Ex-HR director, now Samuel Leeds student, turns over an amazing £250k from Cotswolds property business

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In just nine months, Hollie Lawrence has built up a highly successful serviced accommodation business in the Cotswolds where she lives. With a turnover of nearly £250,000, her portfolio is worth some £3.2m and includes properties that she owns, rents from landlords and manages for investors. The mother-of-two went into the industry to be able to spend more time with her children, giving up a six-figure salary to devote herself to the training.

‘Financial Freedom Challenge opened my eyes to what was possible’

After graduating with a psychology degree, Hollie climbed up the corporate ladder to become a human resources director. At first, she enjoyed the challenge of progressing in her career.

But as she got towards the top, the balance between her professional and home life began to shift with two young children to look after. 

“It was a global role and it never stopped for me. I got to a point where I just wasn’t happy. It wasn’t for me any more. I wanted to be a mum who was present for my children.

“I knew for a while I needed to make a change. I’d always had a passion for property. My husband and I had done a couple of development projects in the past and we’d always said we would do more.

“But it’s that old cliché, we never found the right time,” explains Hollie.

Feeling trapped and increasingly frustrated, matters came to a head after one particularly stressful day at work.

Realising there was more to life, Hollie started googling for information on the rent-to-rent strategy which she had heard about but didn’t fully understand. That was when she came across Samuel Leeds and his YouTube property channel.

One video made a huge impression on her. It featured a Financial Freedom Challenge which Samuel had undertaken with Evans Willie.

“It opened my eyes to what was possible. When you see somebody go from almost nothing to financially free in seven days it blows your mind. You think if that person can do it, why can’t I?”

Hollie immediately signed up to Samuel Leeds’ online training, read his books and then attended one of his crash courses in June 2022. She couldn’t believe it cost only £1.

“I thought what have I got to lose? It’s one day. Even if I don’t learn anything, I’ve not really lost anything. I learnt so much in that one day. I was absolutely buzzing.”

After doing another course on the buy, refurbish, refinance strategy, she enrolled on the year-long academy programme in the following September.

Having invested in the academy, Hollie handed in her notice after 20 years in HR to focus on property.

It is not what she would advise other fledgling entrepreneurs to do, nor what Samuel Leeds, as one of the country’s leading property educators, would endorse. However, she felt it was the right decision for her.

“The job I had was high pressure, high stress, very long hours. I wouldn’t have been able to give myself the opportunity to be successful if I didn’t say, I’ve got to cut the cord here.”

‘The rent is £1,000 a month and we charge £750 a night for large groups’

Full of confidence, Hollie launched herself into her academy training, but success didn’t come quickly. 

She found herself under pressure once more, especially being surrounded by students who were doing well. 

“It’s a great environment to be in. It gives you that motivation, but it can be disheartening at times. I’ve had great support from my family but day to day I was working by myself. When you keep getting that no it can be difficult to pick yourself up and say this is going to work and keep going,” admits Hollie.

Nevertheless, people lifted her up, she says. Finally, after four months she secured her first rent-to-rent deal. Then it took another few months for her to obtain the next one.

“I was in a lucky position. My husband could cover the bills but still you put that pressure on yourself. There was a point where I worried, that I’d gone at this too quickly, but it turned around.”

She adds: “Once I got that second one, things started to change for me. It gave me the confidence and I was able to progress more quickly. I had that persistence.”

Over the next five months Hollie went live with another eight properties. The first one she secured is in Moreton-in-Marsh in Gloucestershire. It has turned out to be a money spinner, with four bedrooms and sitting rooms offering flexible accommodation.

When Hollie took control of the property, it needed a lot of ‘TLC.’ She invested about £10,000 in carrying out a major renovation over a period of six weeks, including putting in a new shower and sink.

“We have it on a commercial lease for six years. So, we knew we would get our money back. That’s why we were comfortable with the investment. It’s in a good location right in the centre.”

Hollie negotiated a discount on the rent with a grace period of two months. She pays the landlord £1,000 a month and rents it out for £260 to £750 per night, depending on how many people are staying there.

“We’ve got two nightly rates so we can flex it. That maximises our occupancy. Generally speaking, £750 a night is when we have groups of eight to 10. We might let it out for two to four nights at that rate. The rest is at a lower rate.

“The turnover is £6,500 to £7,000 a month and the profit is about £3,000 a month after the bills which includes cleaning.”

Before her training, Hollie was unaware she could rent a place for a long period on a commercial agreement. 

“When you educate yourself, it opens so many doors. If you don’t treat it as a business and put the effort in, it won’t make the money you want it to. You’ve got to put the right systems in place and do your research and marketing.

“If you haven’t got time to do that and you’re going to pass it on, you’ve got to do your due diligence on the person who’s going to market and manage it otherwise it will fall flat.”

Most of her portfolio is made up of rent-to-rents and properties she controls. Before Hollie did her training, she assumed that in the Cotswolds tourism would be her sole market.

Hollie discovered that in fact, contractors, professionals and people relocating to the area also need short-stay, furnished accommodation. 

Certain areas are primarily driven by tourism, and it is a year-round destination. However, in Gloucester, which is on the edge of the Cotswolds, there is a huge amount of development under way, sparking high demand for accommodation for contractors.

Consequently, Hollie has several apartments in the city. “We’ve staged them and made sure they’ve got the right facilities that contractors need when on a job.

“It’s about understanding the market and making sure what we’ve got in those properties is delivering what our guests need.”

Hollie taps into lucrative property management 

With her education and the experience gained from having a large portfolio, Hollie has been able to tap into the lucrative property management side. 

She manages serviced accommodation owned by investors as that is her specialism. It offers certain advantages over the rent-to-rent model, she says. 

“The barrier to entry is even lower than if you do rent-to-rent because you don’t have to risk any money. You’re just providing a service.”

Even if the property fails to rent out and the investor is unhappy, she is not guaranteeing to pay any rent. However, as an established operator in Gloucestershire she is confident that scenario will never play out.

“I know the clientele and what people need. In Gloucester I have relationships with businesses that need accommodation. So, I know I can fill those apartments or houses in that area.

“I’ve got a couple of trusted partners. If I’ve got an investor that’s interested in working with us, whether that’s where we manage the property for them and charge a fee for that on a monthly basis, or it’s something else, we can offer an end-to-end service.

“I work closely with people who are able to source those opportunities. I’m able to stage them and then manage them. It can be a complete hands-off for somebody.”

So far there have not been any nightmare guests. Hollie has procedures to ensure that remains the case. All guests are asked to produce identification and there are clear policies stating what they can and cannot do. 

There are measures specifically targeted at deterring partygoers, although the Cotswolds does not usually attract younger visitors, being an upmarket area.

“We don’t allow one-night stays. That’s important because if you’re going to throw a party where things get broken and neighbours get upset, then you want somewhere for a one-night stay.”

For her apartments in Gloucester, where there are more likely to be parties, she insists on a minimum stay of five nights. “That’s because we’re targeting professionals, contractors, families and people either relocating or working in the area.”

Hollie is continually looking for more properties to take on as rent-to-rents through her company, Character Stays. She enjoys the process.

“Sometimes I have to pinch myself. I love the design and creating spaces. I’ve always been an advocate of travelling and getting experiences. I love to visit places with character. Now I have the opportunity to create that for other people.

“In the north Cotswolds the market is primarily tourism. So, I know I’m creating beautiful places for them to come and to create memories with their families.”

A lot of American, Japanese and Chinese tourists come to the area, and in the summer her occupancy is 100 per cent, says Hollie.

Her first property was advertised on Rightmove, and she dealt with an agent on that one. The rest were advertised on OpenRent which allows an entrepreneur to approach a landlord directly.

Hollie explains the benefits of her business model, including the fact she is offering a guaranteed monthly rent, and that the property will be maintained to a high standard. 

“It’s all about trust and helping them to understand the value you’re bringing in terms of looking after and investing in their property. They don’t have to worry. There are no void periods, and they don’t have to look for tenants.”

She has also built relationships with local estate agents who pass on opportunities to her.

Her business is systemised which reduces the time she needs to spend on actively managing it, although she likes to keep an eye on how it is running every day. That has given her more free time. 

Recently, the businesswoman took the week off to be with her children, aged three and five, during half term. She can also pick them up from school and take them to events.

Next on her agenda is tackling a BRR project and turning it into serviced accommodation. And every day she feels ready to embark on a new challenge.

“I wanted to do something I was excited to get out of bed every morning for. I wasn’t excited to get out of bed to do my job. Now I can’t wait to start working on my business every morning. It’s such a change.”

Hollie’s tips

  • I always thought it wasn’t the right time to start a property business. There’s never a right time. You just need to get the education and get started.
  • Persistence is so important. You just need one yes to begin with.


Samuel Leeds’ verdict

“Cotswolds is an expensive area, but Hollie has understood the market and found her niche. She can now also package and sells deals and develop properties in the area with the knowledge she has, and continue to grow the rest of her business.”


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