We speak to Ed Poland and Will Swannell, co-founders of Hire Space, which allows businesses to rent out unused extra spaces, including meetings venues, bars, restaurants, even theatres!
What exactly is your business and how does it help people?
The website allows businesses and other organisations to rent out their unused, extra spaces by connecting customers and venues through one online platform. Hire Space took the sharing economy and applied it to a new space – venue rentals.
The concept addresses a gap in the market for a comprehensive venue marketplace. It lists conference and meetings venues as well as bars, restaurants, historic palaces and the newest openings and most unusual spaces from across the UK. It enables customers to compare multiple venues without the hassle of calling all of them to enquire separately.
The website aims to make the most of venues by making sure they are receiving more bookings whilst also allowing venues to use existing spaces for secondary functions. A typical example is a West End theatre doubling as a conference venue during the day, or a photography studio hosting a company creative workshop.
What was your inspiration and motivation to get started in business?
The idea for Hire Space came about when Will was a secondary school teacher, and I was a political advisor. Will’s school had recently been forced to turn to emergency funding, and I was campaigning to save recession-hit venues from closure. We decided that a solution for both problems could be to help these struggling businesses to rent out their unused spaces to create extra revenue streams in order to keep them viable.
The venues first registered on the site didn’t have the means to market themselves effectively or to differentiate themselves from more mainstream event venues. The website created a way for them to achieve this and open up their spaces for hire. As a result, customers were attracted to the unusual venues on the website that they wouldn’t otherwise have found.
The brand has now become synonymous with fresh, exciting venues and has developed into the go-to marketplace where all new venues go first. The concept was brand new to the market at the time and we’ve grown rapidly since the site was launched, we’ve got almost 4000 venues listed and we’re adding 40 new venues every week, with over 120k website visitors a month.
How did your friends and family react to you starting a business?
Our families were and still are really supportive, Will’s mum’s kitchen was actually our very first office. Our friends initially thought we were a bit mad to leave our comfortable jobs but also admired our decision to pursue something we really believed in. Since then everyone has been so supportive, helping out when they can – especially when it comes to attending events!
What are the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
We initially outsourced our tech and website build, this caused a few issues to begin with as we couldn’t make the changes as quickly as we wanted to scale. Access to tech talent hasn’t always been easy either.
We’ve also grown so rapidly and are continuing to do so and there are always challenges involved. Developing a team quickly, making sure we hire the right people and then keep everyone happy is something we look at daily. We really value feedback and have regular catch-ups with every employee, communication is the key. We also have to keep moving offices because we outgrow them so quickly.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own business?
Ask, ask, ask. Seek lots of advice from everyone you know and everyone you meet, fresh perspectives and new ideas are vital. However, it’s always important to trust your instincts – after all, no one knows your idea or business better than you.
How do you expect your business to develop in the future?
We want to achieve full UK expansion within a year, this will put us in a really strong position to launch overseas. We are already planning to pilot the platform in Paris, Hong Kong and New York. The next step is our crowdfunding campaign, which will happen this summer.