Stephanie Beebe of Mayflower Wallpaper: “Treat all initial contact with potential guests like a first date.”

Treat all initial contact with potential guests like a first date. What brings you to the area? How many guests are in your party? How are you looking to relax for your holiday? When you have a clear understanding of who your guests are and what they are hoping for, you are in a better […]

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Treat all initial contact with potential guests like a first date. What brings you to the area? How many guests are in your party? How are you looking to relax for your holiday? When you have a clear understanding of who your guests are and what they are hoping for, you are in a better position to prepare and accommodate. The opening dialogue also allows you to say we cannot host a wedding, or it sounds like you are wanting modern and we lean towards rustic. An auspicious beginning to a holiday is built upon communication of expectations.

Many people dream of becoming an Airbnb host but don’t know where to start. In this series called “5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host” we are interviewing successful Airbnb hosts who share lessons from their experience about how to run a very successful Airbnb property. As part of this series I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie Beebe.

Stephanie Beebe is a former Brooklynite (New Yorker) living in the farm coast of Rhode Island with her British business partner and husband, Jonathan, their three-year old daughter and three twenty-something year old stepsons. Together they design jubilant wallpaper at Mayflower Wallpaper with the occasional help from their dog, Liberty and their cat Bam-Bam. In the summer months they host Airbnb guests in their converted barn or in their open floor plan cottage both located on 4 acres by the Sakonnet River.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?

For the last twenty years, until recently, I lived in New York City. I arrived when I was 18 to study psychology at Marymount Manhattan College on the Upper East Side. After graduation, I wanted to take a break before continuing on for my masters. I’m still on that break. The city has a beautiful way of diverting plans and reshaping goals. I wanted to have fun and be free without the confines of classes and term papers. I became immersed in the restaurant industry. I ran the door at Wylie Dufresne’s WD-50, served cocktails at John Fraser’s Compass and waited tables at John McDonald’s Chinatown Brasserie before becoming the general manager at Alex Stupak’s Empellon Taqueria. As it turns out, psychology was the perfect major for my restaurant career, a healthy backdrop to the wealth of personalities I met during my tenure. I lived in restaurants, never cooked. Instead of vacations, I would gather months of time, load up my car and take a road trip around America, air the city out of my lungs while secretly looking for another home that sang to me. Coastal destinations were my favorite.

What led you to first start becoming an Airbnb host?

Before my first stay in an Airbnb, I traveled solo, I stayed in hotels. I liked room service. In 2016, I booked my first Airbnb stay in Tiverton, RI with my family. We wanted to be together without the separation of hotel rooms. The house that I live in now, is the first house I rented on Airbnb. The man I rented it from, is now my husband and business partner. I became an Airbnb host by first becoming an Airbnb guest (paid in full, he cheekily never gave me a refund). After I left the restaurant industry and New York City I needed to find an outlet for my type A managerial skills. I missed the hospitality of a busy season. I missed meeting new people, opening the door to my creation and feeling them experience the wow. I didn’t know how to cook, but I did know how to host.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this?

We launched our summer season with a family reunion spanning three generations. Five adults, four kids and three well-behaved dogs. They came together annually to ensure their kids knew their cousins, built and continued relationships despite distance. They were our guests for two lively weeks, and they came brimming with amusements. They hired a dog trainer to teach the dogs our property boundaries, they set up a stage and put on a play, they sailed across the Sakonnet River and sometimes slept beneath the stars. They kept us updated on their jaunts, invited us for morning coffees and supplied us with local recommendations. They enjoyed every inch of the house, grounds and beach, teaching us about the town’s history from their daily excursions. Their vacation and enthusiasm influenced our Airbnb guide for the remainder of the season.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

On the early afternoon after a ten day stay of a family of seven, we came over to the house for a quick walk through before the cleaners arrived. We routinely check the garden and interior for any belongings left behind. It was roughly two hours after the guest check out time. Jonathan headed to the outdoor shower and found more than a pair of sandals. He scared the last guest and the last guest scared him. It was incredibly awkward for both men. From the shower snafu, we’ve learned to check in with the guest before they check out. A courtesy call is a nice way to say thank you, safe travels and we hope to see you again (fully dressed).

What are some of the common mistakes you have seen people make when they first start hosting with Airbnb?

I find the most common mistakes center around what it feels like to be a guest in someone else’s home. The pendulum swings too hard in either direction. On one side: the canvas is blank, the space lacks life and imagination. Artwork, music, lighting, literature. The host has provided the bare basics. They have lost their opportunity to surprise, comfort and indulge. On the other side of the same coin, you find intimate mementos, themed kitsch, overwhelming interference. The host has lost the thread, the fantasy of being a guest in an Airbnb home is envisioning the home as your own.

What are some of the things that can be done to avoid these errors?

Each room of a well-appointed home anticipates the guest. Visual allure: beautify the walls with art, an eye-catching statement piece or a mantel of treasures from travel. Soften the edges: space for everyone to sit together for meals, games and television, inside and outside. Simplify the questionable variables: leave instructions and manuals on how to use appliances, local highlights of the area and interesting quirks that set your home apart.

Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the Airbnb experience? In your opinion, what makes you different from the rest?

Jonathan studied art at the Chelsea School of Art in London. He believes everyone is an artist. He is continually renewed and inspired by our home, the garden and the beach. We leave dozens of canvases, pads, rollers, paints, chalk, pencils and brushes for our guests. We encourage them through these offerings to energize their artistry. We leave washable paints for our younger guests and encourage them to dig in, be messy. We hide sculptures in the Greek Ruin in the garden (transplanted here from a play at Brown University in 1987) and in the stone-wall encircling the property. We want our guests to play.

I find immeasurable solace in gardening. To that end, I leave the tools of the trade: pruners, loppers, gloves and watering cans. We grow an array of vegetables and fruits, available to all of our guests. Our garden is home to dozens of tree varieties, shrubs and flowers. Taking care of nature is a peaceful and mindful activity. I believe it centers and nourishes. I hope our guests enjoy the experience and the taste of a blueberry or tomato plucked from the vine. It is a delectable moment, and cherished memory.

We offer more than a beautiful view in a bucolic setting. We take care to set the stage for leisure and recreation, a balance of the two. A guest need never leave our property.

Wonderful. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share “5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host”? Please share a story or example for each.

Treat all initial contact with potential guests like a first date. What brings you to the area? How many guests are in your party? How are you looking to relax for your holiday? When you have a clear understanding of who your guests are and what they are hoping for, you are in a better position to prepare and accommodate. The opening dialogue also allows you to say we cannot host a wedding, or it sounds like you are wanting modern and we lean towards rustic. An auspicious beginning to a holiday is built upon communication of expectations.

Whenever possible, be the touchstone for your guest (or employ a dedicated manager as their point of contact). We welcome our guests upon their arrival. It’s nice to meet one another, ask of their journey and share a laugh. We leave the doors unlocked, have a batch of brownies waiting on the counter (with a list of ingredients, in case of allergens) and a bottle of rosé in the refrigerator. We wish them a resplendent stay and leave them at the front door to explore their Airbnb.

There is an entire population of potential guests that love a fabulous holiday. Dogs. Fur babies and their humans want an Airbnb vacation together. We have a 100 lb. Bernese Mountain/Husky pup and when we look to rent, it can be limited and difficult. We welcome dogs and all of our renters have at least one. We ask our guests to bring dog bedding, clean waste and leash if they are unresponsive to voice command. We supply additional throws to protect couches for television snuggles, poo bags, food bowls and of course, treats. With a few minor adjustments, dogs can be accommodated.

Foster occasions for play, areas for activities and space to scatter. We imagine how our guests would like to take advantage of their holiday stay. We supply guests with the diversions for rainy days: puzzles, giant Jenga, indoor ping pong. Provide outdoor interest: volleyball net, canoe, sunfish. Offer various means of music; we have a record player in the dining room, a piano in the library, an Alexa in the kitchen and a cd player in the living room. Present guests with a variety of entertainment options. No matter the age, the best kinds of toys are other people’s toys.

Reviews offer growth potential, guests leave honest feedback, and you should take it personally, in the best way. You want happy guests. A former guest reveals what made them happy, what would have made them happier, this is your opportunity to elevate your Airbnb. Our first year, guests raved about the private beach, the coastal view and the original wooden beams of our converted barn. They wished there were more amenities in the kitchen and better amenities in the bathroom. We listened and the following summer season we went big. A kitchen fit for an epicurean, sumptuous bedding, decadent toiletries. Deliberate refinements equal expansive rewards.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

Before arrival, the host communicates a welcome, how to enter the space and best way to reach them for additional questions. Upon arrival, all that I need to immediately settle in is ready and waiting (keys, WIFI, entryway lights, water/coffee/tea). The kitchen is well-equipped, bathroom stocked, and the bedroom is luxurious. I love personal touches: handwritten cards, a local treat, umbrellas just in case. Beyond the mood setters, my perfect vacation experience involves time to explore my surroundings, unrushed mornings and a new adventure — typically a long hike — everyday.

Can you share with our readers how you’ve used your success to bring goodness to the world?

When a guest leaves, it doesn’t always mean that our interaction ends. We have guests that return every year, they feel as we do, this is their home, this is their slice of paradise. We have guests that leave a token of their happy time in a watercolor or crystals by the koi pond to bring us joy. Our success is measured by the length of their departure, they linger because they’re content, they’ve fulfilled a desire to relax or to connect, they are grateful to us and us to them. I believe becoming the best host you can be, listening, wondering and being patient brings out the shine in people. We try and behave with the same vigor and graciousness in the world.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Everyone must impart a gift of their busines prowess. Pro-bono. Be at someone’s service, allocate time to teach, freely proffer information, unabashed and unceremoniously. In the restaurant industry, it is called staging, to learn and be exposed to a chef and their coaching. Welcome an apprentice, welcome the novice. With wallpaper design, we allot complimentary swatches. If what you do cannot be taught, permit samples, educate through your product. Distributed knowledge is treasury, sustenance and it should be shared.

How can our readers further follow you on social media?

On Instagram @ mayflower_wallpaper

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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