The start-up helps holidaymakers invest in property in the UK, giving them discounts on holidays and a savings nest egg.
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Alistair Malins founded The Holiday Crowd after a flight to Mykonos. Here, he talks about plans for the business, the joys of starting-up and the frustration he feels with government ministers playing "short-term" politics.
Describe the business for us
The Holiday Crowd provides a service to help people co-invest in a holiday property from £1,000. Investors receive a stake in a company that owns the property entitling them to a share of the rental income and any increase in the value of the property over time.
We remove the hassle of ownership, looking after everything from finding the property to dealing with lawyers and ensuring the property is booked. Our customers can book holidays in the property with our exclusive partner, Sykes Cottages, and can save money whilst generating long-term pension-like returns from investing in holiday property.
Where did the idea come from?
I got the idea for the business on a plane to Mykonos. I was sat next to a family that visited the island every year but said they couldn’t afford to buy a villa. I thought there must be a smarter way for them to invest in a place that could pay for their holidays every year.
The market was already there, I just took a different route on how to satisfy the demand.
Inspiration comes from the strangest places
Plot the growth story to today
We’re an early stage company with ambitious growth plans. Stay tuned.
Is it an enticing market for new entrants?
We’ve estimated the UK holiday property market at around £54bn in value, based on a total of around 250,000 properties. We’re opening up this asset class to a new group of investors and believe we’re the first organisation to use alternative finance to do this. I want to build a global portfolio of properties that people can invest in and enjoy.
What have been the big bumps in the road?
Brexit caused some short-term uncertainty in the property market, but when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. UK tourism continues to go from strength to strength, and we’re witnessing what we believe to be a mini boom in the rental market, so we’re excited about the future potential for our business.
What has been the hardest thing about starting a business and what have you enjoyed?
The hardest thing is to break down traditional attitudes to the sector. We’re disrupting a market that is becoming increasingly digitised, and have the tools, the data and the expertise to help investors. I enjoy every aspect of it though and love to get stuck in.
I’m currently furnishing our first property and looking after everything from the curtains to the cutlery. The greatest fulfilment comes from hitting milestones, however small.
Investing means holiday makers can own a slice of a property they couldn't afford alone.
What would you change about the politics of business?
Short-termism in policy-making. The stamp duty surcharge is a great example, HMRC have actually seen a decline in stamp duty revenues as a result of the changes.
What is your biggest mistake?
Not having enough self-belief. It’s a valuable currency for entrepreneurs and you need it in spades. I sometimes feel I’m a bit to British about self-promotion.
How is The Holiday Crowd different from the rest?
We don’t really have any direct competitors in this market. A number of platforms have focused on alternative finance in the buy-to-let market, which has pretty low barriers to entry. I set off with the view that partnering with a leading holiday letting agency would provide us with a great platform for growth.
Our partnership with Sykes Cottages does exactly that, offering a route to market and a trusted brand to ensure our properties are well looked after. We make a point of working closely with them and are nurturing a mutually beneficial relationship.
How do you rate government support for growing businesses and why?
The government can do a lot more to support SMEs including reducing business rates and corporate taxes to increase competition.
Leading Internet businesses such as Amazon, Facebook and Google pay next to no tax in the UK, whilst SMEs suffer. The government should level the playing field and provide more tax breaks for small businesses.
What are your top three tips for people starting a business today?
1. Follow up on every introduction, and take every call and meeting. You never know where it will take you.
2. Speak to your customers, you find out more on the phone than by any other means.
3. Raise money when you can, you never know what lies around the corner.