The teenage entrepreneur who founded Australia’s number one parking deals comparison site has revealed how he successfully revived his business as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.
Rylan Kindness wasn’t even old enough to hold a driver’s licence when he launched Parking Deals Australia in 2017 as a 16-year-old Brisbane high school student.
The site saves motorists time and money by taking the hassle out of parking by offering inner-city spots at a discounted price.
Over the next three years, the ingenious app grew rapidly as airport and cruise parking companies began advertising their spaces on the site for free, with Parking Deals Australia then earning a commission from each booking.
Rylan Kindness, 18, (pictured) is the founder and CEO of Parking Deals Australia – a business he launched when he was only 16
Mr Kindess solved Australia’s parking crisis by developing a site that compares discounted parking prices
But the company the young CEO had worked tirelessly to build almost collapsed in a matter of days as the coronavirus pandemic smashed the tourism industry – his largest customer base – in March.
With the need for his service rapidly shrinking, Mr Kindness realised the app had to ‘adapt or die’.
‘When P&O cancelled all of their cruises we had an influx of hundreds of customers wanting their money back. That is when it became really real,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘My heart dropped in my chest, I was so overwhelmed. I thought, “oh f**k this is really happening”.
“The business I built over the last three to get to that stage was taken away in a weekend.
‘I felt lost for the next move.’
Mr Kindness’ site had grown rapidly in the 12 months leading to the March lockdown, averaging $150,000 to $250,000 a month in revenue
Mr Kindness, now 18, and his team of seven spent the next week helping customers cancel their prepaid cruise parking spots they would no longer need.
Once that was sorted, it was time to enact a plan to salvage the business, which has 45,000 car spaces nationwide.
‘We cut contract work, marketing dollars, expenses that we pay but don’t need,’ Mr Kindness said.
‘Once we cut our expenses and checked our finances, we became sure our team were going to be fine.’
‘It was like we had hit ground zero, but survived. Then we thought, “okay, how are we going to rebuild?”‘
Mr Kindness and his team began reexamining the market and realised there was now a storage demand for the cars the company had formerly provided with parking, and the same went for caravans and boats.
They immediately began reaching out to suppliers and updating the website to reflect their new service.
‘A lot of people were contacting us to rent their spaces,’ he said.
‘Customers are definitely loving comparing their storage and having the peace of mind that they are getting a great deal.
‘Storage is just as good as parking.’
The company now has 8000 storage spaces across Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, which consist of storage company units as well as privately owned lots.
Those who wish to rent out a car or boat space, or a vacant block of land to host a caravan, can contact the website to advertise their area for free.
Once it is booked, they can earn cash, with rates depending on the location and security features.
A percentage of the booking cost goes to Parking Deals Australia.
Mr Kindness said some of their customers were making up $4000 to $8000 a year off their parking space, while storage owners are earning around $100 to $150 per month.
In the 12 months leading to the March lockdown, airport and cruise parking companies were receiving on average $150,000 to $250,000 a month worth of revenue from the site.
Parking Deals Australia moved into their Brisbane city headquarters (pictured) in April last year
Mr Kindness (pictured with friends last November) quickly pivoted his company to compare storage spaces deals for cars, boats and caravans
The teenager said pivoting was crucial to saving the company and offered seven tips for businesses owners who find themselves in the same position.
The first step is to acknowledge the business is under threat.
‘If you don’t change you will die,’ he said.
‘People will always go into denial, and tell themselves “it’s not that bad”.
‘Soon enough they will realise just how bad it could be. There is no point sitting around waiting for that to happen.’
Next, determine what sets your business apart.
‘Know the niche of the business you already have and the needs of your current clients,’ he said.
‘Our niche is about saving people time and money, so we used our same niche but converted it to something outside of parking.
‘If there is no demand for a business no cash will be coming and you’re a sitting duck. Now’s your time to really think about how you can use your current business in new ways. What can you innovate? What new product/service can you create?
Kindness (pictured with friends at a hotel in June) saved the company with his radical move, as people with storage spaces and blocks of land have come forward to rent their assets for additional incomes
Mr Kindness pictured in March last year, right as his company began to rapidly climb to its peak
‘It doesn’t have to be expensive to explore a new pivot. Start with your minimum viable product and see if you get traction.’
Once you have a plan, it is time to get your team in the right mindset.
‘This is the time to get your house in order. Make sure your team is healthy/safe and all on the same page with what the company is going through and potential threats for the future and what the strategy is to deal with them,’ he said.
‘When you team are all in the same mindset, everyone knows what steps are being taken to achieve the new goal.’
RYLAN KINDNESS’ SEVEN TIPS FOR PIVOTING A BUSINESS
1. Acknowledge the business is at threat
2. Determine the niche of your business
3. Get your team in the right mindset
4. Forget your pride
5. Take Action
6. Listen to customers
7. Act accordingly
As you begin the next process, there may be times when it is difficult to make ends meet.
Mr Kindness said it is important to reach out to suppliers before the situation reaches breaking point.
‘Forget your pride, and acknowledge that you might actually need help,’ he said.
‘Reach out to your network, talk to people or look for resources.
‘If there is a provider you have expenses to pay, negotiate before you don’t have the money to pay for it.
‘Try to negotiate your expenses down, that will give you breathing room with the pivot.’
The next step is to action your plan, which may involve changing or improving a product or cutting out under-performing parts of your business.
Once it is in action, listen to your customers to get insight into how your new service is tracking.
Lastly, act on the input of your customers to better your business.
‘A lot of founders and CEOS are not on the forefront of customer service experience,’ Mr Kindness said.
‘When customers started dialling in when PNO cancelled, I took calls first hand so I could really understand them so I could direct the company the right way.’
Mr Kindness, whose was inspired to form his business by his parents’ continuous frustrations over expensive parking, said the current economic climate should be viewed as an opportunity.
‘The pandemic has changed the mindsets of people,’ he said.
‘A lot of businesses are vulnerable and are now more open to innovations.
‘For businesses, COVID-19 is like bushfire.
‘It rips through then makes room for re-growth.
‘That’s what happened to Parking Deals Australia; it paved a new a way for us.
‘In hindsight, it was a really positive experience.’
Mr Kindness (pictured with a friend) said the COVID-19 pandemic should be viewed as an opportunity for businesses to grow