When Brittney Greene was offered an opportunity to work in the hospitality industry in New Orleans in 2015, she accepted the offer without hesitation. It was just six months after the sudden and tragic and sudden loss of her husband, Joshua, had left her reeling. At the time, Greene was living in her small, hometown in Mississippi, struggling to adapt to her new life.
While she found comfort in the support of family and friends, grieving in the small town became suffocating, she says. Nearly everywhere she went, and every conversation she had became a painful reminder of Joshua. Deeply devastated by the loss, she knew that she would have to pick up the pieces and move forward. But Greene was longing for a chance to start over.
She saw that chance in New Orleans.
After scraping up her savings, Greene moved to New Orleans and took on two part-time jobs in hospitality. A year later, she gutted a home and began renovating it. She did most of the restoration on her own, using tools and applying techniques that her late husband had taught her. The city had become her place of healing, and the new home, her canvas.
“It was almost like a piece of him was still here,” Greene said. “I was able to remember things that I’d watch him do, and things that he had taught me.”
Passion to Profit
Greene’s passion project slowly began to evolve. As the work progressed, she thought she could make a return on her investment by transforming more homes into vacation rentals.
Nearby, the owner of a cluster of French Quarter homes needed some help. She offered to renovate and manage the properties as vacation rentals, essentially becoming a property manager.
As Greene became more acquainted with New Orleans, she also gained valuable insight to offer guests at the vacation rentals she managed. Later, Greene began providing accommodations for those guests like transportation, tours, and excursions.
When other short-term rental homeowners began asking Greene to provide services for their guests too, she knew she was onto something.
That gave way to The Host, a centralized platform that connects homeowners and travelers to vetted and trusted service professionals for short-term rentals. Those services include anything from housekeeping to yard maintenance, to a guest concierge for guests.
“I decided to create this system to have an all-inclusive platform so any home owner in the industry has an outlet to market their services and connect with people who need them,” Greene says.
She went on to apply for an accelerator program through The Idea Village, a nonprofit that supports entrepreneurs in New Orleans, where she crystallized her concept.
Through her work in the hospitality industry, Greene says she had identified several key problems that she set out to solve with The Host. First, there was the challenge of booking all of the necessary services for short-term rentals without a centralized property management system.
“I manage a lot of properties for vacation rentals and I’m constantly messaging, calling, and emailing people. There was no automation for hosts to run operations after the booking is made. It’s all over the place,” Greene said.
Some of the other features she implemented was creating door codes for each property she was managing to allow service providers and guests their own unique access code to avoid security issues, and adding GPS’s in the properties, which notifies homeowners when their guests have arrived.
But for Greene, The Host was more than a business idea – it was a new beginning. As a first-time entrepreneur, she says that New Orleans helped bring her back to life.
“When I was raising my family in Mississippi, I never would have aspired to be a business woman,” Greene says. But after Joshua passed, I really had to step up and now, I’m carrying both roles,” Greene says. “But I am a survivor – I’ve always been that way,” Greene says.
Since launching The Host, Greene has brought on two full-time employees, several part-time employees including a CTO, and now has employed nearly forty contractors. Greene is currently seeking funding to grow her team.
New Market, New Trends
But as the vacation rental landscape quickly grows and evolves, regulations have been put in place, and there’s plenty of competition out there. But Greene says regulations go hand-in-hand with The Host’s mission.
“Airbnb doesn’t have a standardized way for people to obtain services. That’s what we are trying to provide. We want to standardize the industry with quality control, and boots on the ground,” Greene says.
The vacation rental giant now offers ‘experiences’ to customers, where locals can provide guests with personalized itineraries. And earlier this summer, it was reported that Airbnb will launch a new product intended to attract higher-paying travelers that prefer the amenities provided by upscale hotels.
The Host in on track to grow with thirty four current customers and about $70K revenue generated to date.
“This is the first of its kind because there is not a management system out there that allows homeowners and managers to run operations for vacation homes. This is one of a kind,” Greene says.
There are others vying for Greene’s customers too. Competitors like Guesty offers the service for property managers, and Vacasa is a management platform, but The Host differentiates itself by its technology platform targeted for managers and homeowners. It essentially streamlines the entire vacation rental management process.
And Greene doesn’t seem to be deterred by the new regulations recently put in place by local city ordinances.
“We want to work with local government and help establish regulations to standardize this industry. People complain that there is no control. There needs to be regulations, and The Host can help regulate it one property at a time,” Greene says.
One thing is certain – it’s an industry that doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
*Editor’s Note: Brittney Greene was a participant in The Idea Village’s 2017 DigitalMediaX accelerator program.