Rent College Pads
Ignoring his professor’s advice, this entrepreneur started a new company connecting student renters and landlords.
Rent College Pads is a startup company that began because some college students found it so hard to find places to live. Owner Dominic Anzalone recalls his frustration while a student at UW-Whitewater. “Finding housing with my five roommates was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had. Consequently, I vowed to solve the problem.”
His new local company, Rent College Pads, helps college enrollees find off-campus housing by helping renters and property owners connect. Property managers get the opportunity to create profiles of their homes and manage the e-mails they receive from students. Renters get to filter their housing preferences and save their favorite properties. So far, RentCollegePads.com has helped over 60,000 students in the UW system find housing. We recently spoke with Anzalone.
Can you talk a little more about why you started this business. And why in Milwaukee?
I started Rent College Pads while I studied entrepreneurship at UW-Whitewater. All of the citywide sites had only around 10 percent of the available apartments in the college area. This forced students to resort to driving around looking for rental signs to find housing. I moved to Milwaukee to start RCP because of the thriving entrepreneurship community. Also, I soon discovered that the Milwaukee area colleges face the same problems I had in Whitewater. I began at Marquette University where I was able to convince over 95 percent of the college landlords in the area to work with us and post their available properties. We eventually partnered with the university and thousands of Marquette students were able to find housing on our site this year.
What is your basic business model?
RentCollegePads allows students to search on an extremely user-friendly website, offering a map-based platform allowing the renter to see all available properties in the area. Students have the ability to find attractive properties and save them to their favorites. Once they do this they can share them with their potential roommates and discuss them all on the same page. To property managers, the main benefit, other than renting their properties faster, is that they can easily add and manage their entire portfolio of properties in one place. Currently, we have helped over a hundred thousand college renters find housing this year, while helping hundreds of landlords.
How will your company grow?
We plan to partner with many new universities comparable to Marquette in the very near future. Currently, we have five new partnerships in the pipeline, and we are planning more for next school year. A big challenge we face is ensuring that we maximize our growth potential. So far, we have created an extremely lean model that has allowed us to grow as fast or faster than our competitors who have chosen to attempt other routes. A major question is deciding if we continue on a bootstrapped model or take on funding to grow even faster.
How do you target your customers?
Our ideal customer is a university that can truly utilize our service and is willing to work with us in order to better serve their students.
What’s different about your products/services?
The major difference is not just our user-friendly website, but the tight niche that we work within. The true value we bring is in our marketing abilities. The hardest part about creating a great resource for students is ensuring that they know about it, and that is what we are good at.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Start working on whatever it is that you’re excited about and don’t wait on investors or anyone else to validate your idea. You can make it work if you put enough effort into it. An entrepreneurship professor of mine insisted that Rent College Pads would never add up to anything, but I didn’t let that stop me. I put all of my efforts into this website that is now my full time job. If you believe in something and know it has potential you should go for it.