We chat to Calum Brannan, founder of property management platform, No Agent. Calum has shown entrepreneurial spirit from a young age starting his first business at 15!
What exactly is your business and how does it help people?
No Agent fundamentally changes the way people are used to dealing with letting agents. We are an easy-to-use property management platform for those that don’t need the headaches and high costs associated with traditional agents.
We combine smart technology with a team of really dedicated property professionals to automate the marketing, administration and maintenance of rented properties. The tech allows us to keep the fees low. And we’re super flexible – our customers choose exactly how much they want to control themselves and how much they want to pass on to us. We also don’t charge landlords until we find suitable tenants and we don’t lock clients into any contracts. You can cancel anytime you want, but we’re pretty sure you won’t.
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
No Agent was born out of frustration. I am a landlord myself, and after one too many disappointing experiences with a letting agent, I thought ‘there must be a better way to do this’. It turned out there wasn’t, so I set out to create it.
Where did you start your business? How long have you been trying to make it a success?
On Christmas Eve 2015, around the dining room table, with me explaining the idea to my friend Tom. Tom was with a Big Four company at the time, and has since joined us as our FD. In the early days, our home was Launch22, a charity incubator in Old Street; it didn’t take us long to move to WeWork Old Street, and due to our fast growth we ended up moving to larger and larger spaces in WeWork three times in 6 months.
At the end of last year, we decided we needed somewhere to call home, and that’s when we took our own office space on Leonard Street, also close to Old Street.
Is there anyone you look up to as a business? Who inspires you?
One thing I learned early on was to not be afraid to ask for help, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet some great mentors to call on throughout my career. Those that have shared both their failures and successes are the ones that have had the most impact on me.
The people I work with every day are also a great inspiration. There’s a lot of passion and dedication amongst the No Agent team, which is a great motivation to plough through on tough days.
I also find businesses like Moo.com really inspiring. They took a simple concept and gave it a whole new lease of life using technology. It’s similar to what we’re doing with No Agent.
How did your friends and family react to you starting a business?
Friends and family have been helping me out with everything, starting with giving out leaflets in Coventry city center for my first business when I was 15, through to today when my uncle took some time off to come and help man an exhibition stand. My parents still aren’t quite sure about what I do, and my dad jokes that I should get a real job like my little brother, who’s a fireman. But they support me unconditionally.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
When I was younger, I had to make a tough decision. Most of my friends were jumping straight into the world of work from college, and a few had decided to go down the university route. No one had started their own business, or even knew what that would be like. Whilst my parents were fully supportive, I knew relying on the bank of mum & dad was never going to be an option. So it really was up to me to carve my own path, and learn as much as I could along the way. Persistence is the key though. The running at 100 miles an hour in isolation is tough, but if you keep working, things eventually start to come together and when your product is built, it makes everything worthwhile.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own business?
Starting your own business requires a change of mindset. If you’re willing to break the 9 to 5 habit and give it everything you’ve got, then it can be a beautifully rewarding experience. Your first idea might not be the one that changes the world, or even takes off the ground, but every single experience will be a lesson, and every person that questions your vision will become a motivation.
Where do you expect to be in a year?
We’re spearheading a revolution in the lettings industry which will make things easier and fairer for both landlords and tenants. In the next year, I fully expect us to prove this, not only in growth figures, but in shifting mentalities, so people realise they don’t have to stick to a traditional way of renting any longer.