Catch up with Cherry Bird

Zack Young is the founder of Cherry Bird, (a soon-to-launch online lettings agency designed especially for students) and one of the winners of a coveted place in the Catalyst Centre at Southampton Science Park. Whilst at University, Zack saw a gap in the market for a simple online lettings agency, designed to take the hassle out of student lettings and create a fair marketplace. The website allows students to find a house, sign contracts, approve guarantors and pay rent and bills. It also makes life easier for landlords allowing them to manage their portfolio online whilst saving time & money. We caught up with Zack to find out more.

 

After 2 months in the Catalyst Centre, you must have settled in nicely. How are you finding it?

Having a base that I can use whenever I need to is perfect for me as I don’t follow the traditional 9-5 working pattern, and 24/7 access to the office at Southampton Science Park allows me to come in at a time that suits me. As I am so busy, (as well as running Cherry Bird, Zack is studying for his second degree in Social Sciences, and is trustee of two charities) it’s great for me to have a place where I can escape and get my head stuck into work. Even though work follows me everywhere, it’s useful to have a base to get my ideas down and the support from my business coach Phil has been really useful.

How has it helped you being a Catalyst Centre winner?

It definitely adds to our credibility; the fact that we won a place rather than just having an office really helps our brand image and for me, was another wake up call that we had something good – it was another group of people confirming we had a solid idea with scope for a scalable business.

So what are your plans for the next few months in the Catalyst Centre – what are you looking to achieve?

We’re looking to become self sustaining, rather than relying on investment. We’d like to be making enough money to cover our overheads, which are currently minimal, and we think getting to this point will be relatively easy once we’re established as a credible option for landlords. Winning a place in the Catalyst Centre has created valuable press interest in what we are doing, as well as increasing brand awareness amongst our target market.

Why did you decide to enter?

Due to the links back to Southampton University, and because we are an academic brand. We’re working mostly with students, and the link to the University is vital, giving us credibility and getting us in front of the right people. Having the base, the space and the coaching was also a major factor in our decision. I’m really hoping after the 6 months to stay here at the Science Park – it’s a fantastic environment and for technology businesses like ours, the team here are a real asset.

So, what stage is your business at right now?  

We have finished development, and are on the verge of launching. We want to wait until we have a solid portfolio of properties before launch, so we’re working closely with landlords, mainly in Southampton, but we’ve also found that we’ve had interest from landlords in other cities. Cherry Bird is a national business, and we are now trying to shape the launch to be as effective as possible, and accommodate interest from landlords in all university towns and cities. But the key to our success is building good links with landlords and working on getting good relationships with key commercial partners. We’ve found landlords tend to prefer traditional means of letting so it’s an educational journey telling them why Cherry Bird is the better way and how we’re the future of student lettings.

We are currently working on the pricing structure and amending that slightly, as some estate agents charge a fee, and we will need to factor this in. The plan is to implement a soft launch within a few weeks, and then put the hammer down for the next load of student lettings during Summer 2013.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

We want to be ‘the’ national brand of choice for those looking for private student housing. We want to be known for quality of service, trustworthiness, and for providing the best value for money. I’d love for a student in any of the big cities to consider Cherry Bird as their first option when looking to move into a student house with their friends. We also plan to move out of student lettings, into mainstream lettings – with the economy changing this marketplace – there is massive growth in rentals.