We chat to Andrew Lazare director of, bridging lender company, Mint Bridging, about being one of the youngest people in the UK to have run a publicly listed company and not being the biggest fish in the pond.
What exactly is your business and how does it help people?
Mint Bridging is one the country’s fastest growing bridging & re-bridging lenders. Privately funded, we offer first charge loans for non-owner occupied residential & commercial properties, from £27,500 to £5,000,000 with a £100m pool fund. These loans are to fund the purchase or refinance a property, offering up to 80% of the value of the property. We also offer loans for heavy refurbishment projects, offering up to 100% of the purchase price and 100% of the refurbishment costs. Loans can be lent from as short as one day or up to 18 months.
As Mint underwrites all our loans, with an in-house team, clients work directly with the decision makers and lenders. We help property owners with a bridge loan, that they’d usually be declined by a financial institute, or a re-bridge loan. The latter means we help a client who’s bridge loan has expired, or is near to expiring, and requires additional finance to complete the project.
Offering alternative means of finances to clients ensures they can develop properties that they’d usually be unable to venture into; not only providing income from a development sale but also stabilising the property market growth. We hand hold clients from start to finish, with no red tape that would usually stifle them; customer services throughout from our expert team is one of Mint’s forte. Guiding clients and working with them is paramount, a feat that traditional financial institutes wouldn’t offer.
What was your inspiration and motivation to get started in business?
I’ve worked in the finance & property industry for nearly two decades and saw how peoples lives were shattered by the 2007/08 crash. This was a time that the property market needed to be rebuilt with a stronger, new formula. Bridging loans used to be associated as a shady, back handed way to acquire a loan. This connotation was not deserved as it offered clients alternative finance versus a bank. So I formed Mint Bridging and recruited skilled veterans in the property scene, intentionally hiring in-house so Mint could turn loans around faster, as opposed to waiting for 3rd parties to respond. We started off small and it was hard work, as the industry was becoming saturated and bridging was increasing in mainstream popularity. But the hard work paid off, especially through our in-house team working faster than competitors and our private funds were ready to lend.
How did your friends and family react to you starting a business?
I come from a family of entrepreneurs so this has been more of a positive than a typical ‘risk’ attitude. My father’s worked in the property and finance scene for decades and he guided me in the early days. We now work well together, regularly and in good synergy as a ‘two heads’ attribute.
Many of my friends have founded companies so again, I’ve never felt that I was working in an isolated arena. We work in different industries but the foundation of business is still the same, giving us the opportunity to bounce logical ideas off each other and gain new objectives we’d not usually be able to see. It’s all been a positive career path with support from friends and family from day one.
We all know that being an entrepreneur is extremely hard work, draining and requires stamina but as we’re all with similar mindsets, we bounce support off each other naturally.
How have you managed a work/life balance?
I admit, I spend way too much time on my laptop or iPhone working most of the day and night, with a mild case of technology’itus disease. Nevertheless, I do break away in the evenings to be with my wife and daughter. Then when my daughter’s asleep, I’ll try to avoid using technology so I can press my default button and have non work conversations with friends and family.
Every six weeks, my family and I go on holiday. I usually work through it so the objective of a holiday is slightly futile, but I do break away from Mint around 25% of the time I’m away. Any entrepreneur knows that the work is required and it needs to be consistent so at this stage of my career, it’s important to keep bulldozing ahead. I’ve always been a hard, ethical worker and it’s in my DNA but over the past year, I’m starting to appreciate the breaks and needing them more often. It not only gives me a chance to breathe but also to then think of new work ideas…so it’s a slight case of coming full circle.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges was building Mint in a rapidly growing, crowded space. There are big players and I started out as a small fish. I don’t want Mint to be a huge fish in the industry but we do separate our brand as a unique commodity. This is especially since we broke ground on building a full in-house team, having private funds available and focusing heavily on customer service. The bigger the company, the more barriers to create and overcome, and the less personalised we are with clients…but that’s not what we’re about.
We have a motto in the office ‘we’d rather have a bad day than a bad deal’ and that’s important to us. A bad deal can be catastrophic so our tight knit team is the foundation of building our boutique brand. Everyone is involved in the decision process, we trust each other and all typical scaling, growth, financial challenges have been daunting but not impossible, based on our core employee hands-on attitudes.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own business?
One piece of advice is that forming the business is exhausting but you need to pace yourself and not burn out. Because the moment you open shop, the real work starts. Everyone launches with ego presuming great success will gravitate the moment the door opens but this isn’t the case. It’s a tremendous amount of hard work, sleepless nights and financial worry. This can come in stages or ongoing for years but if your vision is so strong in what you’re doing, you will prevail. I believe the ‘build it and they will come’ saying is true. But you need to adapt to the industry and pioneer in certain areas while being an early adopter in other sectors – this is key to a good balance and testing multi waters to see what sticks. Trying to do it all can destroy the business through diluting the initial objectives. So embrace pivoting, tweaking, admitting when you messed up, guiding your team so they treat it like they own a piece of it and that’s the mind set you need to work with – then you can sustain, build and grow while maintaining stamina and energy. It’s all about focus and determination.
How do you expect your business to develop in the future?
We’re always looking at new products we can introduce. As a result of Brexit, a few opportunities are coming up but we’re keeping those projects under wraps to see how the market develops over the next few months. The property market can stabilise or shift quite dramatically, depending on politics, causing unrealistic under or overvalued prices. So the LTV (loan to values) is an area we’re really keeping an eye on for quite a long time.
Mint will grow in size, loans and employees but again, we’re not ever looking to be that big fish. Having more volume of loan inquiries-to-conversions, with a stronger in-house team is our focus. That way, we can build a bigger back end employee and client base without compromising on customer service. As we offer refurb/development loans (unregulated loans for residential and semi-commercial projects) we’re looking to expand the commercial division of the company. Brexit is opening the doors for more UK businesses to evolve and this is a natural growth opportunity for us in the commercial arena.