How This Seafood Saleswoman Became an Exclusive Airbnb Designer & Launched a Property Management Company Employing 95% Women

March 03, 2020 |

Meet Mel Hignell 

Looking to make some quick cash over a weekend when her boyfriend was away at Burning Man, Mel Hignell listed her hot pink, Instagram-worthy guest room in San Francisco on Airbnb. One weekend turned into multiple, and eventually, the guest room became a permanent mainstay on Airbnb, enabling Mel to move from San Francisco to Portland and upgrade to a house. 

What started as a one-time side hustle to earn enough money to buy a new bike turned into a successful property management company coupling unique design and stellar guest services. 

Enter White Spider 

After seeing how lucrative the short-term rental industry could be, Mel left her comfortable job as a seafood saleswoman in order to devote herself full time to her business, focused on managing short-term rentals, many of which are uniquely located, featuring handcrafted design aspects. Case in point: White Spider-managed properties include an old insane asylum, a building that was previously an orphanage and penthouses across Portland. Included among those properties was an old bunker that went untouched since the Cold War and was filled with hundreds of white spiders, ultimately inspiring the name of the company. 


To take her business of design and property management a step further, Mel and her team of almost 100 (95% of which are women), rely on tech solutions to help them manage hundreds of listings spread out across the US, in New Orleans, Portland, Palm Springs, Nashville, and soon, Columbus, Ohio. 

The Challenge

For the White Spider team, the biggest hurdle was managing all the pain points that come with tremendous growth. Keeping track of new listings in cities around the country and staying on top of communicating with guests was proving difficult, and White Spider needed a way to handle the influx of messages and booking inquiries. 

While the company was adding hundreds of new listings to its portfolio to be both managed and designed, Mel and her team were falling behind in providing the high standard of guest experience they felt was necessary. White Spider’s mantra is “guest management”, so they needed a platform that would enable them to provide the quality level of service they pride themselves on. 

Additionally, without a solution to handle guest communication and maintenance, many of the company’s administrative duties were falling through the cracks, holding them back from growing further than they already had. 

The Solution

Mel and her team began using Guesty and immediately recognized the benefits of specific features that help overcome the challenge of managing hundreds of listings. 

A combined force of the Unified Inbox and automated messages was a direct answer to their communication challenges. The ability to respond to all of their incoming messages in one central platform gave the White Spider team control over all guest communication, saving them hours every week. With this time saved, Mel feels that the team is  able to put more of an emphasis on creating great guest experiences. 

In addition, Mel and her team have been taking full advantage of the Guesty Multi-Calendar feature, which showcases all bookings in one singular calendar and thus helps everyone better manage stays and utilize dynamic pricing tools to optimize occupancy. 

With this added stability on current and upcoming bookings, White Spider was able to hone in on the design side of their business and continue to find new unique properties for their portfolio. 

The Results

With the tools needed to scale the business without sacrificing quality of service, White Spider has been able to continue expanding its portfolio of listings. In addition, access to a centralized platform enables the team that is spread out across multiple states to work as one cohesive unit. 

White Spider property listings

And because the White Spider team began saving countless hours per week, they have also been able to spend more time finding interesting spaces and projects to work on. This currently includes renovating a 200-year-old synagogue in New Orleans. It also means that Mel is looking ahead to what’s next, which may include breaking into the boutique hotel space this coming year.  

Keeping true to her passion and vision for beautifully designed and unique experiences, Mel and the White Spider team continue to provide top-notch guest experiences across their listings. 


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