On December 6th, we celebrated another year coming to an end by hosting our annual Christmas party for the team, significant others, and some of our partners and friends. This year, we also invited alumni – people who have helped make RateHub.ca what it is but may no longer be working with us today. At one point in the night, I looked around the room and realized just how far the company had come – and all the faces I was looking at had been a part of it.
While there have been milestones in every year, 2013 was an exceptionally big year for RateHub.ca. Today, I’d like to walk you through some of the most significant changes and milestones we experienced in 2013.
If you had gotten used to our site navigation, I’m sorry (/#notsorry) to say we had to change a few things up this year. With the addition of so much new content, we organized our navigation to include a handful of new education centres. First, we launched the refinance centre, which includes great content and truly unique calculators. We also created a condo guide, to help buyers understand just how different purchasing a condo versus a home can be. We also worked with a few of our mortgage brokers to develop a guide for purchasing an investment property. And most recently, we developed a section on alternative mortgages to help anyone who may not qualify for “regular” mortgages understand their options.
For those of you who love our widgets, you may or may not have seen that we built a few new ones this year, including: a CMHC calculator, a land transfer tax calculator, and a unique chart builder that was recently used to inform this post on The Globe and Mail. As for our blog, we’re focusing on producing more high-quality content, which means fewer but more informative posts. We also finally launched a monthly newsletter for our users, which includes all of the best content on our site and blog. (You should sign up for it, if you haven’t already!) And if you’re a part of our community on Facebook or Twitter, I’m sure you’ve seen our new photo series campaigns, which have received a lot of traction.
With all of this in mind, it’s exciting to see that we averaged 250,000 visits per month this year! And, behind the scenes, we’re keeping up with this momentum by working on a number of big changes for 2014. I can’t say much yet, but it does include a redesign of the site. You’ll have to keep coming back, to see what else is in store!
One of the most exciting (and always nerve-wracking) things that happened this year was the amount of press the site got. It’s always exciting to be featured, but this year we were called upon by a number of Canada’s top media outlets to discuss trends we were seeing on the site, and how the ever-changing mortgage market was affecting homebuyers and homeowners. We made our debut on CTV, which resulted in being asked back to be regular commenters. We also helped The GridTO with their Guide to Buying Your First Home. And when we launched our sister site, ClosingCosts.ca, it was an incredible feeling to have both companies and myself be profiled by the Toronto Star, in an article about how first-time buyers were becoming more and more web-savvy.
There were also a few interviews I did, specifically with the Financial Post and the Toronto Standard, that – like this post – helped me reflect on what the past few years with RateHub.ca have been like, as well as how I became an entrepreneur in the first place. As a business owner, I’m always looking forward – making projections about what the next year, three years or five years may look like for us. But it’s so important to look back at how it all started, as well as any bumps in the road or mistakes we made along the way, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my story with others.
This year, I was able to plan / participate in three major workshops. The first two were off-sites with the team: we had a one-day off-site at MaRS in January, as well as a weekend-long retreat at my family’s cottage in June. At both, we took the time to share any progress we’d made on big projects, map out next steps and brainstorm ideas we all hoped to see come to life in the coming months.
Of course, the ultimate goal with these off-sites is to build the relationships within our team. Before we left for our retreat in June, we filled small boxes – one for each member of the team – with pieces of scrap paper. At the retreat, I asked everyone to write one thing they loved about working with each team member, and put that note in their box; this was a great takeaway for all of us, especially those who work remotely.
The third workshop was a little more labour intensive: KL and I hosted a two-day digital marketing workshop at HackerYou in November, where we shared everything we’d learned from working at RateHub.ca over the last few years. Teaching is something I’ve always been passionate about, probably because my mom is a teacher herself, so this was definitely a project of love. KL and I hope we gave our attendees the confidence to tackle the digital marketing world (and they know who to contact if they need help!).
Perhaps the biggest thing that changed this year was our team. At the beginning of the year, KL rejoined the RateHub.ca team as our Chief Marketing Officer. Then Cait left us – only physically – and opened up a mini RateHub.ca Vancouver office. Kurtis changed his role in the company by learning HTML and CSS. We hired two new developers who are helping Chris bring some big dreams to life. We also recruited Jordann who works remotely from New Brunswick. Idriss expanded the Montreal office, by hiring Ahmed. Tasso signed on as our Creative Director (he designed our Christmas card, seen at the top of this post!). And Rebecca, our organized Office Manager, has the challenging task of keeping us all in line.
Of course, with so many new faces, there were also a few goodbyes. This year, we had to say goodbye to Endri when he took on a new role, Roji when she went back to school to do her Master’s, and Michael when he started law school. Even though we miss having them on the team, we’re grateful for the time they spent here and are excited to see where life takes them next!
At the end of this year, I will have been working at RateHub.ca for exactly four years. For the first seven months, it was just me – working from my kitchen table. Today, we’re a team of 12, building a growing and profitable business (and yet I still live in the basement of the office!). My hope for 2014 is to launch the new site design, as well as some other secret new features – and maybe, just maybe, buy a home in Toronto with my boyfriend, and move up and out of the basement.
If you’re reading this, I want to thank you for helping us achieve our most successful year yet. Thank you for sharing our tools and our content, for being active in on our online community and for supporting all of our new initiatives. We wouldn’t be where we are today without you. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, filled with family, friends, new memories, and perhaps a little reflection of what 2013 meant to you as well.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!