Our latest #CanonSmallbusinessHero is Ross Bailey, founder and CEO of award-winning business, Appear Here. An online market place for shop spaces, Appear Here brings together brands, entrepreneurs and creatives in some of the world’s biggest cities.
Bailey turned his business idea into a thriving marketplace at just 21 and is now continuing to disrupt the property industry with short-term lets in prime locations.
Tell us a bit about your business
Appear Here is the leading online marketplace to rent retail space. We make booking an area for retail as easy as booking a hotel room – think of it as Airbnb for retail. Since launching in 2013, we now have over 60,000 brands in our community from major global players such as Google, Net-a-Porter and Apple to creatives, designers and artists including Kanye West and Jamie XX, plus thousands more exciting businesses such as Spotify and PROPERCORN. We make it easy for these brands to access the best spaces worldwide to make their ideas happen.
1. What’s your role?
CEO & Founder
2. Why did you start the business?
It all started with a little shop I launched for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Everyone was celebrating and I wanted to be a part of this national moment, so a friend and I designed a range of t-shirts called Rock & Rule. We spotted an empty space in Soho and approached the landlord to see if we could take it over to sell our t-shirts. It took 10 days of negotiation to persuade them to let us use the space. I couldn’t believe how hard it was to get a space that was just sitting empty.
Rock and Rule ended up being a big success and got lots of press attention. After it finished, everyone from my mates to major brands started getting in touch to find out how I’d managed to get hold of the retail space in Soho, so I started helping them out. At the same time, I was seeing businesses like Uber and Airbnb use tech in a smart way to disrupt well-established industries. It was obvious to me that this was something that could hugely benefit the property industry. So I decided to do something about it.
3. What’s been the biggest challenge that you’ve faced as a small business?
Persuading landlords to list their spaces on Appear Here. The property industry is known as a bit of an old boys club - it’s very traditional and hasn’t changed the way it works in over 100 years. As a twenty-year-old kid, with no property experience and little more than a landing page, persuading landlords to use Appear Here was tough. But I didn’t take no for an answer and three years later Appear Here now works with nine out of ten of the biggest landlords in Europe and there are over four-thousand exclusive spaces listed on our platform.
4. What barriers to growth have you experienced?
Not being able to hire fast enough as we scale internationally. Making sure you hire the right people and get the right culture is so important to a small business. Sometimes that means it can take longer than you’d like to hire key roles, but you should never undervalue the importance of a great company culture. Building a world-class team is something we won’t compromise on.
5. How digital do you consider your business operations to be?
Appear Here was the first company to allow commercial property to be listed and booked online. In the property industry, the average time it takes to book a space is 3-6 months. Through streamlining the process online, it takes just 3-6 days to book a space on Appear Here and over 90% of all bookings are now done completely online.
6. How much time do you spend on admin?
I’ve got very good at dedicating my Sunday evenings to admin and emails – I hate leaving everything to Monday mornings. It’s actually not too bad once you’ve got some music and a glass of red wine.
7. What’s the one piece of tech you couldn’t live without?
I spend my life running between meetings, so my iPhone and spare battery pack is pretty important to me. Apps wise, I’d be quite literally nowhere without Uber. In my spare time, I’m looking on Dojo to find fun things to do around me.
8. If you could give one piece of advice to other small business, what would it be?
Punch above. It’s one of our company values. If your ambitions aren’t terrifying, you’re not pushing yourself enough. At Appear Here we’re always challenging ourselves to achieve what companies three times our size do. So while we don’t hit the mark every time, when we do, we know we’ve knocked it out the park. I also think businesses can forget what a difference a great office environment can make. This is especially important when your team ends up spending most of their days - and nights - in it. The right tools allow your team to go above and beyond and focus on what really matters for your business. That’s why we pay attention to detail so that everything from the furniture to the plants to the digital and printing solutions from Canon are the best for our team.
9. What does success look like for your business?
A world where anyone with an idea can find space to make it happen.
Follow the #CanonSmallBusinessHero series to learn how businesses are achieving their growth aspirations.