Gold Coast finance industry professional Renee Tocco is living proof that the inner entrepreneur is hard to suppress after announcing that she has bought back the business she founded from Prospa Group (ASX: PGL), just 16 months after selling it to the online small business lender.
Tocco this week signed off on the contract to reacquire her niche brokerage Loanezi, putting her on track to capitalise on what she sees as huge growth opportunities ahead for the business.
The terms of the deal have not been disclosed but Tocco reveals that it is a full reversal of the initial sale to Prospa to bring the business back into her hands.
Loanezi is a tech-savvy niche brokerage that offers small-ticket asset finance on business equipment ranging from phone systems and computer servers to forklifts, security systems and solar panels.
Prior to its purchase in October 2021, Prospa owned one of the Loanezi commercial finance books and initially bought the business with the intention of revamping the brand into a new product.
After selling to Prospa, Tocco was appointed as the online lender’s northern regional manager, taking on the challenge with the same passion as she did when building the Loanezi business.
“Prospa gave me the freedom to run it like my own business, so I really did do that,” Tocca tells Business News Australia.
“I had the privilege of stepping into the business with a completely different perspective with an abundance of resources. It’s something I always dreamed of in my own business, so I leveraged the resources to the max.
“I hired staff to fill all the vacant positions, increased performance of the region, worked closely with key stakeholders in the industry to boost return on investment for sponsorships and to build brand awareness and transacting partners. In the northern region, Prospa has over 7,000 broker partners which is massive.”
Tocco says during her Prospa stint she achieved 175 per cent sales growth for the northern region compared to the best period prior to her joining the business.
“I achieved 13 record-breaking months in a row, and the northern region now consistently contributes on average 70 per cent of the whole national sales number month on month,” she says.
However, it wasn’t long before Tocco’s inner entrepreneur beckoned.
“I could have happily stayed there and collected a big pay cheque, but I would have got bored,” she says. “That’s not how I’m wired. Naturally being entrepreneurial, I started playing around in other channels.”
One of the triggers to buy back the business was the continued success of EziICT, a spin-off from Loanezi that focused on asset finance for small ticket business ICT (information communication technology) assets.
When Prospa acquired Loanezi, it agreed that Tocco could keep the EziICT business, although under the terms of the buyout, there was an understanding that she would eventually sell it.
“But I couldn’t let go of it,” Tocco says.
“It was making money and I was doing hardly any work on it. The business was still generating leads every month. On top of that, equipment suppliers in the market were informing me that there was now a bigger gap than ever for a business like Loanezi to jump back in.
“Loanezi was renowned as a specialist in small-ticket commercial asset finance, and since selling the business I had countless enquiries from all my past vendors begging for support because they hadn’t been able to find any other specialist who could support them and their SME clients in the same easy way as Loanezi use to do.”
Tocco emphasises that her departure from Prospa was on “friendly terms” describing it as “a warm handshake, best wishes both ways and a continued partnership into the future”.
“I was so grateful for the privilege of being able to jump into Prospa, an ASX-listed company, and to have had such freedom to run and boost the region, and to have the company supportively allow me to move on now that I have felt the time was right,” she says.
Tocco plans to relaunch Loanezi in March, back under the Connective aggregator banner which gives the broker access to 47 lenders in the business space.
“I will be running the same core business as before with vendor programs and ICT equipment finance, but this time with a wider diversification so that we can support SMEs with the full spectrum of business lending needs,” she says.
The serial entrepreneur sees an even bigger need for Loanezi’s services in the current economic climate.
“Businesses are becoming really conservative with their working capital with interest rates and the cost of goods going up. Even small-ticket asset purchases are not something they are willing to make. They’d rather purchase via a repayment plan.”
One of Tocco’s key strengths is relationship building, which saw her grow Loanezi’s vendor base to 86 equipment suppliers at its peak. These were predominantly in the telco and tech space, including the likes of Telstra and Optus business centres, giving them a finance facility to sell equipment to their customer via a repayment option.
Tocco, who has an infectious enthusiasm for business, has benefitted from her time at Prospa, gaining first-hand experience by jumping into various roles while upskilling staff and gaining a different perspective on the needs of the company's partners and clients.
"But I'm now back into my true passion of being an entrepreneur and broker," she says.
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