Every week we talk to our clients about everything that motivates them to be entrepreneurs. This week, Olivier Kruger (owner of ForTheHomeworkers) tells how he and Seffie Treistman managed to capitalise on frustrated homeworkers and empty hotel rooms at the end of March this year.
A suitable home office is not a given for everyone; crying babies, tinkering neighbours or internet going down. During the lockdown at the end of March, you saw a great need for quiet workspaces. On the other hand, you saw hotels, which saw their rooms empty due to the absence of tourists and business guests. Olivier (formerly a freelance consultant) and Seffie saw a way to connect the two parties.
"Yes, the idea naturally came about at the end of March. A lot of assignments fell away for me as a freelancer, I then started thinking about how I could be of value in the following period. I started brainstorming with the Business Club, in which I am a member. Together with Seffie Treistman, the co-founder of VoordeThuiswerkers, we came up with this idea. We thought; This is the right timing, we should just go ahead and do it!
The first Sunday of the lockdown, we had a deal with some hotels and the following Tuesday we were live with the website. Not yet as advanced as the current site, but this way customers could view and book the first hotels."
How has it been since then?
"During the first lockdown, we had a lot of media attention. As a result, we got a lot of traffic on our website and a boost in the number of bookings. Organically, we continued to grow and with the development of our new website, the number of conversions increased. To our surprise, people were still booking after the lockdown. So the need appears to be there even beyond the lockdown, the lockdown only accelerated the process."
So there are still opportunities even after the pandemic?
"Yes definitely, what you see now is that the hotel industry has a long-term challenge. The demand for hotel rooms is under pressure. Not only because of the drop in tourism, but also because this period did make it clear that we don't always need to travel the world for business meetings. Hotels aimed at this target group are therefore looking for new ways to make money.
So there are opportunities here for us. Home workers have been discovered as a new target group, and not just home workers who want to work a day at leisure. Even if you keep working at home (part-time) after the pandemic, you can choose to host business appointments in hotels. With our platform, we can connect this target group and hotels."
Which need do you meet the most?
"That is diverse. Right now, it revolves around people who don't have an ideal workplace at home. They are looking for peace, inspiration and focus. With children at home or a partner who also works from home, people start looking for a place for themselves. Thereby, it is also really seen as an inspirational getaway, there are so many people sitting in the same environment for days on end!"
Is every hotel room suitable for your concept?
"Not all rooms are suitable. To really offer the comfort and difference, hotels use the spacious suites. Some hotels have already converted the rooms. The bed has then given way to a spacious workstation.
We have been approached by many hotels, but unfortunately not every hotel offers the right conditions. When we find that there is more demand in a particular city than we can offer, we write to hotels ourselves."
What requirements should a hotel meet?
If people pay to work somewhere else, it should also mean an upgrade of their own workspace. Inspiration therefore also counts heavily. And if a room is richly upholstered, that also muffles noise and gives a nicer feeling. We use an all-in price get. This is common from the co-working world. Our prices therefore include coffee and tea. This is a requirement we place on hotels for listing on our platform."
Actually, you mostly tackle the big cities, why?
"That's right! The need for hotels is by far the highest in big cities. People live relatively smaller in big cities and are more likely to experience working from home as a challenge. If you live more rural, you are more likely to have the luxury of having your own workspace from home. This will be different in a flat in the city. That's why we see our concept catching on mainly in big cities."
What are your future plans?
Research shows that 80% of Dutch people enjoy working from home and want to continue to do so even after the corona crisis. Yet the majority say that five days a week at home does get boring. We expect that in the future, employers (especially start-ups with few staff) will increasingly rely on working from home. To meet the need for social contact between colleagues, we naturally facilitate a nice range of inspiring hotels. Without monthly rent, with all kinds of facilities and in inspiring places.