One of the joys of hosting Community Spotlights here in the Community Center, is that we get to highlight the diversity of perspectives and hosts that make up our community. This month’s interview is a slight break in tradition, as it was actually hosted by Kemi Lawore, who is part of Airbnb’s Host Empowerment team. Kemi had a great chat with...drumroll please…
How long have you been hosting and why did you first start?
My neighbor has an Airbnb; they renovated their carriage house. It was going well for them, so I decided to try it. I started hosting in July 2017 after watching them host for a year and meeting the guests. They encouraged me to do it with our duplex. I received my first inquiry within 24 hours of my listing going live.
We never wanted to be the busiest Airbnb, but we wanted to provide a great experience to the guests we welcomed. When I created my Airbnb, I wanted to be a temporary home for someone, not a hotel. I looked forward to the people I would meet, the connections, long term relationships I might gain along the way. It’s worked well, I’ve stayed with hosts and some have stayed with me. I’ve built a community.
Tell us a little about your listing
I offer 3 bedrooms but limit my home to 4 or 5 guests (I charge extra for the 5th person). My city limits me to a maximum of 7 people, but a lower number is more manageable and less stress on the neighbors. Airbnb isn’t an easy thing to do, it is work and so I think as a host you need to commit to it. Luckily for me, hosting on Airbnb has been joyful, if I wasn't happy I wouldn't do it. As a bonus it’s enabled me to meet people from all over the world.
How long have you been part of the Community and why did you join?
I’ve been on the boards for a while. But I became more active when Lizzie started the Zoom get- togethers for hosts. There are people of all languages and cultures and relationships in the Community Center. People thrive on human connection. We see that need more than ever during the pandemic.
When you are not hosting, what do you like doing?
I used to be a MIT engineer. During that time, I also interviewed college-bound 12th graders and I noticed that many applicants weren’t reading for pleasure. Urban kids in particular weren’t reading because they didn’t see themselves in the books. They couldn’t relate to the characters. Where are the black Harry Potters?
As a kid I grew up reading books all the time. It was my entertainment as we didn’t have a lot of money. One day, I decided to quit my job as a Process Control manager at Hallmark and write children's books to address the ongoing problem. I got a lot of push back from publishers, most saying “Black books don’t sell.” So I wrote a lot of non-fiction and science for New York publishers. One of my editors decided to create her own business and asked to publish my science fiction series, The Lost Tribes. I’ve had many highlights, of course publishing my first book (now 80 books in print), I’ll be hosting next year’s World Fantasy Convention in Montreal.
What is the one thing you cannot live without?
I can't live without my family. My personal relationships with my friends. I could live in a hut and still enjoy my time. All the other stuff is just items.
What are your most important values?
Fulfilment, happiness, health. A lifetime is a long time to be unhappy. We have to ask ourselves what are we doing this all for? Why are we not centering our choices around making ourselves happy and others happy. I tell my girls, “Go live your best life. You’ll figure out the money part later.”
How important is inclusivity to you, and what value does it bring to your experience as a host?
I think it’s everything. When you’re Black, you always feel braced for the unknown. There is a certain part of you that is reserved because you don’t feel like you belong.
I want guests to feel valued...as part of my extended family. I want the same experience when I am a guest. I've had very good experiences when I traveled, often having long chats with the hosts about our shared experiences. My first experience as a Airbnb guest was in Paris. The host was fun and at her request we established a rapport before I arrived. But in these current times, travel can sometimes be scary. Consider the past where people needed a "green book" to tell them where they would be welcome. It is especially important now for guests to feel safe in a home environment. And for hosts to feel safe allowing that access. Inclusivity is paramount to creating a memorable experience. Personal interaction should be the driving force behind Airbnb bookings.
What’s your fun fact?
Hmm. That's hard.
Personal: I'm in a mixed marriage! I'm a Star Trek fanatic married to a Star Wars fanatic....we manage to make it work.
Not personal: I learned that the magnetic north pole on Earth moves every year. Scientists think in thousands of years it will switch places with the magnetic south pole. How do we know? The poles switch places on the Sun every eleven years.
What’s your dream holiday?
I think I've had it already. I travel internationally for work and for pleasure. Not long ago I spent a week in a castle outside of Edinburgh, Scotland and was able to handle owls and falcons. Last year I was speaking in Ireland, but stopped in London first then took a train and a ferry to Dublin. I've island hopped in Hawaii, and I cruised to Alaska. Stayed in a quaint historic town two hours north of Rome and walked La Rambla in Barcelona. And oh my - Paris! The Louvre requires days. So I think next it would be New Zealand. My plans to travel there this year for work were cancelled by the global pandemic. Every vacation has been my dream holiday. Vacations are as good or as bad as what you put into them.
Anything else you’d like to share with your fellow hosts?
If you know you want to do something, if you’re passionate about something, do it and everything else will figure itself out. Don’t take no for an answer. Airbnb is hard work. You're bound to get great guests and a few that...well.....should have gone to a hotel. But the best part of Airbnb are those occasional guests who turn into long term friends. I ask guests to sign a guest book. Mine is overflowing with notes. Reading those notes helps reinforce the sense of community. It also helps newer guests understand who came before them. It's hard work, but there is so much joy that can come from the process if nurtured correctly.
Please feel free to response to Christine with any questions about the above, I am sure she would love to hear from you.
WOW! I love great YA fiction and am terrible at remembering authors (to my undying shame) so it's a thrill to realize who you are besides being a fellow host, 3 generations of my family are mad fans & if perchance, you ever do a book signing in the Bay area (Pegasus books?) I AM going to show up and embarrass myself as a fawning granny fan geek, XO Sally
@Christine615, what an incredible story.
You will make it to New Zealand and will be welcome with open arms, it's people like yourself and Japanese American children's author & Illustrator, Gyo Fujikawa's beautiful story books that make the world a happier place.
What a wealth of wisdom @Christine615, and some absolute gems in terms of hosting tips. Love that you stayed in a castle!
I think you really nailed it with this too: ❤️
There are people of all languages and cultures and relationships in the Community Center. People thrive on human connection. We see that need more than ever during the pandemic.
Which amenities are most in-demand at your listing?
I'm glad I did this interview before the last two guests. One snuck in "ladies" for his nephew's bachelor party (security footage shows the women stayed overnight) and the next guys claimed to be robbed of the spare keys and didn't tell us until days later - well after they checked out. And did leave the house like they were in a hotel. Didn't read the house rules and pick up after themselves.
Still - I have a guest coming for her fourth time. She's like family and always such a delight to host. People like that make me smile and get past the few who don't understand we're not hotel substitutes. Sigh. 🙂