I heard about Mike Last's work when he reached out to me to share what he's doing at One Spare Week.
Once I saw what the organization was about, we profiled them on Cool People Care. I was also delighted that Mike agreed to answer some questions to share with everyone regarding entrepreneurship, purpose, and balance. Enjoy:
Describe the big idea behind One Spare Week:
Vacation homes sit VACANT 85% of the time! Imagine six million homes with an average rent of $2000/week and you can begin to appreciate the difference that we can make for charities. This lets nonprofits get creative with fundraising by using our platform to convert spare weeks into big donations!
Did you have an "Aha!" moment that led you to start the company?
Yes - we use our own vacation homes charitably and I was frustrated with the typical silent auction. A "generous" winning bidder gets a great deal and then haggles over blackout dates! Tim and again I watched other owners report the same problems - winning bids were much too low and the recipient was haggling over blackouts. With One Spare Week, we've fixed all that. Owners have far more control and renters know exactly what they are getting and we still are adding a "bidding" element to drive up the rental rates (donations)!
Is this your first venture or have you started other companies?
I am the founder 1998 of Last Minute Tee Times (LMTT) which I changed to LastMinuteGolfer.com in 2002. We started with a clipboard and a highlighter and $10,000 and we grew to serve 560,000 golfers and book tee times at over 600 golf courses. We sold that to Comcast in 2008. The company is now branded as GolfNow on the Golf Channel. It has truly amazed me how similar vacation rentals are to the golf business - each is a very fragmented industry where distressed inventory is hugely important (the melting ice cube analogy)
What's been the hardest thing about starting your own business?
Getting our message in front of owners and property managers. Once owners and managers understand what we offer and how the technology we provide automates everything, they get it and they want to be part of our program.
Why did you want to start a company with a social purpose (something other than profit as a motivator or goal)?
I thought it made sense to leverage all that I'd learned with LMTT to help charities raise more money. I knew how much we could do with our own properties and I knew that we could do so much more if we could get a rock solid tech solution built. We've now done that.
What's been the biggest success story to come out of your work?
We have 71 property managers already signed up and nearly $10M in donated vacations available to help charities. And, we've built over 400 private label websites for charities.
How do you make time for non-work stuff like family or hobbies?
Once I dive into a project, I struggle to come up for air. Honestly - I certainly could "retire" tomorrow, but it's not in my DNA.
What advice do you have for the person out their thinking about starting their own company with a purpose?
Go for it, but learn your audience and your customers as much as possible and don't expect to change the world overnight - it's a long, hard ride.
Want to be featured on this site as an Entrepreneur With Purpose? It's easy - just drop me a line about what you do.