Our Woman’s Power Hour profiles celebrate women who are storming the short stay industry and this edition is showcasing Kelly Donovan from Stay & Escape a luxury London property management start up which gives guests the ultimate luxury home away from home experience…
How did you come to found your company?
I think we were incredibly fortunate to be introduced to it at a relatively early market-entry point. I was working at a creative marketing agency and was ‘poached’ by our company neighbour, an independent Airbnb Superhost. My business partner, Anna and I met around the same time and we became fast friends. We soon spotted a gap in the market and decided to combine our knowledge and skill sets to form Stay & Escape!
What were the biggest challenges you faced when setting it up?
I think is very much as Anna has said – this is a zeitgeist business and there was a sudden influx of start-ups all vying to make land-grab. We needed a point of differentiation to stand out – this is why we introduced the concierge service. We opened up our black book of contacts across the luxury, leisure and entertainment worlds, developed Stay & Escape’s bespoke concierge service offering money-can’t-buy experiences for our clients, from seats at a London Fashion Week show, VIP concert and theatre tickets to in-home personal shoppers, private chefs and a glam-squad.
What challenges do you face within the short stay industry?
As a rapidly evolving marketplace, the laws and regulations are forever changing, so we need to ensure we are not only top of this – but ideally two steps ahead. We have some amazing partner companies in property, travel and concierge, which is a great way to stay updated and get fresh ideas.
What is your advice for the next generation of leaders and change-makers?
Success doesn’t come overnight – the ascent towards your vision is long and steep but only you can see it so don’t be too hard on yourself. Strive for constant improvement – and don’t get hung up on perfection (I try to remind myself of this last part!)
How do you keep self-motivated?
Having a business partner who is also a friend, is a great way to stay motivated. We never want to let each other down and there’s a great yin and yang energy to our working dynamic.
Biggest lesson you have learnt about yourself?
That I can read people and situations well! When I trust my gut, I usually get the best outcome.
Best piece of advice you were given?
I was told to treat failures as a learning tool. It’s a case of getting up, trying again and learning from your mistakes. If you keep going, it’ll all work out eventually.
Who is the individual you admire the most?
There’s a travel blogger I love called Aggie Lal. I’ve been following her for years and she’s so resilient. She built an empire from nothing and advocates for equality and women’s rights. Oh, and at the risk of being fired… Anna (of course!).
Holiday destination of choice?
Definitely Italy! I’m a huge gastronomist and wine lover, and the scenery is always so beautiful. I love the language too.
Your Favourite city in the world?
I know London the best and have lived here for five years, so I have to stay loyal!
How do you celebrate your achievements?
With my closest family and friends and a glass bubbly!
If you could run any other business in the world what would it be and why?
Perhaps an independent record label… ideally based in Nashville. I’m a huge Country fan!
I’m not hugely into podcasts. Maybe because I only ever tried listening to the ones about serial killers…
Lastly, favourite book?
Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck!
Want to feature in our Next Power Hour? Email Diane at firstname.lastname@example.org for your submission.