Just Started – Meraki: Ryan Hill

Anyone who has been in higher education knows the woes of finding accommodation. Enter Meraki, the startup that’s seeking to help students with their search.

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Helena Young

Name of founder: Ryan Hill
Age of the founder: 29
Location: Oxford
Date launched: 20 September 2021
Number of employees: 2

What does your business do?

I run a student accommodation agency, helping students across the UK find accommodation for private student halls.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I worked in the student accommodation for a large nation-wide operator within the industry and I saw first-hand that students needed more help with their accommodation search, so I decided to work with them on their search.

How did you know there was a market for it?

Seeing it first-hand working as a multi-site manager for one of the largest student accommodation operators, I was able to speak with a lot of students on their search and I felt there was a need.

What were you doing before launching your business?

I was working within student accommodation managing large private accommodation halls that students lived in.

Have you always dreamed of starting a business?

I have had business before but this time I wanted to make sure I was making a difference and helping the students with their search.

How did you finance your business?

Meraki Student is a self-funded business, which was set up recently to improve the industry. I plan to keep reinvesting in the business to grow and reach more students over the following years.

Explain your business model and how you make money.

We work with the large operating student accommodation which are effectively like landlords. We help and assist them in finding students. However, our priority is to help the students and offer them the best possible service.

What are the main challenges you have faced? And how did you overcome them?

We have faced a number of challenges as being a small business we have had to show our clients we can add value to their properties which has been harder as a small new business. We have taken the approach of working harder and smarter from our competitors to show that our clients are worth taking on. We have had great success in some towns already beating our competitors which we like to highlight to our clients.

What has your experience been of starting a business during a pandemic?

It has been a challenging time for universities and their students with a lot of the classes being taught online and travel restrictions. However we have amazing clients offering flexibility to ease this with the students.

Describe your first breakthrough.

We are very proud of our success in Reading, Berkshire with a large amount of our students being housed here who were struggling to find the correct property. This was shown through our reviews from our students and led to recommendations to use us.

How has Brexit impacted your business? Do you think it will in the future?

Brexit has had a big impact on universities attendances. EU students are no longer able to have the same universities fees as the UK, and in some cases can be paying double or triple which is as much as £30,000 per academic year. This has meant we have seen a drop in demand from EU students wanting accommodation but we are still seeing students apply and we expect to have more coming over the next few years.

What advice would you give to other aspiring business owners?

My advice is to research and understand the market you want to go into, it will save you time and money once you decided to make the leap in to setting up your business. Knowledge in an industry is a valuable skill that you can add to your business and one client will respect and want.

What is one resolution you have for your business this year?

We want to be focused this year on having numerous sites that we are the number one referral agents. We want to show our clients that although we are small, we can still compete with the large agents and using us is essential to having a fully booked student accommodation.

How do you see your business developing in the next three years?

We expect to grow to more sites over the UK, which we are already in a good position to do. Within 3 years we hoped to be considered one of the top referral agents in the whole of the UK. Although a tough task, it’s a goal we hope to achieve.

If you’re a business owner with a startup that’s less than six months old, apply now to feature as one of our Just Started business profiles.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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