At the latest TechToronto, Lauren Haw, CEO at Toronto-based Zoocasa shared how her previous jobs taught her important lessons that not only led her to acquire Zoocasa, but also taught her how to navigate the business world.
Haw said her journey began at 18, when she was looking for a summer job to help her pay tuition. After finding work with College Pro Painters, which allows students to make money by running their own small painting business, Haw says she learned the basics of running a business.
“It was yielding that paint brush that I learned the foundations to basic business practice,” said Haw. “You see at College Pro, you’ve got a product, you’ve got clients, and you’ve got paint jobs. You’ve actually got to collect money from your customers.”
Haw says that summer she learned about three key components of running a business: leads, productivity for your team, and profit.
“Leads was all about knocking on doors. I knocked on doors and I knew that within a certain number of hours, I could build my funnel,” said Haw. She also recalled the lessons she learned when one time, she secured a paint job, hired 10 painters to paint someone’s home, and ended up painting the entire house wrong.
“I learned some really good lessons about cost management, but also around productivity of your team and how important it was that they have the right systems, the right tools, and the right environment to be able to be productive,” said Haw.
Haw stresses that when it comes to making a profit, the tech community should know that “revenue doesn’t just become profit.” Companies should have a monetization strategy and a budget.
“It was yielding that paint brush that I learned the foundations to basic business practice.”
Haw says working for College Pro helped her build an entrepreneurial mindset, so instead of going on to become an accountant, at 22, she went on to open an Oxford Learning Centre before partnering to grow True North into one of the largest mortgage brokerages in Canada.
Eventually, Haw began actively selling real estate in the GTA, and saw an opportunity to improve information in the online real estate market — an opportunity led her to found Scholarhood.ca, a site that connects families to home listings searchable by school district.
“Enter residential real estate — the 13 billion dollar market had us a bit intrigued,” said Haw. “I jumped in and I started yet again knocking on doors. I learned what this big industry was all about. I didn’t think I could just get in and overnight disrupt this market.”
While Haw says the opportunity she saw in the real estate market was exciting, she found her Scholarhood.ca’s business model to be slow. Twelve years and six businesses into her career later, Haw said she came across her “very, very lucky break” in 2015 when Rogers put Zoocasa up for sale.
“We acquired this great brand, a national brand, an amazing domain,” said Haw. “I started applying everything that we already knew…we’re focusing on the lead funnel, a productive and awesome team. We’re hiring and also to make sure we have a monetization strategy that’s profitable so we’re actually here for the long run.”
Zoocasa, an online real estate brokerage, recently launched its school zone, which allows users to see their school zones, neighbourhood boundaries, along with home listings.
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