“If you have an opportunity and you’re unsure, just take it and learn after.”

Pierre-Thomas Yacoub moved from his native Lyon to London seven years ago, at the age of twenty-two, when he spoke no English whatsoever. Today, as well as being fluent in English, he is the Founder and CEO of Movaway. Established over four years ago, Pierre’s London based-agency connects foreign students and young people to housing, internship and job opportunities in the UK’s capital.

Interview

Q. How did you come up with the idea behind Movaway? Did your own experience of moving to London influence you?

A. I always wanted to open my own business, and I know from personal experience how hard it can be moving from one country to another. As I didn’t have much cash to begin with, a service business was a good idea.

Q. What did you find most challenging when you moved?

A. The fact that I didn’t speak English at all!

Q. And you are French originally?

A. Yes, my mother is French and my dad Syrian. I was born and bred in France.

Q. How did you start out establishing relationships with companies offering internship placements, with landlords offering accommodation, and so on?

A. It took a while to build strong relationships with companies and landlords. It’s all about trust. People want to see that you’re professional, that you can deliver on time. LinkedIn is a very good way to find companies. Regarding housing, we work with subletting agencies. After working with them for a few years, I’m now opening a subletting agency with my old boss.

Q. Could you tell me a little more about your professional background prior to setting up Movaway? How did you acquire the skills and experience that meant you were confident in launching your own venture?

A. Before Movaway, I was a headhunter for investment banks at Cityfront Group (owned by my new business partner for the subletting business). I learned a lot there in terms of business, recruitment, finance, etc.

I believe in “go hard or go home”! I didn’t know much about what I was going to do. If you have an opportunity and you’re unsure, just take it and learn after.

Q. Is Movaway primarily for French people looking for accommodation and internships in the UK? Are you looking to expand? 

A. Yes at the moment, but we’re going to expand it into the Spanish market soon.

Q. How do you market your services effectively?

A. Regarding how we reach people, we do a lot of SEO, google ads, street marketing, etc. We’re working on a brand new website at the moment, which is exciting.

Q. And do you do a lot of marketing via social media for people who may be looking for your services?

A. Yes, we do. Social media is very important, especially when you are targeting people between 18 and 25.

Q. And how many people are on your team?

A. Four, plus two interns.

Q. I like what you said about taking an opportunity and learning along the way. What came first for Movaway – the services all ready to be marketed, or did you just start by marketing the idea?

A. Good question. Though in this case, we had the services all ready to be marketed.

Q. I see that Movaway has been going for over four years now. What are the challenges in maintaining your own venture, and how do you overcome them?

A. Every year the company is growing, and I think 2016 is going to be a very good year regarding the advertising plan. The fact that we’re opening a subletting company on the side, which will offer many properties for our clientele, is very promising.