EazyCity was established in 2004 in Cork, Ireland to deliver accommodation, language courses, job hunting help and much more to visitors to Ireland. The company was founded by Irish entrepreneur Julia Lynes and her Italian business partner, Enrico Zoppi. They spotted a need to provide services to help people who had arrived in Ireland settle in to their surroundings.
The company has grown from the two founders to a full time staff of 17. The founders believe they have acheived this with a singular focus on providing outstanding customer service to each and every customer they have.
They are currently looking at expanding their operations to the United States and to other international markets.
What kind of changes did the company/product go through in early stages?
We were finding our feet a lot in the first couple of years so mostly we were focused on our product offering, pricing, customer service and then following that we turned our focus more to systems for internal processes to increase efficiency in how we delivered our service.
Do you have investors? Are you looking for further investment?
Currently we don’t have any investors, the company is 100% owned by my business partner and I. We are interested in working with a joint venture partner for our US operation and we have plans to franchise/license the business in Europe. We have been working on our franchise/license model for around 18 months now and it’s almost ready to bring to market so we are very excited about that.
What kind of growth has your company experienced?
We’ve gone from a small two-person part-time operation working from home (and both of us holding down full-time jobs simultaneously) to having 3 locations now in Cork, Dublin & London with a team of 17.
How many customers do you have now?
In Ireland & UK we welcome over 2,000 per year with an average of 450 clients at any given time.
Tell us about your industry: What was it like to break into?
We operate mainly in the language study/travel industry but you could also say that we operate in the relocation sector. We found a niche in the language/travel industry in Ireland by becoming a reliable provider of good quality accommodation for international students. Parallel to this we saw how our service could also work for the expanding multinational tech sector companies relocating people to Cork & Dublin for work. It wasn’t very difficult to break into our industry originally because there weren’t many others doing exactly what we do in Cork & Dublin. However, opening in London was harder as there is much more competition there but it’s good because it makes it more interesting and you have to up your game to fight harder for your place in the market.
What's the biggest challenge you've faced so far? The greatest victory?
I believe that the biggest challenge has been opening our branch in London. It wasn’t an easy task and continues to be a challenging location for us but I’m very proud that it’s still operating and we are focused on driving it to become one of our biggest branches in the coming years. For me the greatest victory was probably just 2 weeks ago when we celebrated 10 years in business. It wasn’t the fact of reaching 10 years but more that we had our teams from Cork, Dublin & London together for 2 days of team development activities and big party then to celebrate. The sense of team camaraderie and engagement from everyone who participated in those two days was the best I have felt and it made me very happy to be a part of that.
What's been the most important lesson?
Don’t undersell, know your bottom line and don’t go below it because it’s very hard to come back up later.
What are your plans for 2014?
I can’t believe we are already almost half way through 2014! We have many plans & projects on the go as usual! We have just recently launched our brand new website www.eazycity.com and that was one of our biggest projects so we are delighted to see that coming to fruition. We have plans to finish off our licensing/franchising model before the end of the year; to drive on with our plans to open in the US and to introduce some new service offerings along the way. We are also developingwww.languagediscount.com which is a new brand for buying language course deals at schools worldwide.
What are your immediate next steps and long-term goals?
We’re currently undertaking a review of our internal processes to see where improvements can be made so that we continue to offer great service at reasonable rates. Improving our internal management systems is also part of developing our franchise/license model for the business. The long-term goals would be to have EazyCity locations worldwide some privately owned by us and some franchised/licensed. I believe that we provide a fantastic service for people moving to a new city and that should be available across the globe!
What advice do you have for other people/companies starting out in your industry?
It’s all about relationships & reliability. In this industry you need to deliver because everyone is working based on reputation. You need to build relationships with strategic partners, agents etc and you need to always deliver what you promise.
How can you scale?
Through franchising/licensing the business across Europe firstly. We aim to see 5 new locations set up by mid-2016.
Who do you think are your customers?
Our customers used to be mainly international students between 18-25 years old. This demographic has changed somewhat in the last number of years so we our main customers now are a mix of international students and people relocating for employment aged between 18-35. We also have some people who are setting up businesses in our locations and as they are on a budget they choose our accommodation service for medium-term stays (3-6 months). The demographic of our clients also changes somewhat depending on the location but that’s more or less the average across the board.