4 May 2021|Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
As part of our popular Meet the Successful Founder series we caught up with Benjamin Willmore, founder and CEO of YoooServ, to learn about his entrepreneurship journey and discover what advice he would give on achieving success.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I grew up in Essex but moved to Surrey 15 years ago after falling in love with the area. I worked all sorts of jobs between 16 and 22. During my early years I had a passion for learning and progression with varied jobs that ranged from running night clubs in the UK/overseas through to being qualified as a mechanic for Kawasaki before trading warrants, derivatives and stocks in London – and even managing a McDonalds franchise.
While I was running a hospitality venue I had a chance meeting with a property developer which sparked my interest in property – I worked with him for some years and learnt a huge amount. This led me to establishing my first business in property development, investment and trading properties through auction houses. In 2007 I decided to completely change my outlook, so I dabbled with various estate agency roles, before launching my own agency business, Yooodle, in 2018.
Following this, I saw a huge gap in the market for flexible, hospitality-led regional workspaces that would allow entrepreneurs and businesses to thrive, which is how YoooServ was born in 2019.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
YoooServ was spawned accidentally as a direct response to my own negative personal experiences of trying to find the right serviced office for my estate agency business Yooodle. I was really unimpressed with the quality and service of what was available locally.
Having been fed up with these poor standards, I wanted to create something different – a new way to work, with well-designed spaces and outstanding facilities that foster better culture, productivity and staff retention.
Our first project was an under utilised building called Dakota in Weybridge. I would drive past this every day just thinking what a waste of a beautiful building – so I began to create the perfect working environment by taking all my tenant experiences from local and London based offices.
After this, I took time to work on the owners as I had no direct experience of this industry other than the bad experiences. I guess that’s what makes us a cut above the rest – we are focused on our tenants as we have been tenants of serviced offices. We know the pains when things don’t go well and can relate. Using my contacts and local companies only, I built out the ground floor, which attracted local businesses from small start-ups through to internationally recognised brands.
How did you achieve awareness?
It may sound cliché but most of our early success came from word of mouth, with very limited marketing spend. The design, quality and amenities in our first space at Dakota effectively did the talking for us – once you have one happy customer they soon tell their friends and contacts and then things really start to pick up. That building launched in October 2019 and was fully occupied within six months.
In terms of growing that awareness and the business, I am a firm believer that personality goes a long way. I have found that people enjoy doing business with people who are honest, have something to say and aren’t afraid to go against the grain. I tell it like it is – whether good or bad – and I think that has been key to growing the business in terms of unlocking new opportunities.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
Funding so far has been from our funds and we bought on an investor into one of our buildings.
We will be introducing an investor scheme, where an investors can just invest in a building or the group but for now we are set to create several new locations without the need for funding.
What are the key successes?
Beyond our own commercial success and creating a steady pipeline of future projects, it’s been extremely rewarding to see how the companies we provide space for have flourished – in many ways it feels like we share their success. Thanks to the nature of the spaces we design, there is a big focus on collaboration and networking – some of the customer feedback has been fantastic in terms of their increased productivity, staff acquisition and retention levels.
From the outset, I wanted to create a true eco-system for entrepreneurs and businesses to thrive and it feels like we have achieved that – now we just need to roll it out across more sites!
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
The biggest challenge I have faced is myself! I have an acute eye for detail, design and tech. We don’t just design a building, we research the history and make sure it all ties in with the history and where are today in terms of tech and office style.
Even with Covid we already were 80% ahead of the curve but because of how I am, we are then taking out old tech (that is still advanced in the grand scheme of things) to bring in the latest and best for our tenants.
Perfection for me is only achievable by understanding exactly what it’s like for tenants to be in our buildings. When they come in and simply smile as the door opens, we have done our job properly.
What are your plans now/for the future?
My immediate focus is launching our newest building No5, The Heights in Weybridge in May – we are already around 50% reserved and expect demand to continue to grow as people shift to more flexible, hybrid working. It has some fantastic features including low-touch digital technology, door automation with door handles to offices being a thing of the past, a holistic wellbeing-led gym and expansive communal and collaborative areas, plus an outdoor terrace called The Enclosure which will also house F&B operators. The entire building is designed to be Covid-secure for the future, with other facilities including a bar, café, sleep pods, full concierge service and electric cars.
We are also working on a site in Reading which is due to launch in September, as well as Windsor and further sites planned in Woking, Brighton and the UAE – the latter of which will be our first international project.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Something that has always stuck with me, is if it doesn’t break you, it will shape you into the stronger and wiser person you are today. I follow that with everything, so my advice is just to start your journey and go for it. You’ll never know the answers until you have started.
Can you share you top 5 tips for entrepreneurial success?
Do the math, if the numbers work then the money takes care of itself.
Believe in what you’re doing so much that you can let it break you to make it work.
Disaster plan everything.
Surround yourself with people that are as passionate about your ideas as you are.
Don’t measure your success on the numbers or the lifestyle. Measure it on the happiness of your team and your customers.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
Funnily enough it is Lady Ga Ga of all people! Not that I am a fan as such but I was really taken back by her quote: “I live my life completely serving only my work and my fans. My fans have cultivated my talent and they continue to nurture me.”
This resonates in everything that we do. Our clients are our fans and they cultivate the business every day.
Website & Socials
Linkedin Benjamin Willmore https://www.linkedin.com/in/benjaminwillmore/