Hire Space launched in mid-2013 with around 450 community spaces on its books. “We became known for being the place to source venues that you would never normally find through a Google search or events agency,” Poland says. “That brought in a whole new audience – corporates, brands and professional event organisers – which we hadn’t envisaged.”
Poland says the company went from handling enquiries from yoga instructors and sports coaches to dealing with big organisations looking for unusual places to host conferences, product launches and away days. This led to a flurry of interest from hotel operators, exhibition centres and event spaces that wanted to be listed on Hire Space to tap into the website’s growing roster of corporate clients.
“The momentum was building and we were getting hundreds of venues signing up to the website every week, Poland says. “Now, we’re the most widely used platform for sourcing venues in the UK and on track to do £200 million worth of enquiries in 2018.”
How the business has changed
Since its inception, Hire Space has secured £2.5 million of investment through fundraisings, grown to 40 staff, increased the number of venues on the website from 450 to 5,000 and won the Alexander Fleming Serendipity Award at the 2017 Real Innovation Awards. Developing a company culture where staff feel inspired and committed to their work has been one of the biggest challenges in that period, according to Poland.
“People generally want to enjoy coming to work every day and feel their careers are progressing,” he says. “When starting a business, you’re focused on getting the website up and running, sales and operations – the company culture is something you have to think about. It took us some time to realise how important it is.
“One of our three strategic pillars that guide everything we do and how we behave as a company is to foster an incredible working culture. If you don’t have that front and centre of what you’re doing, you’ll struggle. Creating an environment that people love, which we have now, was the biggest challenge. We’ve done it by providing learning and development opportunities and hosting social events such as themed lunches in the office.”
Rivals looking to replicate Hire Space’s winning formula have also posed a challenge, although Poland sees them as a blessing rather than a curse. “There are copycats but we’re many years ahead of them in terms of customer base and brand loyalty. Copycats are great for Hire Space because without them, you’re inevitably going to get complacent.
“You need people trying to do something similar and actually doing some things better than you to highlight your shortcomings as a business so you can address them. We’re a far better operation now than when we first started doing this.”
Poland and Swannell plan to make the website customisable so someone can find exactly what they’re looking for without “spending hours sourcing, searching and filtering”. Investing in sales and marketing to grow further in the UK and roll out to major cities around the globe is also on agenda.
If all goes to plan, the duo will be running an international company soon enough – not bad for a business idea that was conceived over a few drinks in a London pub.
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