CityX took five minutes to speak to Sam Temple-Baxter, owner of Student-It, to find out more about his business, how 2019 has been and his plans for 2020:
Tell us about the business, what is it you do?
“We support students to find good quality student housing and quality student accommodation providers in the U.K.”
When was the business formed and how has that changed over the years?
“The business started as an idea in 2017 in the back of an office, I then started to learn more and more about websites, how to create one and what makes a good website. I then started creating a very basic website which to showcase my idea and then I started completing some market research in Lincoln and surrounding areas. I looked at what others were doing online and how they operated, I even pretended to be a student again to get to know the process they used to see if it was good enough for me to use.
“I found that there was definitely a gap in a market for Student-It and it was just about how it came across to students. From that point on, we wanted to focus on the lifestyle of a student and started to create a website that would show some of the great houses out there. A lifestyle of a student consists of many things however we believe the foundations are a quality house and the quality of the letting agent or landlord most likely. If the landlord puts in a lot of time and thought to the students and they have great houses, the student is likely to have a really positive experience. In the last year, we have really started to partner with student accommodation providers who provide great accommodation.
“From there this has to lead us to create our blogs to help students and to help them understand the different aspects of housing, we are also creating an experience where they can get everything from one website if they don’t have it, for example; bills, insurance, kitchen or bath packs so that students can have everything arrive on the day they move in!”
How has your industry changed over time?
“Students have gone from living in what is available, usually, a house which had as many rooms converted into a bedroom for money to now, a well designed, colourful and exciting home. Houses or HMO’s now have lots of regulations surrounding them that protects students and put their safety as top priority. There is also a regulation on where you can build or create an HMO in cities because they were starting to flood the market and there weren’t enough resources to house 5 people per house on most streets.
“After some incidents with local councils and a recent fire in Bolton, there is likely to be more regulations or harsher fines for landlords that don’t meet the requirements. With younger landlords coming through into the industry, there has been a huge push forward in design, lifestyle, experience and thought into HMOs. Combine this with the rise of student fees, students are taking University far more seriously than what they were when it was once free because they have their student debt over their head.
“Finally, we are now seeing an increase in Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA). This is where they build the block from the ground up and it I designed, made and installed all for students and no one else. Everything in the block is researched before it goes in and they are a big hit with students because they offer an extra level of security, convenience, support and have lots of added extras that you wouldn’t get in a house, however, these do come at a cost.”
What are your future plans for the business?
“Future plans are to be able to provide housing in the top 100 University cities, over 100,000 beds on the website and help home as many students as possible into quality student accommodation. After that, we want to be able to start creating some of the amazing student accommodation that we advertise.”
What do you think the future holds for your industry?
“I think we shall see a lot more creative and experience led design come into student houses, however, big funds are coming in and I think a lot more PBSA will be built and they will feature the latest technologies to make living seamless. I envisage them providing a place which is controlled by an app, where you can turn your room ‘on’ or ‘off’ while you aren’t there, it will have voice recognition and they will continue to create convenience in that sort of aspect. Houses may not contain that sort of technology as it can be expensive however, they will always have a personal touch, they can have superior design and trust if they build it in the right way.
“To end, many universities will create their own letting agency to advertise the houses that meet their criteria, some do it now, but a lot more will join as they can make sure students are looked after by the right landlords.”
Tell us a bit about how the business has done in 2019?
“Business has done very well in 2019, as we focused on growing in 2017/18 2019 has been a year where we can really test our strategies, processes, and brand. So far we have had a great response from students being able to contact us so easily, find housing that is trusted to be good and receive a lot of support if they are unsure.”
What are your proudest moments within the business in 2019?
“Getting over the 10,000-bed mark, being in 29 cities and having spoken to in excess of 500 students so far since September 2019.”
What can customers expect from the business in 2020?
“Students can expect lots of helpful information by more blogs & the creation of a YouTube channel. We are expanding to even more cities & we want to start working with more landlords and letting agents in each city to have a diverse range for all students.”
What are your goals for 2020?
“Continue to work on our brand and helping as many students find good quality student accommodation. By growing into more cities, partnering with more amazing landlords and developers and having more beds, we can help more students.”
How do you plan to achieve the goals you have set out?
“We plan to utilise our social media channels to start, especially our new YouTube Channel, we will get to as many networking events as possible, reach out to as many landlords as we can, and continue to support students as best we can that we leave a lasting impression.”