What’s your business called?
Passepartout Homes, www.passepartout-homes.com.
Passepartout (pas-par-tu) means “master key” in French. We chose this name because we provide our guests the opportunity to access an elite portfolio of luxury accommodation.
Can you describe it in one sentence?
Luxury serviced villas for large groups and special occasions
When did you start it and what inspired you?
The company was founded in November 2011. The website was launched in December 2012 with just 5 properties, however it was not until January 2014 that we started trading and accepting our first booking. To date we offer over 160 holiday homes in 18 different countries.
One December I was very busy with office parties and end of the year commitments , I could not attend my youngest daughter’s nativity play.
As the girls were getting older, their diary was also getting busier with homework and extra curriculum activities and I wanted to be a more involved mum and not miss on key development milestones.
It was also starting to get very problematic to manage the endless half terms and school holidays.
When I started setting up the business I was working part- time for one of the world’s major financial news corporations. At the time I had a live-in au pair.
I left the corporate world in April 2013 to dedicate myself full time to my new business and spend more time with my girls.
The idea for Passepartout Homes came to us in 2011 after building our luxury holiday home in the south of Italy. Although the property was already a much-loved destination for our family and friends, it sadly remained empty for long stretches of the year.
We approached a few holiday rental agencies with a view to renting out and sharing our beautiful house, but didn’t feel comfortable having ‘strangers’ in our home. We could not find a rental agency which also felt like a trusted advisor and friend.
Agencies also demand a minimum number of weeks in high season, which is exactly the time we want to enjoy the house ourselves.
Realising that we already had a network of friends expressing similar needs, we saw that our own private club would allow us to unlock the doors of our private homes with comfort and security, and let us share the beauty and amenities of our properties.
And so Passepartout Homes was born.
How did you fund your start up?
The company is self-funded, through own private savings.
How do you manage working around your children?
When I started setting up the business I was working part- time for one of the world’s major financial news corporations. I have always had live-in au paris to help out and a cleaner.
Now my girls are older and our last au-pair left us a couple of weeks ago. I now just have a cleaner.
Although I work from home and supposedly I am more flexible, in reality mine is not a 9 to 5 job, it is more a 24/7. Whatever job you do, juggling family and work duties is going to be always very challenging. I work as much as I can while the girls are at school; then I steal 5 minutes here and there if they are busy with homework, activities, playing or watching TV. Then I catch up on some work after dinner or at night while they are asleep.
During school holidays, this is when it gets incredibly challenging. I get up very early in the morning to work at least two hours before everyone gets up and then again at night. School holidays are very disruptive for my professional life as kids expect me to be at home and spend time with them. They don’t expect to be parked every day at a camp, grandparent or friend. After the summer holidays it usually takes me the whole month of September to catch up and pick up the pieces.
Can you describe a typical day?
I get myself and the kids ready. Take kids to school. Come back and go straight to my home office where I work until kids get back from school.
Instead of the old coffee breaks and water cooler conversations with colleagues, I take a break by doing house chores or grocery shopping. I also try and fit in pilates or yoga as well as some much needed beauty treatments!
What have you found hardest?
As I set up the business alone without a business partner, business life becomes a very lonely affair. No more coffee breaks or lunches with colleagues. You are also under pressure to squeeze in as much as possible while the kids are out of the house.
Not having a business partner means also you have no one with whom you can share the burden and challenges of running a business.
Depending on what you do of course, setting up a business without other co-founders is something I would not recommend.
The most challenging aspect of running a business as a solo-preneur is the sheer amount of work and decisions you have to make on your own. It is a very solitary affair.
You have to take care of everything single handed, whereas in my previous corporate life I had hundreds of employees and skills at my disposal. I know have to look after everything from finance, marketing, PR, advertising, accounting, sales, IT, HR…making my own tea.
What’s the best thing about being self employed?
Definitely the flexibility that comes with not having to ask permission to leave the desk. If one day my private life requires my full attention, I am free to arrange my diary around my own priorities.
What are your plans for the future?
Expand the villa portfolio, develop the private members travel club concept and find a business partner.
What advice would you give for someone just starting out?
Ensure that you have a very supportive partner at home and outsource as much as possible. If you can afford it, hire a cleaner, a nanny, do most of your errands online to save time (and money). The beginnings are very tough on your mind, soul, body, energy levels and…finances. If your finances allow it, hire qualified staff to take care of various aspects of your business.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
I often find myself thinking “what did I do???” It was so much easier and secure to be an employee. And no day ends without me thinking I should quit.
As previously mentioned, you need a very supportive husband or friends. The idea of failure horrifies and scare me. I try to stay positive and remind myself that “Rome was not built in a day” and no one is expecting me to be the next Richard Branson. Not easy!