DesRes North: Kath Gooch

How working mum Kath Gooch made her biggest move

It was spending her days doing the ‘stay at home mum’ thing and watching lifestyle programmes that inspired Kath Gooch to start up her own property search and relocation consultancy. She tells Startups.co.uk why homes are where her heart is.

Startup profiles go straight to the hub of the action by speaking to entrepreneurs who have literally just started up. We find out what made them decide to start their own business, how they got it off the ground, the obstacles they’ve overcome and the barriers they still face. We’ll look at their hopes and aspirations for the future, and then, in six months time, we’ll go back and find out how they’re getting on.

Name: Kath Gooch Age: 31 Business: DesRes North Type of business: Property Search and Relocation Consultant Start date: April 03

When did you first decide you wanted to start your own business? I always wanted to start my own business from a very early age and then when I started my first proper job after University, I remember thinking “Is this it?”

Tell us about your business It’s a property search and relocation consultancy. Basically I am a house-hunter and once I have found your dream home I help with the negotiations and even arrange moving in day. Moving house is one of the most stressful times in a person’s life but it doesn’t need to be.

Was it your first business idea and where did it come from?DesRes North was not my first idea and I had many throughout the years but they never felt right. After I became pregnant (unexpectedly) our plans to emigrate to Australia had to be put on hold so I decided to try the ‘stay at home mum’ thing. While watching daytime TV the idea for DesRes North came like a bolt out of the blue and I knew this was something I had to do. My one true passion throughout life was property, for example when on holiday I spent time with my nose pressed to the window looking at all the houses (I wasn’t driving!). I had always been led to believe that you should use your passion to help others and the income would take care of itself.

Was your decision to start a business inspired by any other companies or individuals? I watched property programmes on TV all the time. ‘Location, location, location’ was my particular favourite. However I did not make the connection to the possibilities until watching a show called ‘All the Right Moves’ that featured a professional house-hunter. At that moment in time everything fell into place and the cogs started turning.

What makes you think there’s a market for your business?There are huge trend shifts towards lifestyle choices – ‘escaping the rat race’ and ‘spending more quality time with family’ are a well worn phrases but just look at all the new TV programmes featuring relocation and lifestyle changes. Remember what Changing Rooms did for B&Q.

Once you’d decided to start a business, what did you do first? The first thing I did was laugh because I had spent years scratching my head trying to find an idea that was not only commercially viable but that I would still love after several years. After that I discussed the idea at length with my husband. We stayed up to the early hours of the morning and came at it from every angle we could think.

What research did you do? I used the internet to do a lot of research into demographics and moving patterns. I checked out other companies offering the same services but the majority I found were down in the south.

What advice did you seek? I did visit my local business link and was assigned a business advisor. I thought it would be tough to persuade him that it was a viable business. but after ten minutes of conversation he was convinced. If he believes in me then who am I to argue and this is a thought that has kept me going during tougher periods.

What other help did you get? The business link helped with legal costs for my terms and conditions of service. This was a huge advantage as it would have cost several hundred pounds. I also had the chance to sit down with an accountant who advised me on bookkeeping methods.

Does the government need to provide more help to people trying to start a business? I think there are many resources out there but you need to be able to go out and find them I think true entrepreneurs find a way to get the help they need. It does take determination and commitment but then so does running the business on a day to day basis. People sometimes expect things to be handed to them but it doesn’t work that way.

Talk us through the process of writing your business plan.I found, because of doing initial research well in advance, writing the business plan was mostly about organising the information I had. I used a word processing package rather than a special business plan program but I did research formats online before starting.

How useful has your business plan been and do you think you’ll stick to it as your business begins to grow? My business plan has been very useful I know who I am and what I stand for because I had to sit and think about it. This puts me in a better position to explain to others what I am doing. I think things will change slightly, a business plan needs to be focused but flexible.

How much did it cost to start the business? Initially it took about £1,500 for things like a PC and digital camera and costs will come to about £7,000 for the first year in total.

How did you fund this? Initially I thought about applying for assistance from Livewire or The Prince’s Trust but unfortunately I was four months too old for assistance. Instead we re-mortgaged the house and used a small portion of the equity but the rates were so low our monthly out-goings did not change much.

Have you made any provisions for business not being as prosperous as expected?My husband is still working and, as I had already left my previous job to stay at home we were not any worse off financially, although it did mean putting the expensive car and holidays on hold. When the business is established my husband may come to work with me.

When did you stop working? I had already left work to stay at home with my youngest child. My husband is a great help when he comes in from work and this allows me time to concentrate on my job. I am also really lucky as my 14-month-old still sleeps for two and a half hours on a morning! How rare is that.

Are you working from home or from premises? I am working from home so that I can keep cost down to a minimum and can achieve a work/life balance. Sometimes it gets a little difficult to concentrate with Teletubbies on in the background or when I have to convince my children that I am not playing games on the computer. Working from home has, and still will be, a learning curve for all of the family and you need to have their support or it can be very difficult. My 14-month-old son will soon be going to nursery part-time – we are just waiting for the day when he can walk – however I think he knows this and has decided not to even try!

How many hours are you working at the moment? I probably work about 60 hours per week either at my desk or out and about. However I think about the business even more and find it quite difficult to shut off and relax.

How are you managing your day and what steps have you taken to ensure you’re able to get everything done without working around the clock? Clients are priority so if they need me I will be there for them and other issues such as marketing and PR are very prevalent in my working day until I can afford to employ someone else to do this for me. However sometimes I need to perform these activities on an evening, weekend or before office hours. I always take off to spend with my family and I try to make it a quality day as a thank you for their support.

What about staff, is it just you? Currently I am flying solo but in the future I may take on more staff and outsource tasks such as marketing, design and accounting.

Is the amount of red tape that comes with taking on an employee something that concerns you? Yes I am concerned about red tape but I will do the necessary research and ask for professional help when needed.

What marketing and advertising have you done so far? I advertise in local property papers and Country Life. I have my website which is registered with some directories. I am awaiting approval of my application for the Association of Relocation Agents. I am currently looking into other forms of Marketing.

Where do you hope to be in 12 months time? In 12 months time I would like to be driving my Dodge Viper! Seriously I would like to have grown a fundamentally sound base for business and be receiving word of mouth referrals. I am committed to excellent customer service as it should be standard not an exception.

What are the main obstacles to growth and how do you plan to overcome these? The main obstacle to growth will be time. I can only take on a limited number of clients at once if I am going to give them excellent customer service. Hopefully I can overcome this by recruiting other like-minded people in other areas.

Tell us about your website. My husband and I designed and built my website – www.desresnorth.co.uk – mainly to inform people of the service we offer at the convenience of the client. We researched the kind of image we wanted and used a software package to create it. It is registered with several search engines and directories and is still awaiting inclusion in others. I am a novice and am learning as I go.

What are your main ambitions, to make a lot of money or enjoy what you do? My main ambition for starting my business is to wake up each morning and be excited about going to work. I think it is important to live with passion instead of making do even if this means my income will be reduced. The other ambition I have is my house. We are currently living in a renovation project and although it has doubled in value and will be even higher when we have finished it is not my dream home. I am looking forward to living in my ideal house and believe me I will be my own worst customer! What have you found difficult about starting up and what do you wish you’d done differently? I thrive on multi-tasking but still found this was the most challenging aspect of starting up. I had a new baby to look after while writing the business plan and had no driving license so I had to learn and fast. I took as many lessons as I could, my first test only a week before launch date, but fortunately I passed! Although it was challenging I would not say it was difficult, I knew what I wanted and would do what was needed to get there.

What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business? Determination, vision, thick skin, guts, belief, passion and communication skills. These are essential.

So what advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business? Do you feel passionately about your business idea? Is it worth the hard effort it will take? What would you be willing to do to achieve your dream? If you can answer these questions honestly the rest will fall into place.

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