Meet Sonia Edouardoury, the Founder, and Managing Director of host&lodger, an online platform concierge service for hosts that need help with their guests on Airbnb. With inception in 2016, she has already grown to four in the team! You will probably find her in our café area having some tea!
So what’s your background?
Before starting host&lodger, my experience came from corporate finance in the telecom industry where I worked for the past 10 years in the UK, then as a member of the board of a branding agency where we represented established corporate brands in in the EMEA. I hold a B.A from Political Sciences from Sciences Po Lyon and an MSc in Economics from the University of Reading.
Why did you start host&lodger?
host&lodger started when I was hosting Airbnb guests in my flat in London, I didn’t know back then but there is a lot of stress involved to host someone especially for a last-minute request. So much so that I stayed up until 2am trying to get everything in order, buying a fold-out bed, coordinating with cleaners and listing the help of a neighbor for the key exchange.
The cherry on the top of this experience was that I had a flight at 8am… To say I was exhausted is an understatement.
After throwing some ideas around with friends at the kitchen table of how we could make our Airbnb hosting easy, we came up with host&lodger. We wanted to take all the hassle away for hosts for menial tasks like a guest welcoming, key handling and on top provide a great concierge service. Coupled with technology to make a booking on demand system and even being able to host while on holidays by using our platform.
Once I had developed the idea and set out the roadmap I made the decision to leave my corporate job and take the plunge to dedicate myself full-time to host&lodger and here I am…
Where do you see host&lodger in 3 years?
Our market will have grown in terms of volume with major events such as Expo 2020 Dubai and later Qatar 2022 Fifa World Cup. It will require property owners and hosts to be more proactive with the high demand from travellers and visitors to deliver a 5* hotel like experience (Western guests are more demanding as Airbnb is well accepted as a hospitality option). The size of the team will have grown by then to expand to new territories such as in KSA, Lebanon and Egypt.
What’s the biggest crisis you have faced in your startup and how did you overcome it?
When we were working on the payment gateway integration of the website, two weeks before the soft launch, our provider wanted to cancel the integration because we were a start-up and not profitable at that stage. I managed to find the details of a senior member from the payment gateway co. and called that person to convince him to continue with us. It probably helped that I told them they were at some stage a start-up and they had to continue to support the start-up community in general.
What’s your job now and how different is it to when you started?
I am hands-on with different projects, my current focus is to grow our customer acquisition base through different channels, online, offline, direct and indirect through partnerships. Our e-commerce platform generates leads through our active presence into the hosting community, helping and informing them about how to make the most of Airbnb as a host.
When I started, I was working at 100% of my time on the website, from the first look and feel to the payment gateway integration to the debugging in final phase. My IT team has been fantastic, they were very patient as I was adamant on having a website with a perfect booking system.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
Taking a decision on the spot to solve an urgent situation, working quick and efficiently with less resources. Being able to slow down sometimes, not going home with your head full of things to do.
What is something you have done that was not initially part of the job description?
My challenge today is more about delegating as I started the business from scratch and everything is in my job description from pitching to admin!
What is your platform built on? PHP
Techie or manager? Manager
If not a techie, how have you been managing the technical side of your startup?
I’ve got an awesome team member Bilal, our Head of Technology Operations who handles the core management of our tech!
Any parting words you’d like to share?
Please have a go on our website www.hostandlodger.com and get booking. This month we have a 50% discount on our key holding options!
Also published on Medium.