The sharing economy success story that’s keeping pets and people happy

Angela Laws, aged 71, is the world's oldest social media manager and works full-time for TrustedHousesitters. Photo credit: TrustedHousesitters

The sharing economy has given rise to thousands of ambitious start-ups, and one pet-friendly business is disrupting the holiday rental model made famous by companies like Flipkey and Airbnb.

Launched in 2010 from the bedroom of its founder,TrustedHousesitters has become the world’s largest house and pet sitting business, with a global community spread across 130 countries.

The concept is very simple: pet lovers stay in homes for free, taking care of pets while owners travel.

The company employs two social media managers with a 50-year age gap: Angela Laws, 71; and Tom Richardson, 23.

While many 70 year-olds are enjoying retirement, Angela – possibly the world’s oldest full-time social media manager – sold her house two years ago to live permanently as a house and pet sitter.

In our first Gigalife Conversation, Angela talks to Tom about how technology can help older people get back into work and whether it will ever replace humans.

Jess Stephens, Chief Marketing Officer at TrustedHousesitters, and one of Management Today’s 35 Women under 35, speaks about the business from the company’s new headquarters on Brighton’s Silicon Beach:

Jess Stephens

I joined TrustedHousesitters to accelerate its global growth

The founders, a husband and wife partnership, set up the company with an inspired vision; they wanted to keep pets happy at home, and enable people to have a retreat with a difference. Their idea was to bring in a management team that could take it to the next level.

We’ve just secured investment…

which will help to accelerate our global growth. Our website and app are available in 130 countries, so 2019 is about adding new languages and reaching even more communities.

I’m a left-brain, right-brain person

I’m creative, but I love a spreadsheet. In the first three years of my working life, I taught myself as much as I could about new technology. I read all the blogs, I inhaled everything I could until I became an expert.

I’m always asking ‘what does the customer want?’

and I ask my team, what does the data tell us? What numbers do we need to hit? If you can combine the principles of marketing with technology, then you’re going to be a valuable player.

From what I’ve seen, women entrepreneurs who get funding in the UK are in the single digits…

and like representation in any form, if you don’t see people like you doing it you assume you can’t. There’s that quote by Henry Ford, “whether you think you can or whether think you can’t, you’re right.”

I’ve never seen more than 11% of women speaking on panels at tech conferences

I am frequently invited to speak at tech conferences, I look around and women in tech are underrepresented by too wide a margin.

I don’t like words like ‘mumtrepreneur’

I think it belittles business women who are striding out and taking that risk.

Women in the C-Suite in tech businesses are not that visible

But I’m pleased that it’s 50/50 at TrustedHousesitters. I’m a risk taker, my approach is to push yourself one notch up on the risk scale, because the truth of the matter is you probably can.

I admire Whitney Wolfe Herd…

founder of Tinder and women-led dating app Bumble. She’s only 29 and worth $230 million. When she started Tinder she knew her audience – college students – and she was hands on. She visited colleges getting people to register, but she also knew her numbers, where to market, and that’s the most effective way to hit your targets.

As the global population expands, we need to share more

The concept of ownership will shift over the next 100 years, and the sharing economy will be part of that. I read that there’s going to be more change over the next 10 years than there was in all of the 20th century. You’ve got to move quickly and use data to inform your decisions.

I’m probably signed up to every digital newsletter there is

I spend time in the evenings researching topics that interest me. There’s a reason why we’re so connected to our phones, and it isn’t just because we get a dopamine hit, it’s because they link us to other people and to information, and we are a learning species!

Younger people are more open to connectedness

Connectivity and trust are key to our future, particularly for Generation Z digital natives. I believe that people are better together.

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