When Fonderson A. got his start on Turo, he didn’t imagine it would wind up supporting his entrepreneurship and home ownership goals.
In January 2016, the father of four was searching online for a rental car to drive from Montreal to Toronto. While shaking his head at the lofty prices, he stumbled upon an ad for Turo. Intrigued, he looked into it more only to find out the service wasn’t yet available in Canada. When Turo finally drove north a few months later, he discussed the idea of putting his 2009 Dodge Caravan on the platform with his wife. They figured they’d give it a shot, and he became one of the first hosts to sign up in Montreal.
“I got one guy from France. Before he picked up the car, a lady from Toronto booked the car for five days — she was coming to Montreal — and I was a bit nervous because it was the first one. I said, ‘I’ve got nothing to lose. I’ve read the Turo policies.’ I said, ‘Let’s give it a try. No risk, no return,’” recalls Fonderson. “So the lady booked the van for five days and brought it back with no problems. The following week the other guy from France took it for one week and he came back with no problems. Then I started getting confident and the bookings started coming.”
Within 12 months of casually sharing his primary vehicle, he’d pulled in around $5,000. He figured he could double his revenue by adding more cars. As of 2021, Fonderson has 5 Dodge Caravans on the platform and two new cars in his purchasing pipeline.
Translating entrepreneurial energy into an international marketing plan
Fonderson has always had entrepreneurial energy. He grew up watching his parents work for themselves; they owned a restaurant in Cameroon where he grew up. Even while working full time as an inventory manager and data management analyst, he spent his off-hours thinking about how he could kickstart his own ventures. So when he noticed the growth potential for a business on Turo, he created a game plan for scaling his business.
First, he identified a market that he could specialize in.
“I realized that there was a niche in the market that was not fulfilled. A lot of people on Turo had Hondas and little sedan cars. I didn’t want to go into this market where competition is more intense. So I did my research and noticed there are people who already have these sedans but on the weekends and holidays want a seven-seater car or minivan. They want to go out with kids and friends. So I’m there to fulfill that niche.”
Second, he capitalized on a trend he’d noticed. One of his very first guests was a traveller from France and over time he realized that a large percentage of his guests were visiting Montreal from there, too. In fact, pre-COVID, Fonderson says 80% of his guests were French tourists. So he developed a lead generation strategy using personal ad placements targeting people from France searching about Quebec that ultimately drove people to his Turo listing.
Before COVID-19, Fonderson’s strategy was to purchase his cars before summer and then maintain or optimize his portfolio (in other words, swap out underperforming cars) during the winter months. His original plan had been to grow to 10 cars by the end of 2020, but when the pandemic hit, he focused on covering his costs. To his surprise, the summer was busier than he anticipated.
“Despite the fact that the border was closed to international travellers and 80% of my clientele was from France, the people from Quebec, particularly Montreal, made up for the demand and I had one of my best summers ever in 2020.”
This has motivated him to ramp up for Summer 2021. He expects there’ll be a significant amount of local travel.
“I wish I would’ve known how fast Turo would grow”
Fonderson’s focus is on the guest experience. He takes the time to follow up with feedback from guests and boosts his listing with Extras such as post-trip cleaning and car seats for children. This last perk was particularly useful in a pre-COVID world when his clientele largely consisted of international travellers.
“The only thing you need to tell me is the age of the child,” says Fonderson, who has three kids under 10. “I have like eight car seats in my garage.”
Fonderson would eventually like to become a full-time entrepreneur. It’s already allowed him to move his family from renting to homeownership. “Turo played a big role in helping us purchase our family home,” he says.
And while Fonderson believes COVID-19 has delayed his bigger entrepreneurial plans by about a year, he’s glad he’s laying the foundation for future financial freedom. In addition to having the flexibility to live life on his terms, he’s also excited by the prospect of someday offering job opportunities to others.
“I wish I would’ve known how fast Turo would grow. Maybe I could’ve increased the speed at which I would have invested. I have to say when you have two or three cars on Turo, it’s easier to add more than when you have one because the revenue is bigger. You can put that revenue together and get another car.”
His advice for anyone hoping to join Turo is to stop waiting around. The sooner they join, the sooner they can start benefiting from the opportunities presented by the sharing economy.
“The fact that I’m sitting here and somebody in, say, North Carolina is getting access to my car is amazing to me. I think that’s the future of the world. Despite the ups and downs, I think Turo is here to stay and we just need to grow the company together. If I’m doing well, Turo is doing well, and vice versa.”