At 52 years of age, nothing surprised me. I had seen spouses cheat, marriages break up, siblings become estranged, employees embezzle, the list goes on. While I had been blessed by the occasional “pleasant surprise,”I had reached a point in my life where I was rather disheartened with the human race as a whole — and then came Airbnb.
INTERNATIONAL ASPIRING & PROFESSIONAL DANCERS
I live in very close proximity to many of Hollywood’s top film, television and music studios. Until I became an Airbnb host, I didn’t realize that my home was also near the hub of many world-renown dance studios, such as Millennium and Movement Lifestyle. They don’t call Los Angeles “The City of Dreams” for nothing. Artists from all over the world fly to LA with stars in their eyes and dreams in their heart.
When I began hosting, I perused through Airbnb listings in my area and decided to price my guest rooms below market value to attract inquiries. This strategy worked very well and I would recommend it to Airbnb hosts who are just starting out. Given that many performing artists are young ladies on a tight budget, my Airbnb became very popular with dancers who wanted to be in a “nice home” with a caring host. I soon became referred to as “Host Mom” to dozens of sweet young ladies. The experience was so positive that I decided to only accept female inquiries and to hone my brand around this group of refreshing young female guests.
In my next blog, I’ll be focusing on how to create your own unique Airbnb host brand, but I want to use this opportunity to pay tribute to one of Airbnb’s core brand attributes — the unique and often touching connection between Airbnb host and guest.
AIRBNB SUPER HOST
My mission as the Airbnb Expert is to help hosts and guests get the most from their Airbnb experience. With this goal in mind, I am a firm supporter of the hosted Airbnb — as one can’t achieve the ultimate Airbnb experience without it. This explains why when my reviews, or most Super Host’s reviews, speak as much (if not more) about the host as they do about the physical attributes of the Airbnb.
To help you understand how unlikely it is that I would have even imagined being an Airbnb host, I need to explain that in my real world I help business owners achieve their short and long-term corporate objectives. In this capacity, I spend my days talking and catering to people in an effort to “make things happen.” Moreover, I am an entrepreneur who works very long hours from home, which is my sanctuary. I am highly organized and keep everything in my home and in my life “just so,” bordering on O.C.D. (ok, I might actually cross that border a little bit). Had a Fortune Teller told me five years ago that I would be welcoming complete strangers into my home and catering to their needs, on top of my demanding “day” job, I would have flatly refused to pay her.
Since most of my guests are either young artists or interns coming to LA for a few months to gain experience in the film or television industry, many have either never lived away from home before, or never experienced life beyond their dorm. Most have saved for months, if not years, for a chance to come to LA to begin their journey of breaking into a fiercely competitive industry. Many of my guests also grew up in small towns and almost all have never stayed in an Airbnb with what they rightfully initially regard as “a complete stranger.” So needless to say, these guests arrive feeling rather anxious and apprehensive.
In welcoming these hopeful young women, I endeavor to provide an encouraging and supportive environment. One doesn’t have to be a social genius to imagine what it must be like to be a young woman coming to a major metropolitan city to test if they are able to grow and then compete in a professional arena they have dreamed about belonging to since they were a girl. At the same time, I am very mindful of always trying to strike the right balance between benevolent and respectful, so they don’t feel like I’m trying to coddle them as if I were their mother.
It usually doesn’t take long for the shared kitchen chit-chat to develop into discussions about my guests’ goals and worries. Asking questions and solving problems is inherent with my profession, so I gravitate towards those skills when helping others. While I admire and care about them all and would never want one Airbnb guest to feel I favored another, it helps to get a feel for my guests by describing one that I had the privilege of hosting.
While all of my guests have left a lasting impression on me, I’d like to share the story about a young lady named Michelle, who grew up in the residential community of East Northpoint, NY.
Michelle stayed with me while attending a one-month intensive dance program at Movement Lifestyle Dance Studio. Back in East Northpoint, Michelle is a children’s dance instructor. She originally booked my Airbnb for one month and then extended for a second month, which is why she wrote two reviews.
Michelle is a talented dancer, but she also has a knack for video production. She would leave my Airbnb every day to spend hours in grueling dance classes, where her approachable personality resulted in making friends in no time.
On weekends she would hike the nearby Runyon Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains and then head home to refuel with one of the many healthy meals she prepared for herself daily. During Michelle’s stay with me, she truly embraced the Airbnb #LiveThere mindset.
Each day when I would hear Michelle preparing food in the kitchen, I made a point of casually wandering into the room to “get something or do something” and ask if she needed anything – while being mindful of not making her feel that I was imposing. I would also see if she needed to talk by engaging in the usual niceties and then allowing her to take the conversation to a deeper level if she so desired. Since she had many talents and people responded so well to her, opportunities were presenting themselves regularly. She was also missing her mom and her boyfriend back home, while trying to decide if she wanted to permanently move to LA, pursue dance as a career, accept an offer to intern for a top LA music video producer, the list of considerations went on.
On some days, Michelle would head out to take in some fun LA activities like a visit to Universal Studios, located just a quick Uber ride from my home.
During her stay, we celebrated our other guest’s birthday, which included the guest waking to a Happy Birthday balloon and card in the kitchen, a custom birthday cake in the evening, and me treating all “the girls” to a night out at a luxury movie theatre called iPic Theatres, where moviegoers sit in reclining La-Z-Boy-style chairs, order food from waiters that visit one’s seat and then eat dinner while watching the movie using the chair’s custom movie/dinner table. The experience is divine and everyone always has a great time. Guests never go back to a regular movie theatre after experiencing an iPic. My guests also get a real thrill from sitting near famous actors and athletes who frequently attend movies at the iPic in LA.
Guests are often with me during family holidays. When Michelle was staying with me, we also celebrated Thanksgiving together. Michelle helped me set the table and brought out handmade place cards that she created for guests to write what they were thankful for on and then read their comments aloud at the table. This is just another example of why Michelle endeared herself to us all
In experiencing sharing Thanksgiving dinners and other celebrations together, along with sharing of my home day-to-day , guests like Michelle transform into feeling like real family members.
THE AIRBNB EFFECT
I was surprised by how all my many lovely guests bring my home to life, and one simply can’t help but feel buoyed by their wide-eyed enthusiasm. In times of strife I always remember my mother saying that, “We rise by lifting others.” And rise I did: from Airbnb host, to Super Host, to Airbnb Expert to Host Educator presenting at the annual Airbnb Open in LA this year. But more importantly, I rose from a person who had lost faith in the kindness and decency of others, to one who experiences the daily rewards of sharing her home with an amazing stream of remarkable young women like Michelle.
At the end of my “Why I Became An Airbnb Host,” video, I say “Airbnb changed my life.” Michelle and the amazing number of remarkable young women that have graced my home are entirely the reason why. To you Michelle, and to all the other admirable and delightful young women I have had the honor of hosting like: Annemeike, Michelle C, Kim, Zarahl, Inbal, Diane, Kloe, Marilia, CarliRose, Nicole, Rachel, Carol, Amber, Narelle, Eden, Stacey, Tia, Lexi, Claire, Hannah, Allie, Lucy, Deena, Jessica, Heather, Alika, Dana, Verhanika, Laura and Shweta, thank you for allowing me to share in your light and for graciously allowing me to take away a bit of your glow to light my own path – which I now find myself happily skipping along thanks to you all. I could not be more grateful for every one of you, and for Airbnb.