Maximizing and maintaining a high-rated, high-quality Airbnb business is both a science and an art. And, with WhiteSpider, the two elements finally meet. WhiteSpider is an Airbnb property management service that deals with the cleaning/maintenance, staging, and management of your listings and provides premier concierge support for your guests. That’s the science part and the art part is in, well, the art: WhiteSpider also offers hosts services in interior design that is both smart (in terms of cleanability, durability, and manageability) and aesthetic.
Founder and Head of Growth, Mel Hignell, offered to dig deeper into her creative approach to her short-term rental management business, which is one, if not the, only of its kind throughout the entire Airbnb ecosystem. In this interview, you can learn about the magic that Mel sees in the cities that her team currently services (Portland and New Orleans) and how WhiteSpider is bringing that magic back into the busy lives of local hosts…
Guesty:“Why Portland and New Orleans?” Mel Hignell: “They’re two of my favorite cities in the USA! While they can be polar opposites, they have a lot in common, too. Both are known for being fringe cities, what with Portland’s freedom-of-speech and marijuana laws, and NOLA’s reputation for being a party city. But both are rife with folklore and history, too. I’m a bit of an architecture buff, and the homes in New Orleans are to die for – I drive my manager nuts every time I’m there because she can’t take my attention away from all the pretty houses.
I love walking around NOLA on a random Tuesday evening and seeing how many people are wandering the streets – NOLA has a spark that you just can’t replicate. The first time I flew down to see if it was right for a branch of the company, my managers and I were sitting on a balcony overlooking the French Quarter when a man/wife duo started to play their violins on the street. It had just started drizzling, and the man had an infant strapped to his back, and people everywhere were stopping to listen to this incredible duo play their beautiful instruments. Have you ever been so overcome with emotions that you start to cry? That was me on that balcony, and it was then that I knew I had to bring the company to the Big Easy. New Orleans is magic.
Speaking of cities, we are also opening in Bend, Oregon next month, which is a ridiculously beautiful town in Oregon known for it’s skiing/snowboarding, mountain views, and outdoor sports. It’s an outdoor enthusiast’s dream city!”
Guesty: “It’s hard not to love your excitement when you talk about these cities. What’s the Airbnb business/market like in those parts? MH: “With Portland being named one of the top cities in America for the past three years, we’re smack dab in a tourism boom. It’s awesome to see the inquiries come in from all over the world. Did you know we’re HUGE right now in Japan? Plus, with the new marijuana laws, we now have international exposure, and we’ve noticed an uptick in visitors from across the pond. And of course, the new tech sector hasn’t hurt, either – we see a lot of people who work for various start-ups – including Airbnb – request our homes. Portland is on the map!
As for New Orleans, it’s seeing a major resurgence since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the city is alive and flourishing with tourists, new construction, and opportunities. We get people from all over the world, with Europeans being a large portion of our guests. NOLA, like Portland, is also seeing an uptick in technology, so we also get a lot of people who come here for work. And then, of course, there are the partiers: Jazz-fest is this month, so that’s been huge, and the city will always attract the drinking/partying crowd. There’s no city quite like it anywhere in the world! Can you say drive-through daiquiri shops?? :)”
Guesty: “Seems like Portland and NOLA are really the places to be for hosts and guests! How do you (and how does WhiteSpider) help the local hosts?” MH:“Our goal is to open up our clients’ schedules to continue on with their super busy lives, while leaving us to take care of the day-to-day. Hosting is a full-time job, and one mistake can cost thousands in future revenue, so we’ve found it can be beneficial to allow a professional company to take the reigns. We have a few clients who use the money they make on their rental to spend a couple months a year traveling abroad – it’s a great way to make a bit of extra cash without having to do additional work – leave the work to us and enjoy your life!”
Guesty: “Is this the idea you had envisioned when you first started WhiteSpider? Or, how did it come to be?” MH: “When I was lying awake one night at 3:00AM, answering an inquiry from a family in Denmark, and realized not everyone had the flexibility in their careers to respond to potential guests 24 hours a day. I was in sales at the time, and working remotely, so I had the leniency one needs to keep my response rate up and secure my Super Host status. Plus, I was doing design on the side, and one of my designs (in my own home in Tabor) was chosen to be replicated in Airbnb’s San Francisco office. I figured, why not see if this is something that people need? I spoke to my manager that day and started the company three months later. It’s been a crazy whirlwind ever since, and I am seriously grateful for the support I’ve had along the way.”
Guesty: “How have you (and how has WhiteSpider) evolved since that night?” MH: “Originally I wanted to focus on the design (The original name was White Spider Designs), but it became apparent early on that people also needed help managing the day-to-day, and as someone who believes in organic growth within an organization, I decided to see where the company took itself, rather than force it into the design company I had dreamt of. And I’m so happy I did! We have learned a lot over this first year, and continue to learn every day. It was Thomas Edison who said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” We learned early on that, when dealing with people’s home, guests, and calendars, a million things can go wrong every day. Our phones literally never stop ringing, as you can imagine. So we decided to make our internal slogan “redundancies for our redundancies”, which essentially means we have multiple eyes and failsafes in place for every facet of the company. We’d like to think we improve every day.”
Guesty: “It’s sounds like you guys have really come a long way. What should we expect to see next?” MH: “Oh, man, we discuss this in every single manager meeting. Well, we know we want to jump the pond pretty soon, and take our brand to a few places in Europe. I’ll be heading over to do demographics this year, and to decide where we want to land. We’ve also tossed around the idea of a boutique hotel chain, but that’s probably me getting way ahead of myself. We’ve learned a lot about what we excel at this year, and are narrowing our focus a bit, to ensure we offer the highest caliber of home and the best possible service; we believe the two go hand-in-hand.”
If you’re currently a host (or planning to become one) in Portland, OR, in Bend, OR, or in New Orleans, LA you can reach out to Mel and the team at +1415-656-9846 or visit them to learn more here: www.whitespiderpdx.com