Double redundancy leads to business breakthrough

Entrepreneurs Joe Duggan and Olivia Maher from Liverpool were both made redundant on the same day – now they run a thriving property business. Tony McDonough reports

Cosi Living
Olivia Maher and Joe Duggan, founders of Cosi Living in Liverpool


In January 2021 Joe Duggan and Olivia Maher were both made redundant from their jobs and their fledgling property agency wasn’t making enough to cover both their wages.

However, the couple held their nerve and within weeks they had grown their footprint to be able to start making a proper living. Then called JO Property Group, the venture has now rebranded as Cosi Living.

Joe and Oliver, both aged just 24 and from West Derby, specialise in working with landlords and investors with HMO (house of multiple occupation) properties.

They will renovate, refurbish and maintain their properties, while also finding suitable tenants to occupy them. The company then also liaises directly with tenants, including professionals and students, to source suitable homes for them.

Cosi claims it is raising the standards of student accommodation by providing higher quality kitchens, bathrooms, flooring and finer details such as paintwork.

Since starting the business during the UK’s second COVID lockdown, Joe and Olivia have gone on to win The Best Master Lease Operator at the HMO Awards 2022.

However, in early 2021, things were on a knife edge. Olivia originally worked for an estate agent while Joe had studied business, economics and sport in college. They met while both working for the same PPI complaints company.

They sat next to each other during their initial training and quickly hit it off. When COVID hit in early 2020 the pair discussed pooling their talents and experience and taking their careers in a new direction.

So they decided to take the plunge into HMO management and lettings, spotting what would be their first property – a 10-bedroom house in Sefton Park – on Gumtree.

The landlord was struggling to fill the property with students because of the lockdown. Joe and Olivia refurbished as much of the property themselves as they could.

However, timing of the venture coincided with the easing of restrictions and the couple were called back to working from home where they also needed to hit tough daily targets.

Olivia explained: “We’d spend so much time at the house renovating it, and later into the night we’d panic and think it’s nearly midnight and we’ve not done any work.

“We needed to put a few cases through so that we’d hit our target. We’d put the cases through and then continue finishing the house, and then in the early hours of the morning, we’d do the work on the cases so that we wouldn’t get in trouble.

“Just six weeks later, our first property was finished and fully tenanted with 10 bedrooms occupied.

“We were so proud of ourselves. Not only was it our first property but we’d also managed to double the rent on the rooms, as well as fully letting the property during a time when other agents and landlords were really struggling to fill rooms at all.”

A London-based investor acquired the Sefton Park property. He was so impressed with the work Joe and Olivia had carried out, as well as the high rent, he asked the couple to manage another property he was renovating.

Joe and Olivia were slowly growing the business while still doing their day jobs. Then their employer announced 50% of the staff was to be made redundant.

Joe added: “At the time, we thought that one of us would lose our job given the amount of sick days, last minute days off and failed cases we’d had due to us focussing so much on our property business.

“Judgement day came and we found out that we were both sacked on the same day. The two properties combined didn’t cover one of our monthly wages at the time and we were a bit worried.

“We had conversations about Olivia going back to work in an estate agency but something just told us to take a risk and go for it properly.


Cosi Living
Olivia Maher in one of the properties managed by Cosi Living
Cosi Living
Joe Duggan and Olivia Maher were both made redundant on the same day


“Within a week or two, we signed our third property which we found on Facebook Marketplace. It was a six-bedroom house in Kensington.

“Students had left. We came in and refurbished it with all of the profits we’d made from the first two properties, and put professionals in there.

“After this refurb, we were down to zero, but the builder who was looking after the maintenance on the house in Kensington had recently finished the build on his own HMO and wanted us to take a look. We secured this too and this was our fourth property.

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“The builder was also finishing the renovation of what would become our fifth property and at this point we knew that we were clearly onto something.”

Having secured five properties to manage and represent from Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace and word of mouth, Joe and Olivia continued to grow their business.

Now on a sustainable footing, Cosi manages 256 rooms and tenants across the city, with more properties on the horizon.

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