While helping her partner find a place to live, Suzanne Noble realised the challenges of finding shared accommodation as an older person. This inspired her to launch Silver Sharers in late 2019. The website and newsletter connect a trusted community of older homeowners to prospective lodgers (of any age), making it possible for homeowners to age in place and potentially make a new friend.
Within 6-months of launching, the service had several hundred subscribers and had raised £30k in investment.
Here are Suzanne’s top five growth lessons, in her own words:
1. Own your origin story – Silver Sharers came out of my own lived experience of sharing with a flatmate in his 50s. Stories that come from a founder’s own lived experience immediately help to create trust and build positive word-of-mouth.
2. Work the media angles – My background is over 20 years spent working in PR so my default is always to consider how I can utilise my media contacts to grow the business. It’s a mistake to think you need a fully finished, polished product before speaking to journalists. We created the most simple version of Silver Sharers to begin with, using open-sourced software. Within three months we were featured in the Guardian newspaper and the Evening Standard, which helped to drive awareness and subscribers to our weekly newsletter. Look out for the hashtag #journorequests or #HARO on Twitter to find journalists seeking spokespeople for their stories.
3. Know your community – I spent three years, living on Facebook, building a community of over 50s with whom I polled the initial idea, to get early-stage feedback and our first users. There’s no substitute for immersing yourself in your audience to understand their needs and wants.
4. Always be iterating – We’ve updated the site three times in the past 5 months and continue to do so as we learn from our customers what is/isn’t working for them.
5. Speak to your customers, prospective customers, outliers – Prior to starting Silver Sharers, I spent six months talking to those who were already home-sharing with others, conducting interviews 1-on-1. You can’t beat talking to people to better understand the problem you’re trying to solve or if there’s another problem you haven’t yet spotted.