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Sophie Foote

Sophie Foote on taking the plunge in property

By Sophie Foote

Director, ROOMS

With a world of experience as a Scuba Diving Instructor; a degree in Social Anthropology; a Masters in Southeast Asian Economics, Anthropology and Politics; and Air Traffic Control qualifications under her belt – Sophie Foote is now diving into a new chapter of her career that is a little closer to home. 

As a franchisee of ROOMS®, Sophie is on a mission to manage and improve the standard of shared houses in Southampton for her tenants. 

One year into the launch of her new business, Sophie reflects on her extraordinary journey and shares how she is using her experiences to help others.

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You’ve travelled the world, culminating in running a scuba company in Indonesia. What did you take away from that experience that you’ve held with you?

I spent my university summers teaching diving and travelling – it was just the best lifestyle. I spent four months working in Vietnam, I worked in Thailand, Malaysia and Fiji.

When my husband and I found some land for sale on a remote Bangka Island in Indonesia we spent months researching business, visas, and permits. We opened our own scuba diving resort, and we built it together with the help of the local village. I think that was my start in property and development even though I didn't know it yet. We had to deal with earthquake warnings, tsunami warnings, wildfires, a mining company destroying the reef, and people threatening to deport us. But loads of good things as well – we had our two babies out there. We set up an NGO and we started teaching English to local people and supporting the local schools which I’m super proud of.

When I was a diving instructor, it was a high degree of safety and following the rules; diving is super fun but it's also potentially quite dangerous. We ran our resort to really high standards and that's always been important to me – I'm a bit of a rule stickler. In property, there's a lot of compliance that you must keep to and a lot of HMOs that we take on are not to that standard yet. It's important for me to tick those boxes and make sure that we're providing a safe place for people.

What are you finding most fulfilling about your new venture with ROOMS®?

I give a lot of thought to my why and my reason. I read an interesting book called The Culture Book by Ben Drury, where he talks about mission, values, and vision of your business.

Our mission is to create beautiful homes for people and our values are that we are hardworking, honest and responsive. We really want to provide a good service improving the standard of homes for people and make HMOs in Southampton nicer, cleaner, and safer places to live.

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"We opened our own scuba diving resort, and we built it together with the help of the local village. I think that was my start in property and development even though I didn't know it yet."

What advice would you give to other females wanting to work in property?

Just do it and your hard work will speak for itself. When I was 19 and I became a diving instructor, there weren’t really any other women doing it. I worked on boats with all male instructors, and some of their attitudes really affected me and upset me. I just got on with my job and did it well. My students were happy, the operators were happy, and it let me travel the world, have a great job, and do what I loved.

Property is quite male-dominated. Do your thing, do it well, become an expert, learn everything, do loads of market research, get a niche, and your hard work will pay off.

It’s always been important to me to volunteer, so I’ve recently become a mentor for The Girls’ Network, which matches women with secondary school girls. I think it’s important to try and be visible for young girls as a business owner or as a woman in property so they can see the possibilities.

You’re a regular contributor to Your Property Network Ltd magazine; what are some of the topics you’ve been writing about?

They invited me to write regularly about personal development in the industry. My first article was about the importance of networking and building relationships. I’m going to be writing about accountability and support in your business along with more topics on growth and personal development.

What prompted you to create a small business network?

When I started my business, I knew that one of the things I needed to do was network and get my name and brand out there. I went to a few of the typical business networks, and they just weren’t my vibe – there was a lot of pitching, and it was all about referrals. I put the idea of a Whiteley small business network out on social media, and I got a really good response.

At our last meeting in March, we had 50 people come along which was amazing. People are really enjoying it; it’s a friendly, very welcoming, very warm, supportive space. We meet every month at the Solent Hotel. We do a bit of networking, we often have a guest speaker, and we’re going to give all our membership proceeds to charity to do something good with it.

"Do your thing, do it well, become an expert, learn everything, do loads of market research, get a niche, and your hard work will pay off."

Sophie Foote - Director, ROOMS

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

We have a five and a six-year-old so we’re out and about all the time. We go to the beach a lot; we enjoy visiting all the country parks in Hampshire.
I’ve done a bit of UK diving since I’ve been back, which is fun but it’s not quite the same as abroad – hopefully, we’ll be able to start booking some diving holidays in again soon.

Who or what was the last thing that inspired you?

I did the Inspired Women Lead programme last year. It’s run by a woman called Bonnie Fatio who has done a lot of work for the UN. She started mentoring a group of 10 women, and then set up a programme for them to then mentor someone – so you become a mentee and then a mentor. It’s created an amazing network of women all around the world who share ideas, and all of those women are completely inspirational.