Appear Here: Ross Bailey
Serial entrepreneur Bailey talks about the inspiration for his retail letting marketplace
Name: Ross Bailey
Company: Appear Here
Staff numbers: 6
Date launched: 01/01/2013
Tell us what your business does:
Appear Here makes renting retail space as easy as booking a hotel room.
Our platform lets you list, discover and book short-term retail spaces around the world, online. We are the marketplace to find space for your idea.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
We saw pop-up as a solution to shops closing across the country, providing consumers with a fun and constantly changing high street, giving retailers the opportunity to gain new customers and, just as importantly, filling vacant shops.
In terms of when the idea dawned on me, I saw a shop owner in my home town putting up a ‘rent this shop for £300 a week' sign and remember thinking there had to be an easier way.
How did you know there was a market for it?
At the time I had a ton of friends running fashion labels, who I knew would die to have their own store, they just couldn't commit to a long-term lease. And for landlords the benefits of covering rates and driving footfall were clear.
The commercial property market and retail market is also undergoing huge shifts at the moment, and being a part of the solution to these changes also made sense commercially.
What were you doing before starting up?
After completing the Peter Jones Academy – as one of the first handpicked graduates – I worked as a consultant for their executive office, before more recently working with London property and leisure entrepreneurs.
I also continued to run my own events business and open boutiques on London's Kings Road and Carnaby Street.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
I've always been entrepreneurial – In fact I've been working for myself pretty much since I left school at 16.
I started doing anything from about 12 to make money, walking dogs at the weekend, designing websites and DJing at parties with my cousin before setting up my first company, Rock Diamond Events, which put on club nights for teenagers.
The company went on to work with Silverstone staging a concert for the Pussycat Dolls.
How did you raise the money?
A lot of people raising money in technology companies are post-product, pre-revenue and pre-validation; we were the opposite. In fact we had no ‘product', yet were already working with big clients and had customers following our model.
This proved that there was demand and that building the product would only make things easier. We then visited different angels and venture funds demonstrating what we had achieved and what we needed to reach the next milestone.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
The biggest challenge for anyone launching a company is focus; there is so much to do in the early days of setting up a business. Plus, if you're like me and have a short-attention span you want to do a bit of everything!
There were also a couple of occasions in Appear Here's very early days where the landlords didn't really ‘get' the concept or weren't willing to change. I wouldn't take no for answer though and now we're working with some of the biggest landlords in the country.
In fact, commercial landlords are becoming a lot more innovative than they get credit for.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
The business model is simple; Appear Here has no listing fee. Instead the space owner sets a day, week and monthly price and we take a commission on a completed transaction, similar to holiday sites where you book a room to stay.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Before the Appear Here website went live we wanted to practice what we preached, so we found an empty shop and in just ten days, and with £2,000, we designed a clothing range, decorated the space and launched a brand – just for a week.
It made a healthy profit and we loved every moment of it. The interesting thing was that a lot of people came in asking how we found the space or if they could rent the shop after us, even some big-name brands.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
While it's important for there to be demand for your product, my best advice is to get involved in something that excites you. As the founder of your own business you'll be working long hours and it can sometimes feel like it's taking over your personal life.
I know it's a cliché, but if you love what you're doing and are passionate about it then it doesn't feel like work. At Appear Here we're passionate about changing the way people rent space and helping people to make their ideas happen.
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
We want the Appear Here team to be at the forefront of the retail industry and shaping the future of commercial property. We want Appear Here to be in every major city around the world and be THE platform to find space around the globe for your idea.
Imagine if people could take their ideas to destinations near and far, as easily as they can currently find a hotel room. Maybe you'll even be able to rent a space on Mars – you never know!