Pandemic inspires workforce accommodation start-up

Thu 15 April, 2021
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Inspired by the needs of key workers during Covid-19, a University of Bedfordshire alumnus has launched Comfy Workers, a new accommodation start up, providing accessible overnight stays for ‘blue light’ staff and other key workers.

After graduating with a BA in Marketing from the University in 2011, alumnus Greg Dorban worked for almost ten years at global marketing agency Ledger Bennett before launching his Comfy Workers business in October 2020.

Greg, who has also owned a separate short stay accommodation business Right Property Group for the past five years, saw the need for a corporate-facing offering arise due to short-term accommodation giants such as Booking.com and Airbnb putting a stop to reservations during the pandemic, despite the demand from essential workers.

Due to the nature of their jobs, many key workers have been wanting somewhere to stay overnight on their own or with colleagues, particularly during the height of the pandemic, to keep their families at home safe from the risk of Covid-19 infection.

Greg DorbanGreg said: “With a number of large online booking platforms closed during the first lockdown, even though stays for essential workers were permitted, my other accommodation business had a surge in demand.

“I realised that this demand would continue post-lockdown, as the majority of online booking companies are aimed at leisure rather than corporate business, and so Comfy Workers was born.”

Comfy Workers is a web platform hosting a variety of approved contractor accommodation and corporate housing, allowing professionals and companies to easily source safe and affordable business accommodation for individuals or large teams. Since its launch, it has helped key workers – such as NHS staff, members of the police force, infrastructure workers and engineers – find places to stay when working away from home.

Despite it being a difficult time to start a new business, Greg believes skills he learnt during his University studies stood him in good stead and, with in-depth industry experience, he has been able to make Comfy Workers a success.

He said: “Undoubtedly it has been hard. Continued uncertainty and changing of restrictions has meant many of our clients have had jobs cancelled, delayed or with altered staffing requirements – all of which usually happen at short notice.

“This has meant having any consistency and visibility in planning is challenging, especially when have less historical data than established businesses. However, my studies at the University of Bedfordshire and my past experience have given me a great platform to see how business models work and how to drive demand in a new offering.

“The Comfy Workers model is something that I’m really proud of – it’s our way of helping the country continue in some way amongst all of the challenges.”

Comfy Workers logoCommending Greg on his successful new venture Dr Annie Danbury, Academic Portfolio Leader in the Department of International Business, Marketing and Tourism at the University, said:

“We have followed Greg’s career progression with great interest over the last ten years and in that period Greg has returned to the University many times, giving talks to students about his professional experience in marketing and acting as a role model for budding marketing students.

“His recent experience of business diversification and entrepreneurship will be much sought after by our post-Covid generation of marketing students and we look forward to welcoming Greg back to talk about this latest venture.”

Greg is no stranger to succeeding through adversity, having begun his degree in 2008 amidst the global financial crisis and Great Recession, and now starting up a new business during the coronavirus pandemic. For current University of Bedfordshire students considering going into entrepreneurship, he has the following advice:

“Get your experience first in order to understand the market. Learn your craft and trade alongside a ‘side hustle’ to get broader business exposure. Partner with people that have different skill sets to you and tell everyone what you do.”

For more information about Marketing and other courses at the University of Bedfordshire Business School, visit: www.beds.ac.uk/howtoapply/departments/businessschool

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