Lisa Geoghegan of Sonalife
4th January 2022
Launching a business can be daunting and exciting in equal measures. For our Women Who Launch January candidate, we hear from Lisa Geoghegan, Founder and Managing Director of Sonalife, a company spearheading community development and management within the property industry.
THE ELEVATOR PITCH
We create community experiences for people living/working in property developments –experiences that are mutually beneficial for landlords and tenants.
Our operations are based in Dublin and, at the moment, we are a small team of three. “Community” is a whole new area in the real estate sector, where landlords are now focusing on the people who are using their buildings every day, to ensure they are receiving a five-star experience from start to finish.
This is the service that we do best and our aspiration for the new year is to continue to excel and grow within this sector. We want to work with more landlords to develop authentic communities within property developments in Ireland. I’m delighted to announce that we will be expanding our team in the New Year in preparation for new business.
In addition, 2022 will see the launch of our new tech platform. Currently, our business is focused on the Irish market but our new app will help us go global, allowing us to provide community management services all across the world. That’s something I’m really excited about for Sonalife.
Sonalife is 100% self-funded. At the very beginning, I took out a small business loan, just to get the business set up, but that has been fully repaid. Now, we are financing our operation by charging our clients for the services we provide.
There are two areas in property that we focus on – the office sector and the private rental sector. We work directly with landlords who understand the value of community within their property developments and who want to offer more than just a building for their tenants. Creating places where people want to be helps build meaningful relationships for tenants living/working in these developments and landlords can see the value in having this service for their tenants.
HOW HAVE YOU HAD TO ADJUST YOUR WAY OF WORKING IN RECENT TIMES?
Our business is about bringing people together to connect and get to know each other through different events and experiences. With COVID-19, we obviously couldn’t physically bring people together in real life. As a result, we had to adjust the way we did things by providing virtual community events and experiences.
Because of COVID-19, we were forced to take the time to see what problems we were facing and how we could provide solutions. Our main focus over the last year was to find out what the people in our community really wanted and needed and then to provide that solution in a virtual setting. Like all businesses, we had to adapt, but when I realised we could add value for both our clients and their tenants, this gave me a whole new lease of life. I realised Sonalife could do something that would be beneficial for everyone and once I realised that, I knew our business would survive the pandemic.
HAS IT ALL BEEN CHALLENGING OR ARE THERE ‘SILVER LININGS’?
You know what, I’ve enjoyed embracing all of the challenges and figuring everything out, but thankfully there have definitely been silver linings along the way too. We secured several high profile clients upon launching the business and it all happened organically, through word of mouth. That gave me great confidence and it was a fantastic boost for a start-up company.
One of the biggest silver linings for me has been all the personal emails we have received from people who are in our communities. In particular, receiving emails from people who are living on their own, thanking us for providing social interactions which enabled them to stay online after events and talk to other people. People told us that having these chats with others in their community was the highlight of their week. We received thank you messages from people telling us how we helped with their overall wellbeing and their mental health. Receiving emails like this means everything to me. This is the reason I was so passionate about setting up Sonalife in the first place. I genuinely want to help and improve the lifestyle for as many people as possible who are living and working in these property developments.
WHAT BRANDS/ COMPANIES DO YOU LOVE?
I love Spanx because, as well as providing great products, I just love Sara Blakley’s story. She’s a real inspiration and I think the Spanx story is such a great example of creating a simple product and turning it into a massively successful global brand. Sara’s story shows that everyone has the potential to take a simple idea and make it a massive success. Of course, as well, Spanx provides quality global products, empowering women all over the world, to feel more confident.
BIGGEST ‘WIN’ TO DATE
My biggest win, for Sonalife, has been winning so many fantastic clients straight away. When I launched Sonalife, I secured Henderson Park, Patrizia, Chartered Land, and Walmart Global Tech as clients. It was huge to have such high-profile clients understand the importance of community and to value my service.
Over the last several months, we have been inundated with potential clients for properties that are going to be completed in 2022. The fact that all of these clients have come to us without us advertising – all through word of mouth – is amazing. It’s a huge win and it’s testament to the service that we are providing.
BIGGEST ‘SLAP IN THE FACE’?
I’d have to say that COVID-19 has been the biggest slap in the face. I know it’s a global pandemic but, from my point of view, I had just started a new business and I was really excited about where it was going. Then, all of a sudden, six months in, COVID hit and we had to start cancelling all the events and experiences we had planned. It was unsettling, to say the least.
You couldn’t make it up…you set up a community management business, where it’s all about people meeting up and having a good experience and creating a sense of community. And then, all of a sudden, we are told that people can’t meet up in real life.
That said, though, I think the whole experience definitely gave me a new sense of determination. I had to quickly adapt my brand new business, to ensure I could provide value for my clients and my communities.
ARE YOU SOCIAL WHEN IT COMES TO MEDIA?
Social media is now part of everyday life. It is a vital part of our overall community management strategy. It is a great tool to reinforce what we are doing at a community level on other platforms that all of our community members are already using. We advertise our community events and experience so our members can see what’s coming up next and can also engage with us. We use it as a marketing tool but our business is B2B, not B2C.
WHAT PART DOES TECHNOLOGY/ INNOVATION PLAY?
Smart buildings and the continuous innovation of PropTech in real estate is the future. The launch of our new technology platform will make people’s lives more convenient and improve the overall user experience for the people in the community, which is something I’m really excited about. On our community platform, people will be able to see what’s happening in their community, book upcoming events, join our clubs/networks, connect directly with other community members, or instantly contact the property manager for their building to report any issues they are having. Technology is needed to make people’s lives easier and more convenient, but finding a balance is essential. At Sonalife we are passionate about connecting people both through the use of technology and in real life through community events and experiences. Both are equally important.
IF YOU HAD A BLANK CHEQUE
Firstly, I would put together a large team at Sonalife so we could scale much quicker in both the Irish market and globally.
Secondly, I would build a wellness centre to provide overall wellbeing services and much-needed mental health services at an affordable price for people in Ireland, because unfortunately, our country is in a mental health crisis.
Thirdly, I would support Pieta House who do amazing work with people who are feeling suicidal and also with people who have been bereaved due to suicide. This is something that is very close to my heart because one of my family members died by suicide. It is truly heartbreaking to think people can be suffering so badly, in plain sight, unable to communicate how they are really feeling and ultimately left without any hope.
YOUR TRAITS – BEST & WORST!
I’ll look at my best traits first. I think I’m friendly and likeable which makes it easier to connect with people and build relationships. People do business with people.
I’m a very empathetic person and I think when you try to understand where people are coming from, it’s easier to find a middle ground. This helps to find solutions to potential problems.
Honesty would be the third. I am an extremely honest person and I think that builds trust in people over time.
Now, my worst traits…I must admit that organisation has never been my strongest point, but that’s because I’m always focused on the next step, and the next, and the next. I’m always looking at the bigger picture, rather than the small points, but that’s why I have Hazel as my Operations Manager at Sonalife. She’s super organised and so she keeps me on track!
I’m not very good at switching off from work and from my business. I find it difficult to switch off and slow down sometimes, but I’m working on that one, and I find a bit of yoga and meditation works a treat.
Sometimes my own personal time management is one of my weak points. It probably comes from being an empath, but I find I can sometimes get so drawn into something, that I can lose track of time. It sort of comes back to the point of not being very good at switching off!
BEST BUSINESS ADVICE
Networking and maintaining the relationships that you have is so important. I’m extremely lucky to have a huge network in the property industry and I am grateful for all the help, support and advice people in my network have given me since I set up the business.
It’s important to find good strong partnerships and build on them. As a start-up business, if you can find the right partnerships to progress your business quickly, then it’s a win-win for everyone involved. If you have met people more than once, you should know their name and who they are. It makes a huge difference that everyone feels valued and included.
I’m really passionate about making sure I create an environment where everybody feels included and everyone is involved in the conversation.