Love Home Swap: Debbie Wosskow
Debbie Wosskow discusses her home exchange service for holidays, which allows members to visit stylish homes around the world without the hefty costs
Founded: 2011 Founder: Debbie Wosskow Turnover: Undisclosed
Home swapping is a trend of our times. Economical, heavily reliant on social technology, and driven by the global mobility of the consumer. With twice as many people planning home swapping holidays this year than in 2011, it is clear that LoveHomeSwap.com founder Debbie Wosskow has tapped into a rich seam. Offering stylish homes across over 100 countries, Love Home Swap enables its members to enjoy the holiday of a lifetime at a fraction of the usual cost. Soon to be launching the world's first bespoke home swapping insurance package, Wosskow is set to make home-swapping simpler and more ‘mainstream' than ever before.
The market opportunity
Wosskow is by no means the first to introduce home swapping for vacations and many sites, such as homeexchange.com and homeforexchange.com are long established.
However, she spotted a gap in the market for an exchange site that provides customers with the security they need before handing over their keys.
Home swappers can learn who is to inhabit their home through using a Facebook feature that sits within the site, allowing customers to see the social circle of the people they are dealing with.
Similarly, a product put together with credit referencing agency Experian enables swappers to verify their own profiles.
The concept was originally formed as a way to reduce the holiday cost and hassle for parents: “I've long felt that as someone who's always been passionate about travel, it's hard to stay in hotels with children,” Wosskow explains.
However, it is not just people with young families who are signing up to the home swapping site for the £99 annual membership – which, incidentally, allows an unlimited number of swaps. Love Home Swap's 7,000-plus customers boast properties worth £3.5bn and also include frequent business travellers and retirees. The site is already processing 250 swaps a month.
In 2007 Wosskow sold her communications and marketing agency called Mantra, which she had set up at the age of 25.
Since then, the experienced entrepreneur has been involved in a number of angel investments and has used some of her own funds to part-finance her home swapping venture.
In addition the company completed an £850,000 funding round, led by MMC Ventures, in December 2011.
In April 2012, industry expert David Kelly (ex-Amazon, eBay, Lastminute.com) joined Love Home Swap as chairman to help drive international expansion over the next 12-18 months.
The growth strategy
Wosskow's main aim is to make home swapping ‘mainstream' practice and the company's upcoming launch of the world's first bespoke home swapping insurance package is certainly a step in the right direction.
Having worked in PR, Wosskow has exercised an aggressive marketing strategy, securing coverage with the likes of NBC Today, Mashable, Sydney Morning Herald and Sunday Times, and featuring on shows such as The Apprentice: You're Hired.
Moreover, the focused entrepreneur expects to expand the business to more than 10,000 members before the end of this year, as the pivot for market leadership.
“It's infinitely scalable, as long as we keep the model simple and cost-effective. Even our most expensive model, which is £199, is cheaper than a night in a luxury hotel.”
And what's her aim for the business in the next five years? “To make home swapping part of the mainstream for holidaymakers – and world domination of course!”
A relatively new business, yet one that boasts 7,000 paying customers in the ABC1 bracket, the potential for Love Home Swap is immense. The value of properties on the site averages £650,000 and with a high level of activity already taking place, wrap-around services, including insurance, are likely to increase the value of the company rapidly.