TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring UK-based Eventful Stays, an accommodation platform for visitors to events.
Who and what are you?
I am Camilla Shaughnessy, the founder of EventfulStays, which went live in December 2010. I was inspired by renting out my Oxfordshire home to help generate additional income, having lost the majority of my savings, which had been invested in various properties, in the market crash.
I realised that whilst there are numerous holiday rental companies, none specialise in all the major event-focused breaks such as Edinburgh Fringe, Henley Regatta or Silverstone or indeed personal ‘events’ such as special birthdays, wedding anniversaries and hen weekends - and so Eventful Stays was born.
We specialise in two to three night stays in fabulous privately owned homes around the UK.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
Fortunately, my family and friends have supported me with some initial investment without which I couldn’t have got the website off the ground. Since then my husband Johnny and I have funded everything to date (I recently had to sell my car!) and we are currently seeking external Angel investment in order to grow the company and take advantage of their marketing differential.
What problem are you trying to solve?
Eventful Stays provides accommodation for those seeking a short break of 2-3 nights. If you are a group of friends or a large family it is often far too expensive to stay in a hotel and equally it’s inflexible if you want your own private space to relax, wine, dine and have fun.
Holiday rental companies can offer places to stay but they are geared towards the holiday market i.e. weekly lets, which don’t suit those just seeking a short break.
As for our own problems, we’re currently seeking funding to take Eventful Stays to the next level. We need to add more fabulous properties to our portfolio, we need to add a booking engine to enable automated bookings in addition to our personalised concierge service.
Funds are also required to help market the business using new media and traditional PR.
Describe the business, core products and services?
Eventful Stays specialises in finding you the perfect accommodation when you are attending any of the UK’s fantastic events, whether it be Glorious Goodwood, Wimbledon fortnight, the London 2012 Olympics or whether you are celebrating a milestone birthday or a family reunion.
Eventful Stays has self-catering properties of all different sizes from Winnebagos to castles, city apartments to beachside cottages, quirky windmills to hotel canal boats – all over the country.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
Eventful Stays’ key customers are discerning clients who want to enjoy a break away, attend a favourite event or celebrate their own event. Most are looking for short stays in a home from home, maybe somewhere they aspire to live or perhaps just for a change of scene.
By stealth and good fortune, and a lot of hard work on the part of the team, Eventful Stays is now taking bookings for the UK’s best-loved events and for all the ‘unquantifiable’ number of customers’ personal events. Eventful Stays attracts the mid to high-end consumer but has a number of properties targeted at all price ranges – especially for the Olympics!
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
We did indeed. Our validation came from my own personal experience of promoting and accepting bookings for our home, as well as the experiences of friends and acquaintances who were keen to give me their feedback and share their own stories.
We all found that people were booking our homes in order to attend major crowd-pulling events nearby but also to celebrate special anniversaries, family reunions and hen parties.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
Eventful Stays has removed all barriers to entry for the property owner and what that means is that the property owner can advertise their home, second home or holiday cottage for free and we take a 15% commission on successfully lets only.
Eventful Stays also markets using the latest new media methods and avoids the high costs of traditional marketing. Because of our USP, we have obtained great PR coverage in the national press, such as The Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, Mail on Sunday and The Independent.
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- Founder’s experience in setting up and running her own business
- Founder’s first hand experience in letting out her own home
- Hard working, young and dedicated team
- Our USP: First business to market accommodation website based around all UK events
- Knowledge that similar holiday lettings businesses have succeeded
- Investors with proven experience in building new businesses and in the holiday rental market
- No barriers to entry for the property owners to advertise on the website – they only pay if Eventful Stays is successful
- Lack of investment to capitalise on Eventful Stays unique marketing opportunity
- For the most sought after events, Eventful Stays does not yet have sufficient property availability
- To deliver the marketing plan and capitalise on social media opportunities
- To reach out to new markets (2-3 night stays)
- To expand our property and client portfolio to large numbers.
Who advised you your idea isn’t going to be successful and why didn’t you listen to them?
- Holiday rental companies change their business model (7 night stays) to accommodate the 2-3 night stays in high season
- Lack of investment means Eventful Stays misses the marketing opportunity
- Economic risk as market recovery slows
I recently presented my business plan to a team of investors who said that I didn’t understand the holiday rental market and said that my marketing strategy was flawed as no one searched for accommodation by event.
They also said I would need considerable investment to compete with more established holiday rental companies.
But I continue to plough on, inspired by the sheer number of enquiries that we are receiving every day. Irrespective of what those investors think, there is a marketing opportunity that remains unexploited, supported by the press coverage we have received.
Once Eventful Stays has a critical mass of properties supported by investment to deliver the marketing plan, we will take advantage of the market opportunity and will in all likelihood be bought out as a trade sale or as a complementary offering to those companies operating in the same market – events!
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
Success will be measure by revenue yield, the number of bookings we are receiving, our profile in the market and delivery of the business plan.
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.