As an engineer for Harley Davidson, Heather Johnston moved to and from Milwaukee multiple times during her five-year tenure. The company was very accommodating in providing packers and movers, but the real challenge was finding the right apartment and neighborhood in an unfamiliar city.
Johnston realized other relocating renters had similar problems because real estate placement is often based on home buying, not renting. So she started to visualize a new business that later became Find My Spot, an online service that helps people land in the right locale.
"It’s like Match.com but for renters and their apartments," she says. "We help people find the perfect Downtown apartment."
Milwaukee is the pilot city for Find My Spot – and yes, she's aware of the hint of sass in the name – which launched in March. Eventually, Johnston plans to expand nationally and hopes someday to be in every medium-sized city in the United States including Denver, Minneapolis, Austin, Charlotte and San Diego.
Johnston, who has an engineering degree and an MBA, designed the web site for the online service. It's easy to navigate and asks users to rate their apartment preferences from cost of rent to parking to pet friendliness on a 0-5 "importance scale."
Searchers are then given a list of apartments that match their criteria.
"The renter tells us exactly what he or she is looking for, and we tell them what they’re compatible with. We take out a lot of the guess work," says Johnston. "And people don’t have to sift through listings. We’re like ‘Consumer Report’ for apartments."
The first search is free and the cost is $9.99 for every search after.
Find My Spot also offers a value service that costs 40 percent of one month’s rent. This service matches the relocating person with a neighborhood expert who helps them find the ideal community. They can also schedule showings, video the apartment interior and help negotiate the lease.
Johnston says Find My Spot has more than 200 listings that range in price from $350 to $3,000 per month.
The large number of available apartments is partially due to a partnership Johnston forged with local apartment-owning companies like Mandel Group and New Land Enterprises. The partnership ensures a quality tenant for the owners and a quality apartment for the renter.
"It’s a win-win," she says.
The business is also starting to partner with other local businesses that will offer Find My Spot’s services as part of a package for new hires.
Currently, Johnston has five part-time employees. Originally from Phoenix, Johnston moved to Milwaukee in 2007 and was immediately smitten, particularly with the East Side.
"The combination of the affordable, excellent, local businesses, the general accessibility and the lake, makes Milwaukee an amazing city," she say. "I call Milwaukee my home even though I’m not from here."
Johnston sees her business as an asset to the city and the communities within. Recently, a client was very close to taking a job in Chicago, but after learning through Find My Spot that he could get a better apartment for $1,000 a month less he decided to accept a Milwaukee job offer instead.
"Our service is different and new," says Johnston. "And it’s pretty neat that it’s all starting in Milwaukee."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.