Being nice in business or being nice and in business

4 mins read

My name is Daisy Ashworth, and I am an Australian Permanent Resident originally from the United Kingdom (I think of myself as a Posie or part Pom part Aussie now)! I came to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa, with the original intention of enjoying a 12 month long holiday before I returned home to buy a house and get a ‘proper job’.

Background and birth of Freegal

In the UK I had completed a law degree, specialising in housing and welfare law for a local authority. I enjoyed helping individuals who would have otherwise struggled with the legal process, but always felt there was something else I should be doing to make a difference.

In 2007 I was watching Dragons Den (think the UK version of Shark Tank) and I realised I wanted to come up with an idea that would make a difference to individuals, impacting the wider world and challenging current norms. It was in a conversation over some text messages with friends, that Freegal was born.

Freegal was a legal website, supporting individuals to receive free legal advice from students who had passed their Legal Practice Course. It was also my first taste of being an entrepreneur, working in the social impact and enterprise space.

Freegal ran for over two years and was long listed for the Daily Mail Enterprising Young Brits award. We were also Highly Commended by the Edge Upstart Awards. Even in my early days people told me, you are too nice to be an entrepreneur, but rather than be disheartened, I just thought it was a fantastic compliment.

Whilst being sustainable (read a softer word for profitable) is hugely important in what I do, it isn’t the only motivator I have.

Travelling to Australia

After Freegal finished a friend asked me, what do you want to do in life? I replied ‘I want to be an entrepreneur’… she looked at me and said ‘no I mean like an actual job’, and I knew then I would always want to have another chance at creating something meaningful.

In 2010 I decided to go travelling, visiting Australia, New Zealand and USA. I spent six months away before returning home to look for work. Despite looking at moving to a number of places in Europe, I was unsettled after my backpacking experience and decided to return to Australia to spend another 12 months living in Perth.

When I arrived in Perth, I started work in the community services sector, an area which I continue to work in at the moment. It confirmed I am passionate about social justice, entrepreneurship and supporting individuals marginalised in areas including housing, employment and social connection. I have been lucky enough to work in these fields for the past nine years and continue to feel inspired by my work, colleagues and the clients we support.

Setting up Mortgage Mates

In 2015 my third ‘idea’ came to me (idea two is still open for discussion) and Mortgage Mates was formed.

This business looks to match two or more users (or as we like to call them, Mates) to own a home together. Whilst it utilised property to support people into homeownership, we are very clear that we are not a real estate site.

Mortgage Mates is a connector to so many more important things than property. We see our role as the enabler for safe, secure and long term housing, the ability to connect to community, the facilitator to build both your own and your families wealth, and lastly the driver for legally protected ownership. We say we put the people before the property because that’s where our focus lies.

Recently, I have had the opportunity to get to know other platforms that work in the ‘proptech space’ and the question always gets raised, is it better to collaborate or compete and I always champion the former.

Again, whilst we want to be a profitable business because this will enable us to support more Mates to own their own home, it is not the only motivator we have to being successful. Yes- there are companies out there who only look at the bottom dollar and their ownership of the market, but we don’t believe we have to behave like that to get ahead.

Because of the collaboration we engage in, we have met platforms around the world working in the same co-ownership space. We have shared our story in Australia and the UK, and are looking to launch in America and New Zealand within the next 12 months. I am lucky enough to class some of my ‘competitors’ as friends now, and have improved my business because of it.

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