Finding a gap in the market for a business idea can be a tricky one and it can’t be forced. It is a lightbulb moment that you will only spot if you are looking out for it.
Olivia Conlon left high school at the age of 16 to set up her own home staging business ‘ThePropertyStagers’, which is now on record to turnover £1m. The young self-made boss offers invaluable insight into spotting a gap in the market and positioning yourself to solve its problem.
“Before I started ThePropertyStagers I looked at what I had experience in and what I felt passionate about.
I am a true believer of if you do what you love, you will be successful no matter what.
I just happened to stumble across a massive gap that would shape the rest of my life.
From a very young age, I knew I always wanted to be my own boss.
Getting a job was never an option for me, maybe because I don’t take direction well.
I never liked school, being told what to study and where I had to be at a certain time.
I created a business that not only served a purpose and solved a problem for busy property investors, but it’s something I had and still have a passion for.
I believe being an entrepreneur is within you and it’s not something that can be taught or forced.
It is something I feel is a burning passion within you and it kinda feels like what I was put on this earth to do.
When I left school at 16, I achieved grades that meant I could choose any university course that I wanted to, but I knew that was the perfect time to start a business.
In many ways, I had a lot of things working for me. I had very little outgoings as I still lived at home, I had no children to rely on my income and I guess I was pretty fearless.
But the negatives outweighed the positives – I was 16 and I looked it.
I had no role models around me doing anything similar, no business experience and many doubters said I was crazy not to follow the traditional path of a university.
When I made the crazy decision to set up my own business, I had so many decisions to make.
First thing, was to look for a gap in the market.
Obviously, at the age of 16, there weren’t too many things that I had experience in. But the market I did have a little experience in was property.
I had attended property courses with my mum when I was 15, but the job of building works and numbers wasn’t for me.
My idea came from a property my mum was selling, which was a 2 bedroom property near Glasgow and it was on the market for 3 months with very little interest and no offers.
Viewers just couldn’t envisage what to do with the space and this was when the lightbulb moment occurred – STAGE IT!
We looked to see if there were any companies that could provide the service, and there was no business offering this at an affordable price.
I asked my mum for a budget and I staged it myself.
After 3 days on the market staged, the property sold above the asking price and the buyer bought everything in the property too.
This was it. I knew I was onto something.
Ok so, I have discovered a gap in the market and I now need to check if there was enough volume to make it viable and successful.
How did I do this?
I attended a lot of local property networking events and it was intimidating because I was a 16-year-old and the rooms were full of much older property investors (my dream clients).
I began educating them about cushions and throws and how it would help them make more money.
It was a challenge but I discovered that there really was a need for this service.
I asked if I could do a presentation at one of the events and now that I secured my first client, how was I going to fund this operation.
An outlay of furniture could cost me thousands and I didn’t have it at age 16.
I decided that I would take the payment upfront, buy the furniture with the payment and make no profit.
I had to do this a couple of times so that I could get a few jobs under my belt, not only for the experience but for the portfolio to show other potential clients.
My first job was complete – I managed to furnish a 1 bedroom flat with flat pack furniture carried in my brothers old Corsa.
This was the birth of my business and at this stage, I had no idea where we were going to.
In the space of the first 12 months, I traveled around Scotland attending events and staging properties.
My little idea had grown into a successful, profitable £30k a year business, which I was quite happy with at the age of 18.
Fast forward to 2018, our second year in business and we are blazing the trail.
As we increased the market’s awareness of staging, more avenues opened up to us or should I say we found more gaps.
Our initial plan was only to stage for sale but we now furnish properties for two other big markets – Serviced Accommodation and HMO’s, which is now the biggest part of our business.
We furnish over 300 properties nationwide, we’ve won 5 awards in the past 6 months and my one-man band has grown to a team of 10.
It shows you what finding a ‘gap in the market’ can grow to as we are now turning over £1m.”
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