Kickstart helps Inverclyde property entrepreneurs create jobs

Name: Andrew Bowman and Marco Rebecchi.

Age: 38 and 44 respectively.

What is your business called?

Bowman Rebecchi.

Where is it based?

Gourock in Inverclyde.

What services does it offer?

Commercial property services across central and western Scotland for a wide range of property owners and their tenants. These include commercial lettings and sales, portfolio management, as well as maintenance and refurbishment work for commercial and residential portfolios.

Our business covers Argyll and Bute, Ayrshire, Dunbartonshire, Inverclyde and Renfrewshire.

In November 2020, we formed Bowman Rebecchi Residential Letting as a collaborative venture, jointly owned with Riccardo Giovanacci, managing director of long-established Glasgow-based Newton Letting.

In April, this year we acquired Castle Estates because it had operated successfully in our territory as a residential property agency for the past 15 years and could deliver significantly greater reach to the residential side of our business.

Bowman Rebecchi and Newton Lettings now manages over 1,200 properties, both commercial and residential, and with the Castle Estates acquisition is the largest independently owned letting agency in Inverclyde.

What is its turnover?

Over £330,000 in the year to April 2021. We are on course for £600,000 in the current year across all businesses.

There is currently a lack of properties available throughout the area, and we are firmly in a seller/landlord’s market.

The current lack of stock is being driven by a combination of things, including an aggressive market, with house prices rising locally and many people looking to take advantage of the buoyant market. They are often achieving between 10 and 30 per cent over the asking price. However, when they then try to buy somewhere else, the same spikes apply, meaning they are unable to purchase and being forced into the rental market.We are therefore seeing a higher level of short-term rentals, as well as people staying longer in their rental properties waiting for the market to settle (or crash) again.

Inverclyde pre-pandemic already had a lack of housing provision available, which has only been exacerbated over the past 18 months.

The area also has a higher demographic than most, with many older citizens selling their houses and moving into rental properties and using the income to fund their lifestyle.

How many employees?

18. The businesses recently used the UK Government’s Kickstart scheme, which provides funding to employers to create jobs for 16 to 24 year olds on Universal Credit, to give opportunities to five young talented individuals.

When was it formed?

In February 2020. It is the merged entity of Marco’s firm, Rebecchi Lettings, and the commercial lettings elements of my ARB Growth business, with Rebecchi Architectural also in the group’s ownership.

Why did you take the plunge?

We were collaborating across various projects through mutual clients. We both attended Gourock High and were aware of one another. Marco’s architectural technology firm also did some letting and following some discussions we decided it would be more productive to work together, so we formed Bowman Rebecchi, now a one-stop shop for every commercial property-related service, and we have not looked back.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

Marco has been working in architectural practices now for over 25 years, setting up his own firm eight years ago in Gourock and establishing the business as one of the leading local architectural businesses. I graduated from Glasgow Caledonian University with a degree in European Business in 2008 and worked for Zurich Insurance initially in Glasgow then London, before returning to be Head of Business Investment and Operations at Riverside Inverclyde, the area’s former business regeneration agency. I then founded ARB Growth to provide support services for growing businesses in the area.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

When we merged the businesses, we accumulated resources from the existing lettings businesses. We also had great support from Inverclyde Council through a couple of small business start-up and property grants to support our launch. When we acquired Castle Estates, we had excellent support from HBSC through the new Recovery Loan Scheme.

What was your biggest break?

Just after launch, we oversaw the lease of the largest industrial unit in Greenock to Ferguson Marine alongside Colliers at the end of the Jim McColl era. This won us early acclaim. We have also had great support from our clients, including Sandy and James Easdale, whose Dalglen Investments portfolio we support.

What are your ambitions for the business?

To be the leading property business across the west of Scotland.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

Reform of the ratings system is a must, with the current rateable values being a big hurdle to creating a more dynamic property market and high streets. Reform was promised through the Barclay Review before the pandemic struck .

How do you relax?

We both enjoy spending time with our families and friends, supporting Morton FC and trying to get away on holidays whenever we can.

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