I can’t claim the transition was easy. I tried a whole host of entrepreneurial ventures that I could fit around my young family, included crafting, baking and Brittique, an online fashion retailer. It took years of trial and error to find my niche. Then, after almost doubling the value of my own home I realised I had a talent for property development and that my background in banking gave me insights into investments, so I took my first steps. The inspiration was a desire to create homes that people aspire to live in.
In most cases it’s not plummeting prices that wipe out developers. Bankruptcies occur when developers over leverage and lenders recall loans. So, I view property development as a long game, although having the right knowledge and connections makes a huge difference. Meeting my business partner, property developer Avi Dodi in 2013, was the real turning point for me. Initially my modest goal was to complete one to two houses a year and slowly build up my pot, but collaborating with Avi gave me the tools to scale up my business like nothing else. In 2016 it occurred to me that I was working on over £100m of property in GDV, and while I didn’t own all of them I was operating them all along with Avi and had some ‘skin’ in every deal. It was a real ‘wow’ moment in my career.
We learnt that St Matthias youth club was going to be evicted when we bought its much loved but dilapidated Dalston Lane site for redevelopment. The club played a crucial role in giving young people somewhere to go and let off steam, so knowing this we met with community leaders and the charity that ran it. As a result, the residential development now includes a basement club room with state of the art football and basketball facilities that St Matthias youth club gets to retain for no extra rent than before. It’s a real win-win. Property development is often blamed for tearing apart communities, but it can be done sensitively and a great deal can be achieved when developers team up with charities.
There have been many. A few sleepless nights when the weight of the investment and risk involved in property developments has overwhelmed me, especially in the early days. And overcoming my fear of public speaking to share my story and give others the benefit of my experience – I’m now really active on the property circuit, and this amazes me!
In so many ways. Sharing information and knowledge has enabled me to build my brand and tell stories that bring the industry to life. This enables me to be perceived as an expert in the field that people want to work with. And of course, social media has to be a two-way conversation, you have to engage with your community and join in with discussions. In this way I met Robin Rathore from proptech company Bamboo Auctions and I am now an investor and board member. I also connected with the estate agent Knight Frank on social media and eventually appointed them to sell our development in Harrington Gardens, Kensington, so it works both ways. For me choosing business relationships is all about whether they’ve got a good social media profile.
Don’t be afraid of crowdfunding as a means to finance a start-up or project, especially in the property sector. Getting investors to believe in you and your venture is 100% achievable if you take all the necessary steps, especially when it comes to marketing.
My approach to crowdfunding is to give people with modest funds the opportunity to invest and be in the same club as people with a million, and have a front row seat to the development itself through the process. We currently have 36 investors for one project in South Kensington whose investments range between £500 and 150k.
It’s an open and transparent process, building a community around a project, sharing the goal and involving investors at every step along the way, whereas most projects involve only two or three people. Working with Simple Crowdfunding (www.SimpleCrowdfunding.co.uk) as our crowdfunding partner, at East Eight we put the spotlight on the process and the funding and that’s unique to this industry.
Raising awareness that it’s a career choice that works very well for women, due to the flexible, family-friendly nature of the work. At East Eight we mentor a number of women starting out in property. Increasingly attendance at my speaking engagements is female. Women want to know how I’ve done it and what it takes to manage the balance between home and work life. I really want to open doors for women who may have felt intimidated by the male dominance of this business
We’ve noticed that a large percentage of (online property auction site) Bamboo Auctions’ clients are women. Perhaps women prefer the online approach as it means avoiding the aggressive environment of a property auction. Women are often the decision-makers when it comes to buying property and this provides them with a more appealing way of doing it.
My book, BRICKING IT became an Amazon bestseller last year. That was pretty game-changing, as well as the international press coverage it generated. The book charts my five year journey from at-home mum to successful property entrepreneur and serves as a blueprint for anyone with an interest in a career in property development.
Work with great people. I have always been a fan of fruitful collaborations. Working with people you look up to or who have a different skillset means you learn from the best.
My favourite app is Instagram. I love the visuals, getting creative and using the stories to connect with people. It’s important that social media apps are fun, and Instagram invites you into different people’s worlds in a brilliant way. My favourite book is Oversubscribed by Daniel Priestley, who has been something of a mentor to me and the team. The concepts are so simple and easy to implement and yet they are like little lightbulbs going off each time. I highly recommend his range of books on the entrepreneurial journey. And my favourite destination is Ibiza. It is just such a beautiful place and it’s where I always go to decompress. Watching the sun go down over the Mediterranean is the perfect way to check in with myself and consider my next steps in the business.