HostGenius became HostGenius months after we were already operating, had clients, and were figuring out exactly what to do. I started the company mid 2017 by renting a home, and subletting individual bedrooms out on Airbnb. I lived downstairs in the mud room while I learned what worked, what didn’t, and what I could scale. I did this for about 3 months, and learned two things.
Our first clients came from cold calling and emailing. I was reaching out directly to hosts asking for a 5 minute phone call on how I could both make their life easier and make them more money. Many were interested to hear back to say the least, but a lot less wanted to proceed when they found out I was quite a bit younger than them and had no evidence of my work. However, I had one client who gave it a shot, and allowed me to manage his 6 bedroom house. I used this as a case study to prove I could both save hosts time and increase their rental yields.
How do you attract clients?
HostGenius’ target demographic are homeowners who want to use their property for short-term rentals. Fortunately, our service is not a one size fits all, so there is no one type of homeowner we are for. We have helped helicopter pilots, native art collectors, travelling hydrodam technicians, Canadian snowbirds, experienced superhosts - and a lot more. Our aim is simply to help people make their life easier with hosting on Airbnb.
We attract clients through our around the clock affordable service. Most local managers charge more and offer less services.
The strangest request we have had was to act as both property managers and cat sitters. The client requested that we take care of the cat in between reservations, and during reservations discuss with the guests on how often to feed her and to make sure she comes in every night.
How did you fund the idea initially?
The idea was initially funded by itself. Managing a place was near free to me as I would do all the work myself, including photography, editing, listing-setup, and even housekeeping and replenishments. However, as we started to grow, I dipped into all my savings made from refurbishing and selling sofas on Facebook marketplace. After a few months, I met Alex, our COO of the company. He further helped the company drive forward and see accelerated growth. The excellent part about working with others is they have a different perspective on everything you’ve already imagined.
Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?
Stick to a goal, and remind yourself of it every day until it's reached. Set small goals as well as large, so you can check things off as you go. As a CEO, it is very important to never lose sight of the general mission of your company. It’s easy to get bogged down into small matters, but at the end of the day, you are responsible for the growth of the company and have to make sure a lot of what you do helps with that.
If you are just starting out, I recommend staying organized. Most people’s mistake with staying organized is in the bookkeeping. Even if you are only running through a few transactions a month, the last thing you want to do when you are ready to grow substantially is spend your first few weeks going backwards. If you are not yet in the position to hire a bookkeeper, learn the basics and do it yourself. Keep all your receipts and organize them.
I also recommend reinvesting money into growth as well as improving your product. Consider learning how to run Facebook ads manager, or pay a consultant on Fiverr to give you a breakdown. It is a very cost effective way to run ads for even the smallest of businesses. But do not forget to invest your TIME in marketing as well. There are so many free ways to market your company… just because large companies spend a large percentage of their revenue on marketing does not mean you have to at such an early stage.
We built HostGenius from $4,000 MRR to over $125,000 without a single client from paid ads. Whether that be through cold calling, emails, or community outreach, there were a lot of people who were interested and we could reach without spending money. There are also a lot of free ways to build up communities that take nothing but time. An example of that would be the way we use Meetup. We have a Vancouver’s Airbnb Hosts meetup group, which is filled with 75+ hosts who are in the position to use your services.
There is also a local grocery store who built up a group of over 6,000 members talking about environmentally friendly grocery options, and they host monthly meetings at their store. Look at your company’s clientele, and see if you can build a community out of it. But make sure to build the community as yourself and not your company. It doesn’t matter what you do, if you are a small company, you are not yet in a position to be a community host for your topic.
What apps help you run your business?
We use Monday.com, Slack, and Waveapps. It doesn’t matter how big your team is, productivity management tools will help your team understand who is doing what, when things are due, and an incentive to complete tasks. Slack helps bring your team together for communication. As easy as sending texts to each other is, it’s definitely not the best way for a company to communicate internally.
What are you working on now?
Our aim is to provide our hassle-free service to more Airbnb hosts around the world. We currently operate in 3 cities, with the plan to open up in 4 more in 2020. We are currently going through a seed funding round to accelerate growth to new cities. Our revenue for the past 12 months was around $700,000. However, as we saw a lot of our clients join us on the second half of the year, we saw over $500,000 of that over our last 2 quarters. With our largely increased portfolio, we expect to see over $3,000,000 in revenue over the next 12 months.
|Founder:||Charles Mullany + Alex Stewart|