Digital Jersey Bootcamper Cameron Pirouet tells Emily Moore about his plan to provide serviced apartments for business and leisure travellers
WHETHER forced to stay at an airport overnight, undertaking a work trip or enjoying a city break, the chances are that, at some point – and probably more than once – we have all stepped through the doors of a Premier Inn.
If that is the case, and if you have stayed in different properties across the hotel group, the one thing which is likely to have struck to you is the number of features common to each building.
From the automated check-in procedure and the type of bed to the colour of the paint on the walls and the soap dispensers in the bathrooms, every hotel boasts the same set-up, furnishings and accessories.
And it is this consistency and reliability of service which has inspired Digital Jersey Bootcamper Cameron Pirouet’s latest business concept.
Still at the development stage – ‘it doesn’t even have a name yet’ – the idea takes the ethos of the Premier Inn offer but converts into a high-end Airbnb offer.
‘The idea is to provide serviced accommodation for corporate and premium-end clients,’ explained Cameron. ‘The plan is to identify properties, initially in Jersey and the UK but ultimately further afield as well, ensure they are of a high-end spec with concierge services available and then rent them out to corporate clients or visitors who are looking for a little bit of luxury.
‘With plans to scale up the offer so that we have properties across the country, the key is emulating that “Premier Inn effect” so that you are guaranteed the same level of service and experience wherever you go.’
In contrast to the budget hotel chain’s approach, however, Cameron aims to provide a ‘high-spec user experience’ in each of his apartments, with little touches including a welcome box, complete with the guests’ favourite snacks, and their own pictures already on the walls to provide that ‘home from home’ feeling.
‘Our vision is to use technology to create a seamless and hassle-free experience for corporate and leisure travellers staying in premium serviced accommodation,’ Cameron added. ‘There will be an app that allows for easy booking and communication with our team, as well as granting access to the room and serving as the point of connection for any issues.
‘This platform will be crucial for scaling the business and ensuring the same level of service and experience across all properties, as well as facilitating bookings and providing personalised recommendations for guests. Overall, there is a gap in the market for a highly personalised and reliable experience.
‘We plan to launch in Jersey, refine our platform and business model and then expand to the UK and beyond. Our innovative investment engine allows people to invest in our properties and receive a monthly dividend, providing an opportunity to scale the business and offer high-quality serviced accommodation on a wider scale.’
Highlighting his entrepreneurial spirit, the high-end Airbnb concept is not the business which Cameron pitched when applying for a place on the Bootcamp.
‘I’ve actually changed my plan completely, although the original idea is still bubbling away and may well come to fruition at some point,’ he said.
That initial concept was The Property Source, something which developed from the former teaching assistant’s research into investments.
‘The more I studied the topic, the more I became drawn into property investment,’ he explained. ‘However, I didn’t have much money available to invest.’
Undeterred by the size of his bank balance, Cameron – who, as a keen shooter, has also represented Jersey in the Island Games and Commonwealth Games – pursued a practice called property-deal sourcing, which enables individuals without significant capital to invest in the sector.
‘It’s still a small market but, by viewing properties and providing details to potential buyers, you can make good money as a deal sourcer,’ he explained. ‘It’s an effective way to acquire capital and, ultimately, invest in your own property portfolio.’
Indeed, it was by using a deal sourcer that Cameron was able to acquire a flat in Blackpool, a move which not only inspired The Property Source but which is now providing an Airbnb property and giving him valuable knowledge for his new venture.
‘Although we made good progress with The Property Source, every time we came close to launching, I discovered a new issue which required significant work,’ he said. ‘I still believe there is a need for a safe, monitored platform which facilitates people finding and selling properties – and we now have the model for this – but the financial climate has changed and is not so easy to secure funding for concepts at the moment.’
Now about halfway through the 12-week Bootcamp, Cameron says he has benefited tremendously from the ‘comprehensive’ programme.
‘We have covered so much from customer segments and market size to business models, minimum viable products, GDPR and branding,’ he said. ‘We have also benefited from some incredible speakers, including John Abel and Philip Richardson, from Google, who talked not only about how the tech giant presents and validates its ideas but also about the mindset you need to succeed.’
Also helping to drive the Bootcampers’ success is the Digital Jersey mentoring programme.
‘My mentor is James Broadbent, the head of digital, innovation and design at RBS International, and he is awesome,’ said Cameron. ‘Not only can I bounce ideas off him and get his feedback but those twice-weekly sessions also help me to stay focused and accountable. I can get quite easily distracted and jump around all over the place but knowing I have to do something in time for a certain meeting helps that discipline.’
Keen to establish his Airbnb business in the Island, Cameron said that he was in the process of obtaining the necessary licences before identifying and refurbishing suitable properties.
‘There are a few legalities to work through but I think that entrepreneurship is all about fighting fires and jumping through hoops,’ he smiled. ‘I’m determined to make it work, though, as I love learning new skills and pushing through concepts. In fact, I’m not sure I could go back to working “normally” again.’