forget about getting bigger just get better…bigger will come.”
In five years I’d like to be… Running two successful global tech businesses …and helping other startups/female founders with advice and leadership in the early stages.
The thing no one ever tells you about running your own business online... You’re good enough to start, but not good enough to win. In other words, just having a brilliant idea and building a website is sadly not enough to grow a business. When you think average conversion rates online are about 2-5% . If you had a shop on the High Street and had 100 prospective customers through the door in one day… you would be very disappointed if only two of those people bought anything!
Our biggest mistake and what it taught us… Our marketing mistake (in the early days ) was not to have done enough research on what methods of marketing would and wouldn’t be a good idea/work for our audience. We sent a team of post GCE students out along the beaches to deliver our flyer/leaflets to beach hut owners. Very soon I had Bournemouth council on the phone complaining and threatening to fine us for littering the beaches… We realised fast that digital marketing was a much cleaner option.
The most rewarding experience we’ve had to date… The sheer numbers of people that have said this is a great idea and not just friends and family, beach hut owners/prospective guests and experienced entrepreneurs. My old business mentor who is now Director of Technology Entrepreneurship at UCL thinks this might be The One….