“How this homestay business capitalised on a growing problem”
18 OCTOBER 2018
SayStay was established in 2012 in response to the lack of reliable homestay and share house accommodation for international students and working holiday visa holders. Since then, more than 2600 students from across 42 different countries have used the platform.
Digital Brisbane chatted with Flora Momberg, one of SayStay’s founding directors, on tips for businesses starting out, what a typical day looks like, and future plans for SayStay. Along with SayStay’s plans to launch an improved booking platform and expand into overseas markets, with the assistance of the Lord Mayor’s Global Entrepreneur Program.
What is your favourite thing about Brisbane City?
Brisbane is full of opportunities! We always say that Brisbane is a “small big city” – small because there is still the feeling of a small town, but also big because of the different people and cultures, along with all the things happening throughout the city, it is amazing. We have been watching Brisbane’s continuous growth and we are proud to say that we are a part of that!
What inspired you to start your business?
SayStay started as a response to the need for reliable and supportive student accommodation at a fair price. In 2012 (and still true to this day), there were so many students coming to live and experience life in Australia, which we wanted to be a part of, especially because both of us [SayStay’s Directors] had the experience of studying in Brisbane before moving here permanently. At the time, there was a lack of professionals who offered student accommodation and shared the vision that we had, which is to be the most reliable and affordable student accommodation company in Australia.
Can you describe your business?
SayStay provides affordable accommodation for students and working holiday visa holders from all over the world. We are one of the few companies to offer share house accommodation and also be a homestay provider.
Our business is about connecting people. We are an Australian family owned company that has provided accommodation to more than 2,600 students and working holiday visa holders, from 42 different countries. Our vision is to be the most reliable, affordable and supportive student accommodation company in Australia.
Opposed to other international accommodation and booking providers, we are able to closely manage our accommodation to ensure SayStay’s quality. Our local offices and employees understand the needs of international students, which is why SayStay continues to grow every year, despite the massive growth of accommodation and booking providers.
SayStay has established a solid customer base, with more than 300 Australian host families. To facilitate this rapid business growth, we are developing a tailor-made booking platform that easily connects international students and accommodation providers all over Australia.
How long has your business been operating?
Which type of service are you creating?
What does a typical day in your business look like?
Because our work involves connecting people (international students with accommodation providers in Australia), a big part of our day involves communicating with other people – students, partners, homestays and other accommodation providers. Communication is key for the operations team who are focused on new bookings, management of our accommodations and customer service.
We are also currently focusing on different projects outside our daily operations, including our booking platform, our website and our global marketing strategy, which requires constant communication.
What has been the biggest challenge your business has faced to date? And how did you solve this?
SayStay’s biggest challenge was our rapid growth. We had solid and steady growth since our incorporation, generating more than 1 million dollars in profits in the fiscal year ending in June 2017. We tackled our rapid growth in three different ways:
Moved to a new location in the heart of Brisbane City to be closer to our partners and clients, and opened a Gold Coast office as part of our expansion plan. Increased the full-time employees and contractors to meet the demands of our businesses. SayStay went from 2 employees in 2012 (founding directors) to 8 employees in 2018 (2 founding directors, 3 full-time employees and 3 contractors).
Developed a booking platform to ensure an easier booking process: this platform was tailor-made to our business. We believe technology is here to simplify our processes and allow us to grow even more. How do you plan to scale your business locally, nationally and internationally? SayStay (through SayStay Technologies) is focused on launching its innovative booking platform to ensure easier access to our services, connecting international students to Australian accommodation providers.
We want to expand our network by increasing the number of international students and accommodation providers in our platform beyond our current database.
The combination of our expertise, solid customer base, accommodation provider partnerships, and technology, will help support the success of our booking platform, allowing us to grow within Brisbane and other cities in Australia, as well as globally.
How do you plan to “give back” to the Brisbane community?
SayStay is an Australian family-owned company, built in Brisbane by two Australian partners who have always been active in Brisbane’s entrepreneur community. As members of the Fishburners co-working space, we are engaged with generating new ideas and businesses for Brisbane’s economy.
We are focused on bringing international students to Brisbane. We want the students to feel welcome in this diverse and fast-paced growing city. We hope they will be able to see what we first saw when we came to this amazing city.
What impact will your business have on the Brisbane community?
SayStay’s growth reflects on its stakeholders’ growth (employees, real estates, property managers, designers, IT consultants, drivers, marketing agencies, accommodation providers, etc). We are proud to say that, since 2013, SayStay injected more than 1 million dollars into Australian families through our homestay program.
Do you have any advice for businesses starting out?
If you have the idea, just do it. You have to start somewhere; the business will shape into your idea over time.
How do you plan to use the funds from the Lord Mayor’s Global Entrepreneur Program?
The Lord Mayor’s Global Entrepreneur program will help us expand our network and increase our potential to generate more business globally.
The grant money will be used specifically to develop a global marketing strategy to take SayStay into new international markets, by spreading its innovative student accommodation booking platform.
What are your future goals for your business?
Our future plans include becoming a technology-driven business, through our development of a tailor-made booking platform that easily connects international students and accommodation providers all over Australia.
How does this grant impact your business moving forward?
We see the Lord Mayor’s Global Entrepreneur program as a powerful platform and opportunity for learning and growth, which will help us to scale our business. It was extremely rewarding to know that we have Brisbane’s support in our plan to expand”.