St. Cloud Entrepreneurs Create Software for Landlords
ST. CLOUD -- A St. Cloud startup is aiming to simplify the world of independent property management.
ZenLord Pro is web-based software described by co-founder Tom Spaniol as "part accounting software, part online marketplace."
Spaniol and two partners conceptualized ZenLord Pro about two years ago as a reaction to the "broken" state of small-time property management.
"(Landlords) are using a lot of different things to do business. They're collecting rent via check. They're running applications and background checks on the state of Minnesota's website. They're doing accounting with QuickBooks. And, they're using Google to track down vendors. There's a lot of pain not having everything in one spot — so we came together and built it."
Spaniol, a St.Cloud resident with a background in education and network marketing, also noticed that property owners — particularly those with smaller operations — lag behind when it comes to putting the latest technology to professional use.
"There are more people in this business than you think doing everything pen to paper. We find people every day that are still doing all of this, very old-school. And that's exactly why we built this - to bring real estate into the 21st century."
The accounting end of ZenLord Pro collects and keeps track of rent, advertises available rental units, generates lease agreements and screens potential tenants.
The marketplace side of the system connects landlords with pre-screened painters, plumbers and other home improvement professionals near their properties. Landlords can send maintenance requests through ZenLord Pro and the software will arrange repair work.
“We put it all onto one platform, so you don’t have to be bouncing between all sorts of different systems to manage your properties.”
ZenLord Pro launched in August, and Spaniol says there are currently 105 landlords using the site to manage 165 properties in the St. Cloud and Twin Cities areas. YouTube is an essential tool, says Spaniol — the company creates videos to teach landlords about how to get the most out of the software.
The site is free to use; Spaniol says the company earns money by taking a small percentage of money exchanged between landlords and vendors.
Now that ZenLord Pro is officially in business, Spaniol says the primary focus is on rolling out new features and gathering feedback and suggestions from users.
“There was just a lot of pain for independent landlords," Spaniol says. "Nothing was in one spot. The business is very scattered, so we came together and created it.”
This is part three of a five-part series on local entrepreneurs participating in gBETA Greater Minnesota-St. Cloud’s Pitch Night. Pitch Night is a celebration of gBETA’s inaugural class of start-up businesses. Each company will give a five-minute pitch in front of an audience of investors, entrepreneurs and community members. Pitch Night will be held on Thursday, Dec. 19 from 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center at St. Cloud State University. To learn more about gBETA, visit their website.