We were born in January 2013, after six months of pre planning. Jason, Stuart and I all had combined agency experience of over 50 years, so setting up on our own made sense and after all, how hard could it be? The answer, very hard, but enjoyable and rewarding too, in equal measure.
The planning of Ivy Gate actually started in the summer of 2012. I remember the initial meetings we had very well. They were filled with excitement, but with a tinge of fear too. What were we going to call ourselves? How was the brand going to look and feel?. Who were our target audience? Who was setting up the marketing, the bank accounts, the array of letters, the insurance, managing the cashflow and accounts? These are all questions you have at the beginning and they are not ones you pay too much attention to when you have the idea of going alone, but they are all real and extremely important nonetheless.
We all left the safety net of our well paid jobs between January and March 2013, excited, enthused and driven, looking forward to the route that lay ahead. Little did we know at that time, how choppy the waters and how steep a learning curve this would be for us all.
With the backing of James Caan (Dragons Den) and Hamilton Bradshaw Real Estate, we set up office at the Kopshop in Old London Road, Kingston, armed with a desk, a phone and a laptop. Our website was still under construction at that stage, so we really were trying to establish a business through the basics.
For those of you that don’t know about agency, one of the biggest challenges in the industry is cashflow. If we sell a house today, you don’t actually realise the money until about 4-5 months after the initial offer was agreed and that is if all being well. Therefore, that first year was very hard. 7 day weeks, 12 hour days and at the time for little to no financial reward. We had no monthly salary coming in, so we were surviving on any savings we had. For two of the three founders, each with a wife and children, this was a challenge to say the least! Nevertheless, despite the financial hardship, we battled on and with the launch of the website in May 2013, we were starting to see the brand establish itself.
I recall vividly Stuart coming back into the office with the first instruction and our first set of keys- a four bedroom semi-detached house on Groveland Way in New Malden. Our first sales instruction. This was closely followed by our first lettings instruction at Hill Park House in Surbiton. Things were starting to take shape and become very real.
It is a very slow process trying to build and establish a new brand. We were up against some stiff competition, who never like a new kid on the block, looking to steal a slice of the pie.
2013-2014 was all about establishing the brand. Hitting the streets, meeting people and trying to engage with the local community. It was extremely hard work, but we enjoyed it at the same time. We were joined by Charlotte a few months after launch and she proved invaluable to us along our journey,
2015- having made some traction in 2013-2014, we decided that it was the right time to buy out the equity stake held by our founding partners. This would set us back on a cashflow basis, but we felt that moving forward, it was the right thing to do. We parted ways, very amicably and indeed we still speak and see some of the team from Hamilton Bradshaw from time to time. In addition, Jack came on board to help build the lettings portfolio and again has been a massive asset to Ivy Gate.
2016- This was the year it was all starting to make sense. We were building our portfolio and the sales market was thriving. However, in the summer we were hit with the dreaded referendum and things changed again. By this time we had welcomed Joe, Ashkan, James and Tallulah to the team, so our cost base had risen significantly. The changing market and the uncertain conditions we were faced with, sadly meant that we had to lose a few staff to protect our monthly costs, This was not an easy thing to do and in the ten years we have been going, is probably one the of hardest things I had to do.
2017- this year saw the departure of one of the founder members ( Jason ), who decided at that time that his skills were better served elsewhere and with the full support of Stuart and I, Jason moved on. Jack was rewarded for all his hard work and became an equity director in the business.
2018-2022, These were the real growth years. We welcomed Clare, Bobby, Ellie, James, Lee & Katie during that time and things were going well. Despite the ordeal of covid, the property market was still flourishing and we had become a well-established Estate Agent by then. Bobby was rewarded with directorship in 2021.
We now have over 200 lettings properties to look after, we were the number one agent with the most sales and lettings in Thames Ditton for 2022, we have over 255 Five Star google reviews and we are heavily engaged with the local community. We sponsor school fairs, football teams and local events on an annual basis now too.
Our lettings proposition has gone from strength to strength. We appear to be the “go to” agent for any homeowner that is relocating abroad and looking to let out their property, who are reassured of our attention to detail and ability to safeguard one of their main assets. Not bad for a business that started out with nothing.
Who knows what the future holds, but we have plans to build the business further, with a view to branching out to offer a block management service this year too.
I am often asked, was the stress and worry of those first years’ worth it and would you do it again. Yes and Yes is the answer, but there are many things we would do differently second time around.
We want to thank the local community for their support over the last ten years and we look forward to serving many of you over the years to come.