The women who shaped the history of short-term rentals
Dudes grabbed the headlines and – let’s face it – because of ingrained sexism and traditional old boy networks, they took an outsized share of the top jobs, but there were plenty of talented female leaders and entrepreneurs who also shaped the history and trajectory of the global short-term rental industry.
These women included Aurélie Lepercq, who ran HomeAway’s Europe business for half a dozen years; Jennifer Hsieh, who incubated and launched Marriott’s Houses & Villas; Jeanne Dailey, property manager who created DestinVacation.comand the relatively anonymous women who scanned photos to create listings in VRBO basement of founder David Clouse. There are many more.
Many of these female entrepreneurs went on to run their own short-term rental companies: Lepercq is CEO of edge retreats in London, Rhonda Sideris is the founder and president of Accommodation Park City in Park City, Utah, and Merilee Karr is the founder and CEO of UnderTheDoormat Group in London and is the chairman of the British Short Term Accommodation Association.
Skift has documented many of their personal and professional stories in Skift’s Definitive Oral History of Short-Term Rentals Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
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Updated May. 17, 2022
Aurélie Lepercq, former Managing Director of HomeAway Europe and CEO of Edge Retreats
Lepercq does not buy the idea that patriarchy stood in his way.
“In my 16 years in the vacation rental industry, I have not personally experienced an old boy ring or sexism,” Lepercq said in an email this weekend. end. “Quite the contrary: the two founders of the leader in seasonal rentals, with whom I worked in particular, are not only exceptional professionals but also united human beings. The board of directors also had female representation very early in the company’s history. »
The Edge Retreats CEO, however, acknowledged that the venture capital arena is stacked against women and minorities.
“It’s true that there are more men than women in leadership and founding positions in the industry, as there are in other sectors,” Lepercq said. “What we need to look at is how the companies currently run by a ministry are supported by funding. The statistics are not legendary: only 2% of venture capital funding goes to women-led companies and even less to black and Latino founders despite everyone’s efforts to change the situation. So something is still wrong.
In London, Lepercq joined Holiday Rentals, acquired by HomeAway in 2004, and then ran various parts of HomeAway’s European business. Going into the industry, she said, “there was just something that needed to be done that could change an industry.”
Have you ever wondered how HomeAway managed to make dozens of vacation rental business acquisitions with such divergent technologies and mix them all together, more or less?
HomeAway made 19 acquisitions while Lepercq was working there and said the company used Holiday Rentals as the technology base to put them together.
You can read Lepercq’s story in the Oral History Part 1 and Part 3.
Jennifer Hsieh, President of Homes & Villas by Marriott International
Jennifer Hsieh, president of Marriott’s luxury vacation rental business, Homes & Villas, helped prove the benefits of the concept to Marriott International leadership and then launched the brand with a very small team.
“Another data point that was given to us was that 27% of our customers in 2017 had stayed in a house, which meant they were leaving our portfolio. And that data point for Arne (then CEO Arne Sorenson) and for Stephanie (current Marriott President Stephanie Linnartz) was an aha moment,” Hsieh said in oral history Part 3. “Why would we want 27% of our guests to leave our portfolio rather than stay at Marriott? , Bonvoy?”
Merilee Karr, Founder and CEO of UnderTheDoormat Group
Like Lepercq of Edge Retreats, Merillee Karr thinks male investors tend to direct their funding to people with similar profiles.
“I would always believe it’s about finding the right people, and I have some amazing investors who are men,” Karr said. “I think in the entrepreneurial world, people like to invest in people like them, and there’s just more male investors, and they’re more into the real estate world. There’s more people who see themselves in male entrepreneurs than in female entrepreneurs. So I think that’s just the reality. I mean, did I ever really feel that there was a specific thing where I was like, ‘Well , I didn’t win this because I was a woman.”? No. But do I feel like you almost have to prove yourself twice as much? I think sometimes the answer to that has to be yes.
Karr had been a triathlete and purchasing manager for Shell Retail in Europe, and found herself planning group trips with friends to vacation rentals, where she could lock up her bike with less hassle than in hotels.
UnderTheDoorMat was an early partner of Marriott’s Homes & Villas, which Karr considered an endorsement for her business because of what she described as Homes & Villas’ high standards. You can read his story in Oral History Part 1 and Part 3.
Jeanne Dailey, Founder and CEO, Newman-Dailey Resort Properties
Jeanne Dailey recalls that everything changed in the late 1990s when Florida relaxed vacation rental regulations and the internet changed the way people found and booked vacation homes.
“So I had a really good web developer that I use now, and his old boss helped us get a good URL, which was destinvacation.com“, Daley said. “We started to build that. Instead of one photo in a brochure, it could then allow 10 photos, but 10 was much better than one. And at this point, you didn’t even have no online booking. You were just beginning to take credit cards instead of waiting for checks to come in and clear. You can read Dailey’s story in Oral History Part 1.
Kim Rubey, former Airbnb communications manager
Kim Rubey joined Airbnb in 2011 as it neared unicorn status, but wasn’t necessarily a mainstream brand. Opponents in the press dismissed Airbnb’s potential, Rubey said.
Airbnb’s founders “were big believers in the power of public relations from the very beginning,” Rubey said. “The mandate was to build a world-class team, find ways for us to get as much exposure as possible, and really use PR to help shape the brand.”
Launching Airbnb in Cuba was a career highlight for Rubey. “A few of us went there at different times in the first two months of 2015, and we came back and talked to the founders about how we should work very quickly and try to establish a presence there. Brian (Chesky) challenged us to have 1,000 listings online by April. Casas particulares hosts don’t have internet. It was a gargantuan effort, but similar. Lots of people across the company came together and were super motivated by this audacious goal. It was just phenomenal to go back the following years and hear from the hosts. They loved the accommodation at first but then having so much more demand and volume and meeting more people, it’s really been a game-changer personally from a financial standpoint for them.
You can read Rubey’s story in Oral History Part 1 and Part 2.
Rhonda Sideris, Founder of Park City Lodging
Rhonda Sideris founded Park City Lodging in 1984, initially handling property management for owners of one or two properties looking to organize ski vacations, and moving into managing homeowners associations in the years 1990.
The pandemic has been a time of strong expansion for his business as Sideris has seen his portfolio grow from “120 properties in March 2020 to probably 286 in December or January 2021,” Sideris said. You can read Sideris’ story in her own words in Oral History Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
Sandra Brown, owner of a vacation rental in Muskoka, Canada
Sandra Brown and her husband own and host a few vacation cabins, including one that sleeps 20, popular vacation region, Muskoka, Canada.
Brown previously managed recruitment for a major bank in Canada and had experience in project management, which comes in handy when dealing with the ups and downs of the vacation rental industry. And, for Brown, it’s definitely a business, not a hobby or passion project.
“But at the end of the day, this is a hotel business,” Brown said. “A lot of people don’t really understand how to do this properly. They think they can just throw their property on the platform and walk away, and they don’t really have to think about it, and that’s bullshit. And I must say that we seem to know what we are doing. We are very successful. You can read Brown’s story in Oral History Part 2.
Pamala Parris Wideen, Host, Tavares, Florida
Pamala Parris Wideen hosts a few properties in Tavares, Florida primarily for families visiting for fishing derbies, weddings, and funerals.
Parris Wideen finds many of her guests through Vrbo and Airbnb, but likes to resolve any customer service issues in-house if she can.
“We put it on Airbnb and Vrbo,” Parris Wideen said. “I prefer Airbnb, and most of our business goes through Airbnb. Vrbo, their app is clunky, the calendar doesn’t always sync properly. With Airbnb, I delineate a day before and a day after. I have this paranoid thing that it won’t be cleaned in time or whatever. And Vrbo you don’t have that option to mark a day before or a day after. And then when you enter the app it there are so many other steps you need to do to access everything.
Read the series
Updated May. 17, 2022
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