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Xtraordinary Woman of the Month - Liezl Hesketh

Liezl Hesketh - Founder of TheRoomLink

Liezl HeskethFounder of TheRoomLink in South Africa after living abroad for 15 years and returning last year. I have a very diverse skills set: my career started in accounting before finally moving into project and management consulting, but adding performance and life coaching, change management, and digital skills en route. I am energetic, driven and a hard worker – always giving 100%. But life is not all about work, I am a social person who loves travelling to far-flung places. My current favourite is Albania, which I hope I can visit again soon!

Please tell us a little more about your business. 

TheRoomLink.co.za is an online portal which matches renters and properties. It works on the same principle as online dating, except instead of matching people with people, it matches people and rooms. It is also based on the principle of collaborative consumption or sharing economy: what one person has in excess, they share with another in need. Our target market is split into 2 primary types:
Properties: Casual and formal landlords, developers, rental agents, universities & private student accommodation providers - although there is an increase in the number of ordinary people who are choosing to rent out a room to earn an extra income.
Renters: At this time of the year the biggest demand is predominantly students and international interns, however for the remainder of the year, the target market includes young professionals, contractors, seniors and people in need of medium term or flexible accommodation.

You are busy with some very interesting projects. Please tell us more about them. 

When students return in the new year, we will start a new season of #StudentSA, a weekly Twitter chat, which teaches young people necessary life skills they don’t learn anywhere else. I am also the founder of a UK charity called Children of Africa (reg: 1110517),  which supports ongoing projects. Our current primary focus is on Philani Crèche, Lindelani. We raise money in the UK to help support the kids from Lindelani, an informal settlement near the town where I grew up in, Greytown, KwaZulu Natal. It is one of the Shalom Ministries Projects under Angus Buchan. The project is run day to day by a school friend of mine and the centre has grown and grown. They started off with eight babies and it has now grown to include a baby, toddler, and pre-school centre. Really a project that is close to my heart.

What does being a business owner mean to you and why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I think I have always been a frustrated entrepreneur, but have mostly been dabbling in ventures part-time rather than committing myself full-time. One of the most rewarding aspects of being a business owner, is that I can make a difference in people’s lives. I am a natural trainer and it gives me a huge amount of pleasure to see my staff learn and grow under my guidance.

Besides your business, what are you passionate about? 

I have many varied interests, rather than a single passion. I am an avid reader, intrepid traveller, love cooking (Indian and Asian food being a favourite), play the piano, Nordic walker, blogger and many more. I just wish I had more time for these!

Who or what has been the biggest influence in your life and why?

I have an international business coach, a self-made man, named Andrew with whom I worked more than 10 years ago. He’s great at helping me to keep focused and not become distracted. But equally important is my husband, Tim. I could never have done it without his continued support. He believes in me unconditionally.  

What is the best business advice you have received? 

Even when you have many ideas – focus on just one. It has a much better chance of success.

What have been the most effective marketing channels you have used to promote your business?

SMS Marketing, Google CPC, Facebook promotions and advertising on strategic student Apps have really paid more dividends that than any other types of traditional advertising.

Are there any resources or tools that have helped you with your business which you’d like to share?  

I think there might be too many to share them all here, but these are applications we cannot live without:
• Insightly.com – an online CRM and contact system
• Mailchimp.com – an online application which allows you to create, send, and track email newsletters
• MeetEdgar.com – a social media scheduling tool that draws posts from a content library and posts them to a schedule that you specify.
• Salford University MOOC (free) course in Search and Social Media Marketing (http://goo.gl/fxaRv2)
• iPad App: Canva or online at www.canva.com - it’s an application that makes design simple for everyone. If you need to create your designs yourself, they have an online (FREE) design school: http://designschool.canva.com
• Google Drive and Dropbox.com for file storage and online collaboration
• We use so many online collaboration tools online – we wrote an article on it! http://www.theroomlink.co.za/blog/collaborative-working-online/  

What advice would you give women that would like to start a business?  

• Do some self analysis and be honest with yourself: do you have a support system, are you self-motivated and are you a hard-worker? If the answer to any of these 3 was ‘no’, you should think again whether entrepreneurship is for you. It’s a very challenging, yet rewarding journey.
• Do your homework! I would suggest a full competitor analysis before you invest any money.
• Plan, plan and plan some more. The more prepared you are, the greater your chance of success

If you were to write a book, what would the title be, and why?  

How to live 10 lives in one lifetime … My CV reads like that of a much older person, because I have done so much. I am always evolving and reinventing myself. I started off following a traditional career path, but soon found that my interests and opportunities pulled me in many directions. I am sure I shall be changing direction again a few times in my lifetime…

What is your personal “motto”?

I am driven by motivational quotes, and I think they’ve become my “mottos”:
• Fail to plan, plan to fail
• Reaching for the stars keeps you on your toes
• If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough

Who is your inspiration?

I am inspired more by successful people who have have a greater human interest, rather than some of the great business names. So great people like Nelson Mandela, Banksy, Desmond Tutu and Richard Branson have been more of an inspiration than Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, because ethical business and ‘doing the right thing’ is very important to me. 

Your favourite daily affirmation?

I am so grateful for the life I have. There are so many people both in South Africa and in the rest of the world where every day is about survival, and I am thankful that I don’t lack for anything - even when I think I am having a tough day!

Your favourite quote?

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. ~Nelson Mandela  

Which book are you reading now?

Third World Child – Born White, Zulu Bred – GG Alcock

Which book can you read over and over again? 

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook - Gary Vaynerchuk

If you only had one message to share, what would it be?

So many people think that their little bit won’t make a different, but if every person just did one small thing to help someone else every day, collectively we’ll be doing a lot to help many.

One piece of general advice you would like to share: 

You get so much more done when you’re organised. And to be organised you need a system – and the system must work for you. I have perfected a system that works so well for me, that I have been sharing its methodology with staff, colleagues and friends. Most of them love it! Not every system works for everyone, but test new ones until you have a system that works well for you. 

Is there anything Xtraordinary Women can do to assist you on your journey?

There are 2 things specifically that I think Xtraordinary women could do to help:
1. Help spread the word about how TheRoomLink.co.za can help ordinary people generate more income by renting out a room – either in the house, or by converting outbuildings.
2. Networking – there are only a few women tech entrepreneurs. It would be great to network with other women in similar industries.


Contact Information: 

Website: www.TheRoomLink.co.za 
Twitter: www.twitter.com/LiezlHesketh