Our customers work in every industry you can think of, make all sorts of products, offer all manner of services and come from a variety of diverse backgrounds. What they all seem to have in common, however, is an unwavering passion for the work they do. Chuks Uwaechia, Co-founder and Director of KH Homes, is no exception.
We asked Chuks to join Anil Stocker, our Co-founder and CEO, for a fireside chat to tell us all about his Kent-based business. KH Homes offers short-term, self-catering, serviced apartments to visitors and guests seeking an alternative to hotel or B&B accommodation.
An entrepreneur driven by passion and opportunity
Before KH Homes, the housing crisis in London was where Chuks first found opportunity. “Because housing prices in London were so expensive, the focus for accommodation shifted to the surrounding boroughs,” says Chuks. “The housing authorities needed properties and had to find them in more affordable areas.”
Having worked in the local council, Chuks was fully aware of the difficulties presented by the housing crisis and he wanted to be part of the solution. “I’ve always been passionate about selling. I’ve always been passionate about entrepreneurship. But you still need money to make things happen,” he explains.
Bringing Kent Housing on board as a passive investor to fund his business idea allowed Chuks to approach the councils with his housing offering. And because the demand was there, the growth of his first business was rapid.
“We grew quickly from one property to 20 and then we started to experience some cash flow issues,” explains Chuks. “The councils are solid payers but we were waiting too long to receive payment, so we turned to MarketFinance to help us through the rough spots with invoice finance.” And it worked! The business now has 150 houses in their portfolio.
“I know how critical cash flow is to an SME like mine – we depend so much on cash,” Chuks adds. “So, there is such a need for the kind of service MarketFinance is offering and more small businesses need to be made aware that there is a solution to their cash flow struggles.”
Know when to move into new markets
Chuks had identified a business model that was soon replicated, with many new entrants now coming into the market. He recognised the need to diversify and thought that an up-and-coming business on the hospitality scene might offer new prospects. “Everyone was talking about Airbnb and we thought we needed to get into that market quickly,” remembers Chuks.
“We created a new business called KH Homes that would focus on private corporate clients and provide them with serviced apartments for their staff and contractor accommodation needs. We were one of the first to start serviced apartments in Kent and we’ve built it into probably the number one apartment business in the county.”
KH Homes now provides quality accommodation for UK and European business from a variety of sectors including construction, relocation, insurance, event management and even film production.
“I think one of my biggest successes so far is probably being able to turn around accommodation for 150 people for Amazon. They were bringing in contractors to work on their new sorting centre in Medway and it was an incredible challenge, but we did it,” says Chuks.
Building a future
With a team of 10 and a revenue of £1.8 million, Chuks is ready for more: “We want to dominate the Kent market. We’ve built up a reputation, we’ve got the contracts in place and we’re good at what we do. Now we need to find more properties.”
The target is to reach 400 to 500 houses and one of the ways the business will achieve this is through acquisition. “We just bought a business with 20 homes that we’ll add to our portfolio,” says Chuks.
But, for Chuks, success isn’t just about growing his business. It’s about what the success of that business enables him to do for his community and the wider world.
“Because of the business, we’re able to send several teams to remote parts of Africa to provide medical care,” Chuks explains. “We support a food bank in Kent and do a lot of stuff to help young homeless people. The business has given me the opportunity to do that, for which I’m ever so grateful.
Just two weeks ago, a lady tapped me on the shoulder and said, do you remember when my daughter and myself came to you when our house got burned and you helped us? You gave us a house. These are my proudest moments for the business.”