Tell us about yourself?
Steve Baron is the Founder & CEO of Whanganui Mansions. He is a former successful real estate agent and property investor when based in Auckland and formerly the Managing Director of Baron Marketing Ltd, an advertising company he founded and ran for over 20 years.
He is a past mentor for Business Mentors NZ and holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Waikato Majoring in Economics & Political Science. He also holds an Honours Degree from Victoria University of Wellington in Political Science. He is a published author of three books and a prominent guest editorialist for newspapers throughout New Zealand.
In his spare time, Steve is the Clerk of the Scales for New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, is a Bridge Grandmaster, and enjoys walking, running, and cafes.
What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?
The biggest misconception people have when they start a business is that all you have to do is build it and they will come.
The truth of the matter is that it takes a lot of time and effort to build a business and you need to know your marketing to do that. Unless you are lucky, advertising and marketing knowledge and effort are the most important aspects. Especially in a digital world. You almost need a University Degree in SEO and online marketing these days.
If you could go back in time to any moment from your journey, and give yourself one tip, what would it be?
Build your business with SEO and mobile-friendliness in mind!
What makes you stand out as an entrepreneur?
I couldn’t possibly answer that question myself. You would have to ask others if I stand out at all. But, if there is one trait I would attribute to myself, I would say it is determination and perhaps even pigheadedness.
What are some of the best working habits you’ve gained over the past couple of years?
I’m the wrong person to ask this question. I work when the mood takes me.
Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?
Whanganui Mansions was born in September 2020 when we published our first online real estate magazine with the encouragement of a few local real estate agents. It was a simple idea I had been nurturing for over 30 years since my real estate sales days and a lifetime of property investment.
That little idea has now blossomed into a magazine with over 200 pages of properties for sale in Whanganui, Waverley, Marton & Bulls. The hope was to produce a product that would compete locally with dominant corporate players owned by foreign private equity firms who siphon local funds off overseas.
Using state-of-the-art digital publishing software we have created a platform for local real estate agents and private sellers to promote their property listings free of charge. In addition to the magazine, we now offer buyers a property search function from our website that has proven to be extremely popular as a tool to find all the local real estate listings.
Where do you see your business in five years?
We are a small localised business and do not have grand ideas of taking over the world, or even little olde New Zealand, but, if real estate agents decide to get fully onboard, there is huge potential for the business to grow. That means breaking through the belief barrier that sites like TradeMe NZ are the only sites that bring in buyers.
Why that my be true, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. They are happy to pay hundreds of dollars for a listing but think Whanganui Mansions with its free listings is somewhat irrelevant. But we are growing and people are starting to take notice. So, if real estate agents really got in behind us they could save themselves a lot of money.
What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you in getting there?
Getting all local real estate agents onboard. At the moment 50% of them love us, and the other 50% see us as some sort of threat. Strange but true.
Talk to us about your biggest success story so far?
Everything we have done has been a big success for us. Just getting off the ground and being innovative and trying new things.
How do clients and customers find you? Are you much of a salesperson for yourself?
The secret is online advertising & marketing. Being small we cannot afford expensive newspaper or TV advertising, and with 99% (I’m guessing) of people searching online for real estate these days, this is where the action is and where you have to be effective.
What one tip would you give to fellow startup founders?
This is going to be a far bigger learning curve than you could ever imagine, and you are going to have to be strong minded and persevere even when you want to give up. Especially when the big bully boys try to stop you.
And finally, what do you hope the future brings both you personally, and your business?
Success and happiness… but then you have to ask what success and happiness really means to you personally. For me it is finding a balance in life between work and play.