On the up · 23 July 2018

Meet the young founder solving sky-high rent and loneliness in London

Stephanie Rolando, founder of Room For Help

Ever since her first business selling customised t-shirts in high school, this young founder has always had an entrepreneurial mindset. Nowadays her mission has changed to help hard-up Londoners find accommodation whilst giving the elderly companionship.

Stephanie Rolando, 23, is the founder of RoomForHelp.com, a platform that matches homeowners looking for some help around the house with young people seeking affordable accommodation in London.

Rolando’s startup is helping to solve two big problems in today’s society; affordable housing for the younger generation and loneliness in older people.

As part of our Young Entrepreneurs series, Business Advice caught up with Rolando to find out how she’s helping tackle the housing crisis whilst pursuing her entrepreneurial dreams.

What inspired you to start your own business?

I’ve always had a entrepreneurial mindset, I started my first “business” in year 9 selling t-shirts with customised prints that you had to iron on.

When I started Room For Help I was working in the property industry and I saw first hand how difficult it was for people to afford living in London. The younger generation are currently spending over half of their wages on rent – it’s a horrible cycle and I knew something had to be done.

What are the barriers to starting your own business as a young person?

It is difficult to be taken seriously especially in an industry where you are mostly meeting and some times interviewing people who are older then you. People judge you on what they first see and there’s not much I can do about that. I’ve learnt that when you are confident, passionate and speak with conviction, people respect that.

How did you fund your business?

I actually worked a full time job whilst starting up Room For Help so it was my side hustle for a while. Recently, I was fortunate enough to be awarded a “Young Innovators” award from Innovate UK which means I will get some financial support from them as well as mentoring and advice.

What do you think the younger generation can bring to the business world?

I believe my generation is the most forward thinking generation so far. There is such a mixture of different cultures and backgrounds in London and our generation have grown up around that.

I think embracing diversity in the business world will be massively beneficial.

Will you ever work a 9-5 job?

It would be difficult to go back to a 9-5 after being able to dictate my own working structure. I wouldn’t like the idea of working on someone else’s dream as apposed to my own. Although I have a lot of respect for those smashing it in the 9-5 world, I don’t really think its for me.

Is a degree a necessity?

I never went to university so I can’t say that it is. I’ve heard uni is an amazing life experience but getting into debt at such a young age has always concerned me. I would say, unless you are certain as to what you want to do with your life then it’s worth it. If you’re like me and didn’t know, then just wait it out, you can always go back to studying when you’re older.

What tips do you have for other young people wanting to start their own business?

I would say make sure you are doing something that makes you happy. Don’t focus on what will make you the most money, it’s so important that you feel like your business is solving a problem or benefiting others.

I would also suggest seeking out as much free help that you can when you are starting out. The Princes Trust runs free courses for young people starting their own business, they helped me plan my model and I’ve met some great contracts through the courses.

What app do you use the most?

I would say Instagram is one of my most used apps. It’s great for business, I post regular updates on @RoomForHelp so that our followers can see what new rooms we have on offer. Social media is changing the way we communicate to customers so it’s important for me to stay on top of it.

Where do you see yourself at 50?

I see myself running a successful company and having offices spread all over the world. My dream is to live in Spain so I would probably try and get an office in Barcelona to work from there.

Netflix or night out?

It depends on my mood – If I’ve had a crazy day I just want to zone out and watch something in bed but I try to get out and socialise when I have the energy.

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Carly Hacon is a reporter for Business Advice. She has a BA in journalism from Kingston University, and has previously worked as a features editor for a local newspaper.