Airbnb Super Hosts: How Sarah & Annette Created a Business out of a Completely New Industry
Ep. 95
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Sarah & Annette

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    One of the things that I try to stress on this podcast is the fact that there are opportunities everywhere. As new technologies emerge, entire new industries are born and those industries sprout tons of new jobs and business ideas. My guests today have been taking advantage of just that.
    After Airbnb started gaining in popularity, Annette Grant and Sarah Karakaian each saw an opportunity to leverage the platform into a short-term rental business. And they each did it in their own unique way–Annette teamed up with a business partner who invested in the properties while Annette runs the business and Sarah and her husband started by renting out their own properties on Airbnb.
    And it was on this mission to share their spaces and live their dreams that Annette and Sarah met at a City Council meeting in Columbus, Ohio, where they were fighting for their right to host these short-term rentals responsibly and legally.
    Since then, they knew they would have to find a way to elevate their voice and share what it means to be a host with heart so that having a short-term rental in a community was an asset, not a nuisance.
    Aside from managing 20+ properties, Sarah and Annette host a popular podcast all about the short-term rental industry called Thanks for Visiting.
    Before their Airbnb endeavours, Annette helped build two businesses from the ground up into multi-million dollar businesses. Her expertise ranges from service-based to e-commerce.
    And Sarah spent 14 years in New York City as a musical theatre performer before she hung up her character shoes, packed up her life with her husband, Nick, and 12 lb. cockapoo and moved to the midwest. Inspired by their opportunity to be involved in 8 episodes of an HGTV show, Sarah and Nick knew that working in and around homes was their calling! They flip, stage, and invest in homes with stories all around Columbus, OH.

Find Sarah and Annette Here:

Show Transcript
Hi friends. Welcome to another episode. I'm so excited to have you here. Thank you for joining me. I hope you are all doing well amidst this COVID craziness crisis. It's now, what? The end of April? I go through the gamut of emotions literally on a daily basis. So I hope that you know that that is okay and it is normal. There's a lot of denial, a lot of bargaining and a lot of acceptance at this point. And I think looking at the bright side of things, trying to find things to be grateful for is always good. But I did want to talk really quickly about loss and grief right now. I am getting a lot of people on my Facebook group or and just different lives that I've been doing, coaching calls, talking about how to deal with certain disappointments and then feeling guilty for being disappointed that something got canceled when they know there are bigger things happening in the world.

So we feel guilty cause we should be grateful because you know, maybe our trip got canceled or our kids' prom got canceled. But there are people that are losing loved ones. And to that, I want to just tell you that your loss is your loss and it doesn't benefit anyone by you trying to push it down or push it aside. It's like if you get a cut and you need stitches and you say, Oh, I don't want to go to the hospital. There are people that have cancer. Yeah, sure. There are people that have cancer and you still need stitches. So while there are different ranges of loss and grief, it is okay to be disappointed. It is okay to feel grief and loss for things that I don't know. Maybe somebody else wouldn't grieve over. That's fine. And really the only way to be able to move past it is to feel it.
I think so often we think that if deny we it, then it's gone, but it's not. Then it becomes your story, then you live in it. Right. As opposed to accepting that we're humans and a negative emotion is part of life and it's fine and that it doesn't mean that you can't also be grateful. Those things can coexist. You can be disappointed and still see the bright side of things. And so I know a lot of us are dealing with a lot of different types of loss and you know, on the whole things might be pretty okay still and yet we feel disappointed and yet we, you know, feel very uncertain. And so I welcome you to just feel whatever emotion you're feeling and everyone's is going to be different. And that's okay too. Some people are super productive during this time and other people are just trying to survive the day.
So stop listening to what everybody else, including me is telling you and go in order and figure out what you need and allow that. Trust yourself to know what you need, just yourself to give yourself the best advice. And I don't think we're taught that really. And so I think that we are constantly looking to others as to how we should feel and nobody can tell you how you should feel right now. So I hope that helps you a little bit. I will probably do some more episodes focused on the economic impact and all this stuff kind of going forward. But for now we're going to jump into a regular episode and I am so excited for this one. I think it's the first time that we've had business partners to people on the show. We have the pleasure of having Annette Grant and Sarah Karakaian from the Thanks for Visiting podcast.
They cohost a very popular podcast all about the short-term rental industry. So let's talk a little bit about their starts. Sarah spent 14 years in New York city as a musical theater performer before she hung up her character shoes, packed up her life with her husband and moved to the Midwest. We'll talk all about how she got onto HGTV. But her and her husband, once they did this show, decided that they were all in on the flipping staging and investing in homes. And they started doing that in Columbus, Ohio. And, and that has helped to build two businesses from the ground up into multimillion dollar businesses. Her expertise ranges from service-based to e-commerce. And we'll talk about how both of them got their unique entrances into the world of Airbnbs and short term rentals. But they actually met at a city council meeting in Columbus, Ohio, where they were fighting for their right to host these Airbnb short term rentals in the city.
And they realized that they wanted to have a way to elevate their voices and share what it means to be a good host, a host with a heart. So that having a short term rental in the community was an asset and not a nuisance. And that has farmed this beautiful partnership. They now manage over 20 properties. And they host this podcast and we'll talk all about, you know, jumping into an industry that they knew nothing about that is fairly new and how they've created these businesses around it. I think that is just so inspiring and such a good example of the fact that new industries are popping up and that just provides new opportunity. So without further ado, let's jump in and talk to Sarah and, and that. Hi, Sarah and Annette, thank you so much for joining me today.
S+A: Hello. We're so excited to be here. Hi Goli!
Goli: Hi. I am so excited to have you! It's actually, I think this is my first podcast with two guests. Two quitters, two clips, double quitters. The price of one. I also love that you guys are partners in a lot of this stuff and I think a lot of people, I really don't want to go through this entrepreneurship thing alone. So I love seeing when people are kind of, working alongside each other or with each other. So we're going to get into all amazing things, Airbnb, but, and what you guys are doing now and how you got into it. But why don't you guys maybe start back from before you started doing Airbnb and let us know what your careers looked like and how you even got kind of into this world of Airbnb.
S+A: Let's do it. This is the net speaking. And so I wanted to let all the listeners know too. Sarah and I did not know each other when we quit. So we became partners after we quit our respective other professions. So my story goes, I helped build a clothing brand online and also retail stores. And when I say helped build it, I was in the owner's parent's basement and built that to over a hundred employees, five retail locations probably I think when I left over $10 million in sales. And just honestly bootstrapped super fun. That was around 2008. 2009 and aye got quit. And what I mean by I got quit is I, I really wanted to quit but I made the I didn't make them, I gave them an offer to quit me because I had an employment agreement for anyone out there that has an employment agreement, go through that with someone!
Thankfully I had my brother who's an attorney that helped me walk through that cause I had been wanting to quit wanting to quit, like I could not. The company was amazing, still is amazing, but it was getting to a point where man, it took everything in me to go there every day. It’s just, we were going to 2.0 we were growing. We grew really fast and we were becoming siloed and to have more of a full picture and a part of. And so it just, it didn't feel right anymore. Yes, I'm one of those people. My job has to feel right or what I do every day has to feel right to me. And I mean, it was not fun to go there anymore. And so I was ready to just throw in the towel at any point in time, but like everyone else, I thought that I've given so much, I've helped build this.
This is my team. These are my people. What are they going to do if I leave 'em, what am I going to do if I leave? I had zero game plan and, but I just, I was stuck in that six cycle of like, this isn't healthy for me. I shouldn't be here anymore, but what am I going to do? And I was just going through the same thing every day. And it was like, I mean, I was so close every day walking out, quitting, walking out, quitting. And then finally I had a conversation with [inaudible], my, you know, my family, my friends and my brother, thankfully who's an attorney, I actually had some ownership in the company and also an employment agreement. And he said, you have an employment agreement here. There is a severance package if they ask you to leave. And I'm like, excuse me, they have to pay me.
And I mean it was as if light bulbs went off everywhere and I'm like, A. This is why you hire an attorney to help you. And B. This is why you have an employment agreement when you actually have an ownership agreement too. So if anyone's listening out there, if you do have any ownership in the organization, make sure you always get an employment agreement. Also, because that was an attorney earlier on in my career, helped me set that up. He was like, Hey, once you get bought out, they're not gonna know what your skills are. And if you should be on board, they're going to get rid of you on day one. So have an employment agreement in place too. So thankfully to that attorney and my brother, I had some cushion and really any listeners out there pay attention to those details because when I got quit I had a cushion so maybe I cheated a little bit, but I still had zero clue what I was going to do and I was so fearful on cool, I have the severance but my, what's my skill set? What am I going to do? I'm a part of this brand.
Goli: Yeah, I don't think that's cheating at all. And I think that that's, that's very smart. It's such a good point. It hasn't really come up on the podcast, but I think regardless of whether you know you have ownership or not, I think it's such a good idea too. Really understand what's in your employment agreement if you don't have one, have one set up. And then if you do to really understand it. And as you were saying, you know, maybe that requires getting a lawyer or someone to help you read it because like you're just saying, you know you had just made the rash decision of quitting. You would have walked away with nothing and you ended up creating a cushion that let you leave a little more comfortably.
S+A: It was a hard conversation to have because I presented to them that they should probably quit me and I couldn't believe we gave ourselves a weekend. Everybody talked to their attorneys and they came back and they actually did quit me and I - it felt pretty good. But the struggle before that of wanting to quit, when I say it was probably two years of, it's like once I finally started sharing it with people and my brother brought that to me, I should have shared it much earlier cause it still probably would have been the same outcome. And just talking about it to people was really helpful to have admitting to them that I'm not in the place I'm supposed to be anymore. So having that conversation and starting that with, you know, trusted friends, family advisors, that's a hard thing to do cause you're admitting that you want to leave something that you've given so much to. But that was helpful.
Goli: Awesome. That's very helpful. And so overall how long were you with that company? Seven years, I think. Seven or eight years. Yeah. And you were saying that maybe two years before you left was when you were starting to think about not wanting to be there?
S+A: Yes. That's when we were starting to kind of go to 2.0 and things just started to feel a little not at, I wasn't as passionate and motivated as I had been when we first started.
Goli: Right. And I mean once we kind of get Sarah's story will come back because I think you know a lot of people that are in that position where they want to quit and they have no idea what they would do. And so I really want to get into like when you don't have a plan, it's not like you know the next thing that you're going to jump to, what you are feeling. But maybe before we do that, Sarah, what was your quitting story?
S+A: So mine is a little different. Ever since I was three or four, I knew I wanted to perform on the stage. I took piano lessons, voice lessons, dance lessons. From a very young age. I got involved in any theater I could either locally or in my school. I then auditioned for musical theater for college and I went to all the big schools. I got into all the big schools. I had my choice of where I wanted to go. No one could tell me how hard it was going to be. I didn't care. I had blinders on. I knew that I was meant to do this one thing and I moved to New York city in 2005 after graduating with a musical theater degree and I bootstrapped my way behind a bar to earn money for my head shots and for the best voice lessons I could afford.
I lived with many people in may, different apartments too, to make it work. I was living my Bohemian dream of being in a New York city performer. It only took me a year to get my first gig, which isn't too bad. I did a lot of national tours and international tours and with big musical productions and I was just so happy. And even when I was between, I was behind bars and you know, and that felt to me like a performance. I loved seeing how much I could bring home each night. I loved seeing regulars know me and ask, Hey Sarah, how'd that audition for Wicked go? Or how did that, had that callback go? Or you know, Sarah, what's so great today? What happened yesterday that whenever, and it was just this really great story, and I feel very similar to Annette. I started feeling really... after 2008 it got really hard.
I lost three big jobs that year and I was behind the bar a lot more often. And usually it only took me three or four months before I got on there, you know, theater, job and I was getting six months, nine months, one year, a year and a half. I was getting antsy and I didn't… I couldn't control the outcome of no matter how many high end voice lessons I got or how many dance lessons I got or who I knew or what classes I could get into. Well my agents, you know, how fancy they were. I couldn't, I couldn't control people giving me a job to do what I love to do and I didn't like that. And I then started on kind of a downward spiral.
I would sit at auditions and I wouldn't like the people sitting next to me going into the room. I didn't like the people sitting behind the table. I didn't, the piano player wouldn't listen to me and what I wanted them to do. When I gave him my mu- I was getting bitter and I remember something they always said to me growing up is if you ever want to do anything else, do something else. Because the theater industry, musical theater industries… They are very cut throat, it's very hard. If you're not 101% in, then you're not in, you're not in. Because to go to New York and have talent, that's entry level, that's the base, you know what I mean? The fact that you are talented as everyone is, right. It's, it's, it's your tenacity and it's your creativity to get yourself on stage.
And I wasn't, I didn't know what to do anymore or how to get there since the economy changed. I would be behind the bar dreaming of things. What else could I do that would bring me happiness? Because life is passing by fast and I wasn't willing to wait it out to get back on stage again. I wasn't willing to do that. And I knew people who were, and then you know, their stories are very different from mine. They would end up getting back into work and booking shows again eventually. But I just, I didn't want to wait. I wanted to create my own kind of show, but it wasn't as I thought it would be. I found myself really thinking about starting my own business and I was like, that's interesting because I feel like as an actor you are your own, you are a solo preneur, you are branding yourself, you're marketing yourself, you are taking gigs, right?
And then you're an employee or you're an independent contractor for a short period of time. Then you’re starting all over again. But if I could create a business, I could have people come to me and want my service. That could be interesting. That could be cool. And so I started thinking about what I was good at and I was always very good at organizing. I was always good with interior spaces. When I was little, I'd move my room around or repaint the walls. My dad was very handy. I would help him hang drywall or put in light fixtures and I thought, maybe I could get into professional organizing. I found out that was a thing and in New York city people will pay you for lots of things that are inconvenient to everyone else.
But so I started that. And then at the same time my husband was also kind of going through a crazy change and he got his real estate license and he got his general contractor's license and he had gone through, he was an architect in school. But he didn't want to sit behind a desk, you know, pushing his pencil around. He liked working with his hands. And so I would hire him to hang shelves for me and he would hire me to like, you know, Hey, does this look good aesthetically, you know, would you do this, whatever. And Instagram was new then too. And so we were sharing what you're doing on Instagram and we've got a DM one day I'm a producer at HGTV and they asked us to audition for a show. Long story short, after four months of auditioning, we got on the show and I got into this bubble of we did eight episodes and we couldn't talk to anyone else who couldn't do anything.
We had to just get the show done and I had never been happier. It was cool, this is great. And we would be up at 2:00 AM smashing tile and getting the job done so we can get a whole three bedroom, three bath beach house flipped in eight weeks. And I was happy with that. I was like, this is cool, I can do this. And Nick was like, I feel the same way. So when the show was done and we got back home and we just went all in and we just changed our business name and we merged and we became masters and that's where we went to people's houses. And at first we hung the crown molding, we hung the tile, we called the plumbers to the job and made sure they did their job well. And now we hire out everything and we just stick to the design aspect of it. But yeah, so I quit musical theater and if you had told me even five years ago today and it's 2020 right now, that I would be in Columbus, Ohio flipping houses, I would tell you you're crazy.
Goli: Yeah. That's such a huge departure. And I'm just wondering, cause a lot of times when you do something like that and you do have talent and you've been doing it your whole life, it, it's such a part of your identity. It's such an ingrained part of how people view you and how you view yourself. And I know, I mean obviously getting to the point where you're on HGTV and stuff, it sounds really cool, but I'm just wondering like when you were making that transition to doing home organizing, you know, what was going through your mind? I mean, were there times where you're thinking that you've spent, cause I think a lot of times we do this sunk cost fallacy too. It's like, well, I've already spent 10 years auditioning or doing whatever, like I'm going to walk away now and organize closets, you know? And I think a lot of times that's what keeps us stuck instead of really seeing, okay, well this isn't out the way I want to do and I don't want to keep putting my future in other people's hands. I'm going to create something else. But what did you do in those times of doubt or times when you were thinking that you were walking away from something that was your identity?
S+A: I think as much tenacity as it took me to stick with musical theater from age four until I think I forget what age it was and I walked away from musical theater somewhere around 32, I'm 37 now. I always forget how old I am. I, if I can get myself one credit and I give myself a lot of 'em I give myself a lot of debt with my decisions, but the one thing I'm really good at is knowing when it's time to just stop. Like I don't, I'm not a bitter person. I like being happy. I like challenging myself. I like feeling like a nutsedge. It just didn't feel right anymore. That was me sitting in those audition rooms, not liking that woman next to me who was, who spent the same money and time and effort into looking beautiful that day and having her voice in tip top shape.
I was looking at her in annoyance that she was there and she was in my way and I was like, that's not me. You are toxic. I was toxic. I was toxic. Same, I think, you know, when you're becoming toxic because it starts to overflow to whomever you're working with. I was becoming toxic to my team that I told them that I cared about so much. There was a palpable toxicity oozing as positive as I am as a leader, but I knew there was an underlying toxicity there that is not good. Mostly for yourself, but then it's not fair to everyone else that you're working with and then who you come home to or who you interact with at night. I’m sure, listeners, you know the feeling of recognizing when you’re being toxic.
I'm trying to play it off like I'm not, but I and, and you have to recognize the difference between being toxic and going through a really hard time. You know, there's a difference between a push through something and not quitting. That's important, right? I mean, there are many times when of course like before I had that ninth callback, but had I not gone to that callback and spent the time it took me to get there, I wouldn't have gotten a gig that changed my life or like had gave me the best five years of my life to the state. But there's also a time to really dig in and know like, okay, this isn't about a challenge that I'm facing or this isn't because it's hard. This is because it's time to let it go.
Goli: Yeah, but that’s a tough decision still to make. And I will give you both a lot of credit because I think that when there is so much uncertainty of the unknown and you don't know what you want to kind of do next or what that's going to pan out to. And I think so many of us start becoming bitter and resentful and toxic, right? Because we sit in these situations that we don't actually want to be in, but you know, whether it's our mind or society or family or whatever, it's programmed that you know, it's the safe route or it's what you've done always or you know, I think especially in the entertainment industry, there's, you're sold so much of this like the, the chance of all this glamour or highlife or whatnot. And so you hold on to that and I think it takes a lot to say, okay, but this is now really coming at the detriment of a happy life. I'm doing this to the point where it's just not worth it anymore.

S+A: There was one more key to me knowing it was time to go, and this might help listeners this way, I'm just going to say it quickly, is that every time I open my mouth up to sing, after I started really feeling toxic and acting toxic, I was judging myself every time. I didn't like the way I looked at it or the way I sounded, I was very unkind to myself and that's, that's it happens in no matter what industry you're in.

I didn't like singing anymore. I didn't like the way I said... You know what I mean? You feel crazy. You sound great. Or teachers would ask, what is wrong with you? As if you were flat that whole time and you've never had an issue. It was like my body was telling me it was time to shut down and reboot and rethink. And so look at that too. If you're not sure if this is a time you need to push through or if this is a time to change chapters is to see, is your body giving you any clues? What else could be telling you what you need to be hearing to make that call?
Goli: Yeah. I love that you said that. I did a book review last month for March and Martha Beck has a book called Finding Your Own North Star. And in it, one of the things she talks about is basically, you know, our body talks to us and there's so often we're, does that talk to sort of listen to that, you know, I think we are, our society is so focused on left brain rational thinking and what is security? What is the right thing that we so ignore these very telltale signs that we are unhappy. And you know, I've, I've talked to so many people who, well tell me like they just start, you know, are having panic attacks or their body's breaking out into rashes and every time they go into work and it's like they might be like, your body's maybe trying to tell you something, you know, of the level of stress is physically making you ill.
Maybe it's time to rethink that job or, yeah. And I think that, you know, for somebody like you who's obviously you're using your body a lot in that job to really notice that I came, my body is kind of trying to tell me something is, is not not what most people do, but it's so important.
S+A: Hey Goli that reminds me, I had this random back pain for those two years that I wanted to quit. I went to an acupuncturist, I went to a massage therapist, never solved it and it was at a weird spot. Didn't make any sense. Not joking. The day I walked out it has never... It has never come back. So it was manifesting this spot and it's wild. I.... and... I never put it together until months later. I'm like wheat, the wheat. When did that stop that day? It never came back.
Goli: So crazy. It's so crazy how many stories are like that and it's interesting cause we obviously all intellectually understand that our body... like why does a lie detector test work? Right? Because your body literally reacts to what you're saying. Right? You start, if you're lying then your heart rate goes up, your blood pressure. And so there, and there's all these, you know, studies now and there's so much evidence out there of how we store emotion in our muscles and in, and we all know it to a certain extent, like your shoulders become tight or that's why people go to these massages. But if we were taught a little bit more about how to listen to this, there's so many stories like that in it where people have these chronic illnesses and then all of a sudden they leave that profession or that marriage or whatever and all of a sudden it's gone. And it's like, Oh, maybe I should listen to my body from now on. I don't know. Just something about... Okay, so Sarah, when you're saying you guys got into this flipping business or you got, I mean you got into organizing and then design and on HGTV. Why did you end up in Columbus, Ohio?
Yeah, that's a good question. So we knew a little bit about real estate and this was happening as I was in a five year stint at a luxury hotel where I was making great money. Again, I was waiting for an acting job and the first two years at that hotel, I kept telling my HR director, or like my manager, I was like, I'm not going to be here for long. I'm going to be on stage soon, so don't get used to me being here. And they're like… And I was never that girl. I was never that woman where... I really never left the bar. I was always leaving the bar to go do a show. But I found this great job. I got paid an amazing salary plus tips. Plus they supported me cause I actually went and recorded the HGTV show while I worked there.
So it was just a perfect place even though I didn't know it at the time. And I also, because we liked houses... Most of… We knew a little bit about real estate and we had read rich dad, poor dad. And I had this great job - he had decent job - and was like maybe we should buy some real estate in New York. He's like, we can't afford that. You're crazy. And I was like, I mean maybe also there's this really tiny ugly house down the street from where we were renting in Queens. And I feel like we could make this happen. We could... It was after the recession too. So everything was on sale and I just needed something to... I needed some project and if it wasn't gonna be me and my voice and you needed to be something else.
And so long story short, we got the house, it needed fixed up. We were good at that. So we did that. I also at the same time learned from a friend about Airbnb. He was from Australia and he, and one day asked me to remake the bed cause he couldn't make it back in time. And this is before Airbnb was cool. This was like 2012 before Airbnb started even, it was an idea in the founder's heads in 2008. So this is the beginning of it, right? We had this basement that had its own door, two the basement. So it's not a duplex home, but it had its own entry to the basement level where like there was a bathroom right when you walked in and then the whole nice big bedroom and then from the kitchen. And so it's like, what if we didn't have friends live there?
What if we tried this Airbnb thing? And so long story short, after convincing my husband to do that, we made our mortgage payment off of Airbnb guests. And so we just fell in love with fixing up that house... marry that with Airbnb and paying our mortgage in New York city. I mean that's epic. I don't… And that's a lot of money, you know? And so we were like, we could do more of this. And at the time I was like, I've got this hotel training now. I know before I started the hotel, I didn't know what a KPI was. I didn't know about par levels. I learned so much about hospitality. And in addition to my years behind the bar prior, we just decided that we wanted to buy more property and it would just, it was harder to do that in New York city.
And so we had fixed up the house and we found out that we could sell the house for double what we paid for it four years later. Double. And that's a pretty good return on your investment for two people. You don't really know what they're doing. But we certainly learned along the way. And then of course, once we found out we had a knack for it. We started, we started listening to podcasts and reading books and educating ourselves. We didn't just, you know, ride our coattails, but so all that to say we had a spreadsheet of all the different places in the U S that we could go and stretch our real estate dollars once we sold the home. And we thought maybe the Portland area would be cool, but nah, that's not, it's really, really tenant friendly and it's really expensive up there too.
Okay. What about Denver? No, that's expensive. And so we knew the Midwest kind of where we had to end up. And so we just kind of picked Columbus for no other reason than the real estate market was great but still affordable to get into. And it's a good segue into once I moved here, we spent our money, a lot of our money on a [inaudible] beautiful brick fourplex in a great neighborhood. And I had dreams of changing most of them into short term rentals. But I wouldn't even, it was like six to eight months after we moved here, the city was starting to have discussions about limiting Airbnb and how often you could do it. And I was like, nah, I didn't give up my favorite city in the world cause I still very much love New York city to come here and not be able to do that thing that I wanted to do, which was run short term rentals, run an Airbnbs. And so I, I went to, they had city council meetings where they were going to hear from the community their thoughts on it. And that's when Blondie sat next to me in the rows at the very first of three. I went to all three. A little insight into my personality and yeah. And that's how I met Annette. And that's where we met.
So serendipitous. So amazing. So, and that, how did you, so when you're leaving, you were going to leave your job, you had severance but you didn't know what you wanted to do. So how did you get involved in Airbnb?
S+A: At that point in time, I had no clue what I was going to do and I, no, the sharing economy was interesting to me and I wanted to get involved with it. Nothing against Uber. I just didn't, I was like, I don't know if an Uber driver is what I want to do. And to be honest, I had a lot of connections having coffee, this, that, and the other. I think, you know, people are wanting to vet me to potentially hire me. And one of those people owned a... was a property developer and I... during that call he was like, Oh, you need to do... He has about a thousand properties... You need to do Airbnb, it'd be so cool. He's like, no, my team does long term rentals and you know, you're, you're trying, you're bringing other ideas and I'm not interested. And then I was like, well, wait a second, what if I do it for you?
What if we do this together? I think, you know, he wanted to, I think you want to be on his team, but I created a way that I could be an entrepreneur and kind of be on his team, but B, create a short term rental part of his business. But at that time it was just one. And what was really nice is I don't own any real estate and I didn't at the time, and this developer had… That was his property. He had the properties that were kind of slow, like they weren't renting out. And I was like, let's try it. And you know, I had very little skin in the game because I was partnering with the owner of the building and we were just going to do a, we did a profit share, I made sure the rent was taken care of, just the same as a long term renter.
And you know, we made sure their utilities, all of the, all of that was taken care of via the guest. And also I wanted to know like is this, it's the short term rental is Airbnb isn't really a thing. Like I heard all the whispers of like, you know, people are making money and in just the shared economy period, I heard all these wonderful success stories and I'm like, why? I loved my previous job. You know, we sold things online and I'm like, wait, how, what about the sharing economy where we're all sharing things online? I'm like, I want to dip into that. And so that's really, it was honestly just a wild idea. I never, I didn't even know anybody that was really doing Airbnb and I just kind of started chatting with yeah, I mean I had zero zero experience.
Goli: But so what I'm wondering is when you're talking to this real estate developer who obviously has experience in real estate and has experience in long term rentals and he's saying, you know, no, we don't do this. What makes you kind of get, have this thing to say? Well let me try it, you know, as opposed to a couple of times it's like when we think like, Oh, I don't have the experience in this. If this guy is saying that longterm rental is a way to go, then like I'm not gonna, you know, I'm not going to take a try when I don't know anything about this industry.
Right. probably should preface it with my last three careers, I have hired myself and all of those jobs in some way, shape or form. And that's personnel honestly is my personality type. The job that I got quit from, I just started going there every day and then ended up being full-time in pay.
But really, I think it was my excitement for it and it was riding the wave of something that was popular. And I, you know, I did one thing that I didn't know that I was building that all these at other companies that I worked for, I was building my personal brand all along and I don't think I really realized it at the time, but I was building that brand and I had built not only that brand and something else prior to it, but I was building my personal brand at the time. And so when I was in that meeting, I think that property developer trusted me because he saw the results that I had gotten previously. And so that was a huge ego boost for me because I had been so closely associated with all the work that I had done. It was my identity.
That brand was the brand. The clothing brand I worked for was so much of my identity. It was so refreshing to see someone who's like, wait, he's valuing me as a person, as a personal brand and not just the work I did somewhere else. So I honestly think it was what I had created the other places that he had had that trusted me. And that's where [inaudible] for your listeners, whatever career you're in, it's not a loss. It's not like it hasn't been building you up to where you're going to be. That was something that was a huge wake up. I'm like wait all of these are now just Sarah said earlier, all of these are down just chapters in my, my amazing book and when I first got quit I was very, I mean, trust me, I went through a lot of emotional, you know, ups and downs and still do today, but that was something that took me a really long time.
Wait, that wasn't, not that those eight years aren't a loss now. I learned so much. I met so many people, I was building my own personal brand and I think that person trusted me with their property, like it really gave me that ego boost. I kind of needed at that time when I was not knowing what was next. And I am really thankful for him. And by the way, he actually has a whole arm of his real estate business now. He has multiple short term rentals, so he's actually built it into a department of his business.
Goli: That's amazing. I love what you just said and I think that it's a, you know, a theme that we try to touch on a lot on this podcast because like I was saying earlier, you know, a lot of times people think of their careers as we go through this sunk cost fallacy of, I've already spent so much time doing this, I'm just going to throw it away. And it's like, no, you're not. I mean, the amount of skills that you learn from something, even if it's not a direct translation, maybe you're not going to be, if you're a lawyer, you're not going to be doing law. But the fact that you know how to think like a lawyer and read certain things like that helps you even if you're going to be an entrepreneur or anything else. And I think seeing where people… A lot of times it's hard, you can always obviously connect the dots with hindsight and so it's hard looking forward to see how do I use these skills.
And I think that's what we struggle with. But understanding like you were just saying is it's a chapter in your life and you skill stack on top of each other and just building that confidence as you do one thing to prove to yourself like, Hey, I know how to do this or I can figure it out. And I, you know, it's not gonna be as crazy or as scary as maybe our brains tell ourselves that it is. And I think it's just such an important thing to realize that a lot of this stuff just kind of preps you for the next thing and the next thing if you're willing to take that risk.
S+A: Yeah, absolutely.
Goli: Okay. So you started doing Airbnb with this business partner and then you obviously end up at this city council meeting.
S+A: Yeah, we're fighting for our right to let strangers sleep in our beds.
Goli: Yes! I love it. Okay. And then so tell us a little bit how your, you guys started working together and creating this spot.
S+A: What happened next is when Sarah and I got together, I'll be honest, I started to learn a lot more after I left my, I left that job or got quit from that job and it took me into a, I'm kind of the digital course creation and and just becoming more of an entrepreneur. And through that, the number one thing that I was asked about through my friends, family, acquaintances was always Airbnb. Some of them I was like, wait a second, there's more people want to learn about hosting. I was crushing it at the time. When I met Sarah, I had four Airbnbs. We were [inaudible] doing very, very well. We were getting like three X what short term or long term rent would be. Everybody was asking about it. I kind of had systems in place that were going well, but I wanted to expand that to teach other people how awesome sharing spaces and living my cause.
It was allowing me the time to vet out other things that I wanted to do. And that's when I met Sarah. And I wanted to create a podcast. I wanted to create an education side for potential posts or co-host or people to just get involved in the short term rental community. And so when I, and I knew I didn't want to do that alone, I've always, I want to work with a team and that Sarah and Sarah has all of the strengths that I don't, and she, you know, she's married with her husband and so they are real estate investors and I'm single and I don't own any property. So I thought we'd be this perfect fit and she's female. I really wanted to, I wanted to do this with another woman and just show other women what the potential was for us in a real estate atmosphere. And that's kind of the idea came from wanting to share it. Our tagline for our business is called thanks for visiting.
Our tagline is: Share your space, live your dream, and Sarah and I just wanted to be able, we wanted a forum to be able to share everything that we have learned and just fast track people to be the best host that they can be. And then also just give them an educational spot that isn't just, let's say Airbnb or VRBO or HomeAway. We wanted to kind of be that third party that we're the ones actually out there doing it that isn't, we're not associated with those platforms.
Goli: Yeah, absolutely. I love that and I just love that you highlighted the fact that because a lot of times we like to look at other people and think, well she has this or they can do it because it's this. And I just love how different both of your backgrounds are. I love that. As you were saying that Sarah is married and is investing their own money in real estate, but you're not. And so there are other ways of doing this, thinking about it in that it's not like a monolith, it's not one way. And so I love that you guys kind of have that and we've talked a lot about online courses on the podcast and we recently had Gemma Bonham Carter who teaches people how to do online courses. And yeah, we talked a lot about how we get stuck in this place of thinking that we don't have anything to share or like when you have to be this big expert.
And a lot of times it's being a couple steps ahead and being able to teach people just how you figured it out. And I always, I see this so much now online, I love this, that people are just trying something and then they learn it and then they go and teach it and it's so amazing, you know, whether that is like running an Airbnb or how they got their book published or you know, how to crochet a sweater or whatever it is. There's so much room in the online space to actually, I just help people kind of come along when you're just a little bit ahead of them. So I love that you guys aren’t just focusing on the Airbnb aspect, but turning it into an online education platform.
S+A: Yeah, we're excited about it for sure.
Goli: Yeah. And so what do you guys typically, so you have the podcast, do you teach people how to set up their own Airbnb and if you do, are you teaching the actual investing side or is it for once you have a place, you'd teach them how to set it up on Airbnb and how to become a good host?
S+A: There are other educators in our space, in the Airbnb space and a lot of them kind of they, they focused on the model of how to profit from this. And while we love money, we don't mind talking about money. We want to make money. Money is great, you know, we, we believe all that, but we fell in love with each other and our mindset for this because we love putting the guest first and both Annette and I have repeat guests all the time because we just loved that they know what they're getting with our brands and that we're going to take care of them. And if there's ever an issue that we are going to nip it in the bud. We were definitely more of the hospitality angle and that profits will follow versus how to profit really fast, really hard.
No, there's nothing wrong with that model and it's very, it's popular. But that just wasn't who we were as people. And we yeah. So last year actually I found myself getting asked the same question. So I stage houses on my own and all that for other people. And I designed my own flips and all that sort of stuff. And people were asking me, well, if a property is not selling, could I turn this into an Airbnb? Or hey, I just got hired to stage an Airbnb. What do I need to know about that? That's different from regular staging or Hey, you've been an Airbnb host for years. Like, what do I need to know about it? Is this a house, a good house to Airbnb? And so as Annette said, everyone asks us these questions about Airbnb. And so I found myself on stages last year.
Isn't that funny how I'm still finding myself on stages. I'm talking to other designers and stagers about how they can get in this industry too because I kept getting hired by people too, finish a stagers job because he or she didn't know what it took to really set up an Airbnb for the long haul. And that guests these days want more than you can get at a hotel. Right? It's not like it was in 2012 when I started (thank goodness) as a bed and some clean sheets if that, you know what I mean? Like, now they expect coffee machines, tea, phone chargers, that you respond in five minutes or less on your phone. It’s intense. And so I found myself answering those questions a lot and presenting ways for stagers and designers to get into this industry and help me help other Airbnb hosts elevate what it means to have an Airbnb so that Airbnbs can hang out for longer.
Because as you know, there's, you know, unfortunately like anything else, when bad things happen, that's what hits the news. And so it's okay, we've got a band together as hosts and have better products out there and expect more of our guests to behave better in these properties so that we can all enjoy this for the long haul. So one of the courses in net and I actually just finished, we invited a bunch of beta students in to help us make it perfect, but it's called stage Trent Academy and it really is geared towards people who already have interior design and staging businesses and they want to be able to speak to real estate agents and our property owners in an educated manner and some say, Hey, I'm only going to stage your space and make it look great, but I can really help tell the entire story of this Airbnb from acquisition to getting it listed to your very first guest.
And so I'm not leaving you high and dry, you're not going to have to meet with a bunch of different people to get this done. Right. I've taken Sarah Ned's course, I know what it takes and here we go because you know, it's just, there's so much opportunity out there for them. We also have a couple of their products that aren't done quite yet, but we've got the hosting handbook and that is for anyone out there who just wants to fast track getting, you know, gee your first five star guest experience. We kind of take everything we've learned in a nets way of doing it and my way of doing it and we put it into a course to really treat it like a business.We want you to love your guests and decorate and have fun with it, but you have to treat it like a business where you won't be at it for long. And so we've got that product. Yeah, we're wrapping up here soon too. So yeah, in addition to our weekly podcast where we just bring, I mean tons of valuable content and valuable people to our show to share everything we know about being rock star hosts.
Goli: I think you mentioned it, but the podcast is called Thanks For Visiting. So I guess anybody's interested should definitely check that out. And so for people that are listening that maybe are interested but don't really know that much about Airbnb, who is it good for? Do you guys work with people that consider renting out just a room in their own home or is it when you want to invest in a place that you want to use?
S+A: We like to say even in our, in our intro and our outro on our podcasts, whether you're new or you are experienced or you're nervous, you're going to like our podcast because every week is that even if you're, if you've only interested in renting out the room down the hall, I think you're still interested in how the people who have 2030 properties are doing it. You know what I mean? And if you're at 30 properties listening to someone just getting started, it's like, Oh my gosh, I remember. I always like that and that's why I was getting into it. And so I really think as long as the guest is the reason why you're doing this, you're going to like, yeah. And you can be anyone from renting a room to, maybe you're just renting your house when you're on vacation or your apartment when you're on vacation or it is a second property or another dwelling unit. You know, if you have a mother-in-law suite or a walkout basement, that's what's so great about it. You can kind of choose your own adventure and we're there to support anyone at any age to our listeners are male, female or all the way from, you know, people just graduating from college to empty nesters. You'd be surprised how many people, especially empty nesters are really interested in sharing their space. They have it and they have great hospitality skills.
So yeah, I think that it's such a, like what you were talking about earlier and about being interested in the gig economy. And I do think this is more of an avenue of... I don't want to say an easy side hustle, but it's like, you know, if you're already, I know a lot of people are constantly looking for different revenue streams and if you do end up having extra rooms or you were saying that you have like the, maybe a guest house or whatever you may have that you can rent out. I think a lot of people haven't approached it because they don't know where to start or they're nervous about somebody staying in their home. And so I, but I think it's just, it is an easier way to get involved in entrepreneurship and a side hustle or side income without having to actually take on another job. Right.
And by the way, it's the listeners to the show, it's, they're on the fence about quitting or they're trying to, you know, [inaudible] a buffer in their emergency fund. This is definitely something I can, I mean, I could go through a laundry list right now of how many people I know started just renting out a room or renting their place when they're on vacation. And you know, they ended up starting to make money and then they did it more often. More often than a lot of people ended up quitting their jobs to become full time hosts. So it was something they accidentally started.
It was just Sarah myself in the beginning and it's spiraling into wait, this can replace my income. Not only that too, but one of my favorite podcast episodes we talk about. I think it's a Sephora in different ways. You can be involved in the short term rental industry without being a host from maybe a photographer. Maybe you are really amazing at cleaning and restaging it, you know, it's not residential cleaning. What your hands do as a first point of contact for that guest that walks in the door. What you do if you're a turnover specialist. So important. And so there are so many jobs there with turning over short term rentals too. I mean laundry services to Airbnb experiences if they knew. So if you're a chef or a poet or a photographer or a surfer, you can share just your expertise. So there's a lot.
Goli: Yeah. Can you talk a little bit about that because I just recently heard about that and that's such an interesting thing for people who maybe aren't thinking about as you know, if they have a passion project, let's say you're like you were saying that you're a server or you're an artist or you know, I don't know, whatever, and you can teach something, but you don't really know where you would find people. I recently, I had no idea that there's these Airbnb experiences. So if you could just tell people...
S+A: Absolutely. The one thing with just Airbnb as a whole, for all the listeners, it is the most amazing marketing platform. So they're bringing all the people to you and one of the things that they want to layer on, they don't just want to offer spaces. They now want to offer experiences and they are local experiences. So Sarah and I had someone on our show, who does live podcasts as an experience on Airbnb and I actually went somewhere, they have a butterfly sanctuary in their backyard. They do butterfly tours. It's anything that you're passionate about, you do have to apply and it's a pretty rigorous application process, but once you're in it, it can be any sort of experience that you can offer a traveler that's coming to your town or even locals by the way because they're looking for things to do.
But anything that you're passionate about that you're an expert and you can apply with Airbnb and they will serve that up to travelers. Once people book there, stay in your town, they will say, Hey, while you're in Columbus, Ohio or Santa Monica, California w, why don't you try out this tandem bike ride or you know the Sarah and I, I forget where we just were and there was, we wanted to see if we could do an experience and it was like The Sappy Swan. It was still hanging yoga or like just anything. It's, it's actually really cool. But what I love there is if you want to learn how to like woodwork or paint or make jam, it's anything. The cool thing is too is if you've already got the skills and maybe you're already doing it even at, even if it's your, your craft that you just do it on the side, not even as for money. Right? The cool thing is you don't really need any marketing dollars to get started.
Airbnb, like Annette said, we'll bring it to you. They not only market above the fold and emails to anyone who books an Airbnb in your town, they also put into place SEO. So if someone in town is like, what'd you do in Columbus, Ohio this weekend, a lot of Airbnb experiences are served up. So how amazing is that? Did you get people to, you know, come to your woodshop, make sure the right insurance is in place and teach them how to use the lay there or whatever it is. So it's just a really interesting way to have… And honestly for your listeners too, you know, when I quit musical theater, a job that I never thought I would quit. I was in it until I was, I was, I was going to do it until I was dead. I went through so many iterations of what I did for a living between then and now.
And I think it's all about keeping your mind open and your heart open. And I think something like Airbnb experiences or being a part of the gay economy in some way as an interim activity to you, finding yourself is pretty cool. You can make it whatever you want it to be. And there are, there are bar crawls on Airbnb, there are coffee crawls… Like I'll take you to all the local coffee shops and it's great. Everybody likes it. It's really the podcast experience person we had on our show. She said something so interesting. So many people even from in-town come to participate in her experience and you can set your price on that and they pay you out. Just as if you were hosting your space, you can say, Hey, it's 50 bucks to come listen to me record a podcast.
Goli: That's so cool. I was actually just thinking that it's just cool to maybe even check out in your own cities. Things that other people are giving. But yeah, I mean I saw this woman in another ad in a Facebook group. I mean who teaches art? And so this is now a new revenue stream cause she's putting on art classes and she's trying, I don't know how much he's charging per person or what not, but yeah, that's amazing. I think it just goes to the fact that there's just so many different opportunities out there and a lot of it is hard because you don't know what you don't know. And so it's a matter of kind of being out there and seeing what is offered and kind of being open to different experiences because there isn't like one way to make money anymore. There's just so many different ways. And sometimes you have to get creative, but this is just like another, yeah. I don't know a cool thing that I didn't really know about until recently too.
S+A: Yeah. With everybody that wants to quit and once it's amazing, once you quit, it frees up so much mental space to actually brainstorm and have new ideas. Cause that's, that's what happens to your, you're so stuck in your day to day that it, that your creative juices man, they just dry up and you're like, once once I never thought about Airbnb hosting at all and then once I got quit I was like, Oh, I have to start thinking about other ways.
Goli: Absolutely. Yeah. I think you just kind of open yourself up to seeing more possibilities too. You take the blinders off. I think when you're so focused on the job. And then a lot of times when you're in that toxic space, when you're becoming kind of the toxic person and you're bitter, I feel like a lot of times the opportunities may be there. You're just not noticing. You're so focused on the misery and the day to day. And a lot of times, it's amazing where you're just like, Oh my God, there's all these things that our people are doing that I had no idea they were doing. And it's happening all around you. You just kind of have to get in a different mental state… So how many Airbnb ads do you run now?
S+A: We manage about 20 total. So we're, we're pretty proud of our smaller portfolio. We like to be really hands-on and share everything we learn and experience with our audience. So ha, if it's too big, you know, we're not being able to share all of the things that we're learning with our educational aspect of things visiting. So we like being boutique and it's, it's really rewarding. We love seeing why people are coming to our city. And different ways we can improve our systems. And yeah, when we get to, and it's fun working with Annette on these things too because we get to commiserate on and it's, you know, like anything you do, there's going to be challenges. Nothing will ever be perfect and the thing will ever be just easy. That's life. And yeah, it's just, it's like an asset at the beginning. We shared in her need to collaborate with doing something. So it's been fun working with my hobby, but it's been great to be with another female energy in this. So. Yeah.
Goli: That's awesome. I love that. Well thank you so much. This has been so helpful and I love really highlighting people that are doing things that haven't been traditional kind of careers cause it just shows that, like I said again, all of the possibilities and opportunity that is out there and it really I think shows people that doesn't have to be one way. So I love that you guys have created a business and supported your lifestyle through, you know, Airbnb, I love this is an example, but if people are interested in learning more or maybe figuring out how they can start Airbnb being their own place, where can they reach out to you or maybe follow along for some more information?
S+A: Well, they can follow along at That's dot M E and just for your listeners, we're going to do a special offer if they want to have a consultation call with us on anything. It can be about quitting, it can be about Airbnb and we're going to do a reduced price on that and they can find that at our website.
Goli: Awesome. Well, I will leave both of those in the show notes in case people can't. I’ll write it down. It's very kind of UIs, so you guys should all take them up on that. I appreciate that. Any parting words for people that are maybe stuck in a place where they don't know what is next, but they're just looking for a way out. Just quit.
S+A: Just quit. I mean it's, so the thing is I think it's different for all of us and so I think the biggest piece of advice, this is Sarah speaking, that I can give to you is just to listen to your yes, listen to podcasts, get stories from other people, kind of collect all of that and then be quiet for a little bit. You know what I mean? Be with yourself, listen to your body, listen to your responses to people. If you're on edge a lot, if things just don't feel right, what can you do that's more of a positive effect on the outside world and make sure you're doing it. If it feels even, it's scary, it feels right to you, but I think taking a moment of pause and taking all this stuff that you're getting from all the different angles and processing it for yourself is key.
Goli: I love that. Well, thank you guys so much. I really appreciate you guys being here and everybody should definitely check out the podcast. Thanks for visiting and please reach out to Sarah and Annette with more questions.
S+A: Thanks so much for having us, Goli!
Goli: Thank you for what you're doing. This is, it's great to talk about this. How cool are Sarah and Annette? I love their business and their story and what they're doing, so you should definitely check them out, but here are the three things I took away from this interview. One is to listen to your body, check in to see if you're becoming that toxic person. Maybe it's really time to leave and if you quiet down and listen hard enough to yourself, you'll have the answer right there to what you're working on now will serve you later on.
It's hard to see at the moment how your skills are going to transfer, but everything that you are learning leads you to where you need to be. And three, start small, open yourself up to different possibilities, look around you and see what other people are doing. There are so many opportunities out there with the internet. Now you can start with something really small like renting out a room in your house and that just might lead you to a whole new business. I hope you guys liked this episode. If you did, reach out and let Sarah know and I will see you on the next one. Thank you so much for listening. I can't tell you how much it means to me. If you liked the podcast, please rate and review us on iTunes. It'll help other people find the show. If you want to connect or reach out, follow along on Instagram and Facebook at lessons from a quitter and on Twitter at Twitter podcast. I would love to hear from you guys and I'll see you on the next episode.