For so many people, the thought of moving from one house to the other spells a lot of stress, and for those who come into town for a short while the endless stories of bad experiences faced searching for a good apartment are always heard. This prompted Argentina’s Valeria Pasmanter to fill in the gap, serving as an intermediary between landlords and foreigners looking to rent rooms. Though with many challenges, she has been able to pull through the turbulence and provide comfort to a good number of people. Here is her story:
Spare Room Buenos Aires is an Argentine company that rents rooms in shared apartments and homestays for people interested in spending a period of their life in Buenos Aires, whether to study, work or enjoy a holiday.
The passion for promoting positive exchange experiences has long been an important part of Valeria Pasmanter´s life. It began when she worked for AIESEC (an international NGO) generating work exchange programs for students abroad. And it continued to follow her closely when she worked in the USA and Mexico. It was that same desire to make sure foreigners feel comfortable in their adopted city that prompted her to start Spare Rooms Buenos Aires.
She was tired of hearing the same complaints from demoralized foreigners in Buenos Aires, that they had paid inflated rates because of their accent, that they have had a bad experience living with Argentines, and they lost time and money in a worthless search. She decided to start this project, with only one concept in mind: to improving exchange experience, by finding the right room in Buenos Aires that best suits preferences and priorities.
“Finding a place to stay in Argentina is not just stressing but also dangerous. That’s why most of the foreigners who had visited the place would often complain about their demoralizing experiences. Some of them would say that they have wasted so much time. Other would say that most of their money was spent in a worthless search. Some would even testify their experiences where they were asked to pay inflated rates because of their accent”.
Valeria Pasmanter is the founder of Spare Rooms Buenos Aires. Established in 2008, the company serves as an intermediary between landlords and foreigners looking for a room to rent for more than a month. Before launching her own company, she had worked at hiring portal Bumeran.com and was also familiar with the world of student exchange thanks to her experience at global youth organization AIESEC.
At first, it was difficult to convince landlords to rent their rooms due to security concerns, but she emphasized the benefits from the exchange with someone from another country, and now, she manages around 300 rooms.
Her business model which was developed with the help of a tutor from BiD Network is still based on the flat fee and monthly commission she charges the foreigners. Valeria plans to launch operations in other Argentine cities soon.
According to Valeria Pasmanter, to be an entrepreneur, one must believe in an idea with so much passion and strength and be able to spread that to people around you.
Surmounting the financial challenges, she made use of Personal savings. For her, convincing the owner of the room that the rent money is not the only thing that he/she will get renting the room, but also the cultural experience to live with people from abroad which is priceless, is one of the things she wishes she could take away from her business as to her, receiving foreigners is like travelling backwards.
“My model is my dad. He, through his daily example, taught me the culture of work, responsibility and to be devoted to one single thing and focus on it. My dad is the one who grew up poor and he built a medium company”.
Her friendly Hispanic attitude has helped to build good links with people. This for her is key to the growth of her business
“I always had in mind to build long term relationships, if there is some adversity I try to think of something that (eventually) build lasting relationships”.
Although she regrets not trusting her instincts sometimes and the sacrifice she makes which keeps her from seeing family and friends many weekends, she has learned to live above these things.
Valeria defines her success in these words: “There has been growth since the inception of the business. In June 2008, we started with one room and now we get to have 370 rooms in Buenos Aires. People trust us and realize that we are a serious company. Each person who has stayed in a room is a great success for us! Work that we like is a success for us. To help other people to find a place to sleep, in which they feel comfortable is a success for Spare Rooms Buenos Aires.
She hopes to spread the vision to different provinces of Argentina, “And little by little we are getting there, first in Cordoba and Mendoza now”.
After eight years in the business, Spare Rooms Buenos Aires has grown into a startup that people, especially foreigners, trust.