Why Das Hund Haus owner James Sneddon is giving away his pub in a raffle so he can enter the world of startups

Stigma Health founder and Das Hund Haus operator James Sneddon. Source: Supplied.

Between launching a sexual health startup and running a German beer house, entrepreneur James Sneddon has a lot on his plate.

The Newcastle-based business founder has big goals for his online STI testing business Stigma Health, and he’s taking a novel approach to transitioning from small business owner to full-time startup founder by raffling off the bar and restaurant that has until now been his day job.

“Balancing things is not difficult because I love what I do … I work all the time, and I’m the guy at the pub who talks about work, though I haven’t been to the pub a lot lately,” Sneddon tells SmartCompany.

However, after reading a story in 2016 about an island being raffled off, Sneddon started toying with the idea of launching a competition to win his hospitality business, Das Hund Haus. The funds raised would deliver capital for Stigma Health and give one lucky punter the chance to run a bar, even if just for a weekend.

“I was discussing selling my restaurant, but the raffle was also an idea I was exploring. Some people said, ‘it’s a great idea’, but when I actually went to do it, that’s when people got apprehensive,” he says.

Sneddon put in the paperwork to hold a trade promotion, a process that usually takes two or three days, but it took around three weeks to process given the unusual nature of the prize. He set a target of 2000 entries, and started selling $25 tickets to patrons. Those who enter the raffle will also have the chance to win a cash prize of $30,000, according to Fairfax.

He’s sold hundreds of tickets so far, and says having tried to sell hospitality businesses before, this process has put him firmly in the drivers’ seat for exiting the business.

“I’m nervous about it, but otherwise it’s sitting and waiting for a buyer, and this way I have raffle money coming in, I know what money I have,” Sneddon says.

Being in control of the exit process for a business is something that plagues many SME owners, and recent research suggests many company founders are going into exit planning in a tough market, and without the proper planning or support.

The most recent ValueMyBusiness and RMIT Business Value Multiples index, which analyses 1800 sale listings for SMEs, suggests there were 1% fewer businesses listed for sale in the three months to March 2017, while researchers say many SME owners do not have an accurate idea of what their company is worth when they come to sell it.

In a statement on the research, ValueMyBusiness director Dominic Pellegrino said a lack of pre-planning on the part of business owners only leads to arguments at the most crucial moments.

“Many owners have an unrealistic idea of what their business is worth, which creates conflict between vendor and potential buyer,” he said.

The plan for Das Hund Haus is for a raffle winner to be drawn and the reigns handed over at the end of August this year. But what happens if the lucky individual changes their mind about wanting their very own hospitality business?

“Well, if they win and that happens, I’ll help them sell it. But if they change their mind, just wait a day and you can say you owned a bar for a weekend. Don’t worry about making money, just have a ball,” Sneddon says.

Read more: Meet the Melbourne entrepreneur who is giving away his $500,000 business

“It’s going to be an exciting few months”

Sneddon launched the Stigma Health startup in 2016 after noticing the reliance on face-to-face medical care in Australia was preventing thousands of patients from taking care of their sexual health.

What began as an “Uber for Doctors” idea quickly morphed to an online healthcare service in which users can pay to get a referral for sexual health checks for $19.99, complete these tests at a pathology centre of their choice, and have the results delivered back discreetly, without the need for a GP visit.

“I was seeing that face-to-face healthcare, even though we still recommend it, is actually a barrier. From that I just thought, ‘it doesn’t need to be that complicated’,” he says.

It took some time between the formation of the idea and the launch of the product to market, but as Sneddon looks to work full-time on the venture, he says there’s a significant client base to be captured, and a number of strategic partnerships in the works.

“We’re working on a few joint ventures, and just to change people’s mentalities of getting tested,” he says.

“There are people currently getting tested, but it’s not just that few hundred thousand that [should be doing it].”

With a goal to get to 5000 patients using the Stigma Health platform each month, Sneddon says the next few months will be hectic as he transitions out of his other business. He’ll hopefully be showing a new owner how to operate Das Hund Haus, and devoting his full attention to the goal of encouraging more people to care for their sexual health.

“It’s going to be an exciting few months,” he says.

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