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.
@Lizzie wonderful to read this spotlight.....but the super bonus is when you know the person Christine some what from our zoom meetings and admire them already and can imagine her saying all her answers......I felt such a specialness about all Christine's answers.....love it and how inspiring it was. I feel so blessed to know and respect this lovely, highly intelligent woman and call her another sharp Airbnb host and friend too.
Thanks for sharing a glance and insight into your life Christine.
Also, excellent questions!
Till next zoom y'all.... Clara in Pensacola
Aww @Clara116, this brought a tear to my eye. What a lovely reply and I totally agree with it all.
I have so many follow-up questions for @Christine615 🙂 I'll have to try and narrow them down.
I hope you are keeping well Clara. Speak to you soon.
Thank you @Lizziefor this wonderful spotlight. And reading through, was just like reading a book of real life adventure.
@Christine615 thank you for touring us into your amazing Wonderland. I have learned so much that I will definitely copy your guestbook. It would be the start of my year books of memoirs. Hope to see you again in our community meet ups and maybe for another bunch of follow up questions??
"Go live your best life..."
"Every vacation has been my dream holiday."
"Consider the past..."
Love everything about this interview, @Christine615 !
And you are hosting the World Fantasy Convention in Montreal! Huge congratulations!
Fantastic! A great spotlight. Hope to join you again in future zooms. I do have a follow up question, saving it for meet up. An artist in Sweden who wanted to read swedish picture book classics to her black child coloured in some of the characters to mix it up. Otherwise, beautiful illustrations but all white.
@Sandra126That's true for so many people. I used to tell publishers that if they didn't provide books that featured a wide-range of kids, then did that mean they only catered to racists? (lol! Surprised I'm still employed in the business).
The behavior is changing, but not fast enough.
Good choice @Lizzie for a community profile!
Well hello @Christine615 a fellow early-hours global zoomer! It’s so lovely to hear you through this interview. Yes, and as @Clara116 , @Roberta2 , @Marissa107 have noted.... we can “hear you“ our distant friend. I can even visualise you having a coddled egg whilst you chatted to @Kemi1 !
May I say your words really resonate with me regarding your holidays and the need to be passionate about something. I’m having a pivotal moment myself, regarding work-life balance and the pull towards an old passion. The money would have to sort itself out as you say...... 💛
Being your average white woman, I cannot even begin to understand the discrimination you and other black women have faced or have to face during your lives. If you will allow it, may I actively stand alongside you, hand in hand for camaraderie and some support. I work in a school where we have a large indigenous population. Besides being a great cohort, they are all great individuals who deserve equal considerations and opportunities throughout their lives. No exceptions.... but sadly, that won’t be the case as many will be torn between modern mainstream society and traditional remote community living. Switching between cultural expectations, from both lifestyles cannot be easy, when things aren’t always equal in both areas of demographics and economics. Role models are so important, with your stories being a great and more importantly, a poignant and appropriate pathway. Knowledge is power and empowerment.
Your passion is so important as @Sandra126 noted with her story of visual, illustration downfalls. @Kelly149 mirrors my feelings that you should only have great guests, for you are too nice to have to put up with the minority of grazing, hotel-dwelling species. Lol...
@Lawrene0 has grabbed your great quotes here:
“Go live your best life..."
"Every vacation has been my dream holiday."
"Consider the past..."
- they jumped at me, smacking me gently but firmly in the face....... almost like a large, fresh, wet fish! Lol....
Do take care Christine and stay safe. Stay authentic, stay passionate, stay yourself, stay wordy and stay witty. Stay the great host that you are! Till we share a coffee on Zoom, or somewhere in the world! X💐
I know the force is with you..... and also strong in THIS one.
But using a beautifully visual greeting, quite separately, but also appropriate in this Covid19 time: (if I could upload and image)“Go forth and prosper!”
You made a comment that makes you an ace person in my books....
"A lifetime is a long time to be unhappy".
With an attitude like that there is not a lot you could not master Christine, you are a pretty special person.
Keep doing what you are doing and bringing that 'happiness' to the community.
On ya mate!
As I read your Community Spotlight.....I felt like I could actually HEAR you say these things, as if you were sitting across the table from me. 😁
So many great quotes...... my personal favorite "Every vacation has been my dream holiday."
I hope that one day your travels will bring you to Seoul too~~~ till then I look forward to our zoom chats and CC exchanges~!
That would be delightful. My daughter visited Seoul after she graduated high school. Her friend's family lived there. She had a great time and the photos she showed us were beautiful. Hoping one day, we'll see our way through the pandemic so we can all travel again!
Hi @Lizzie. @Jessica-and-Henry0 , @Robin4 , @Cathie19 , @Sandra126 , @Kelly149 , @Lawrene0 , @Marissa107 , @Roberta2 , @Clara116 and especially @Kemi1 @ (Wish there was a "reply all.")
Waving at you from Kansas City. You are all part of my extended family (although depending on the election I may be escaping to Australia and living in Rob's Airbnb. I promise to book in weekly increments so he can remain a Superhost 😎 ✈️)
So glad this resonated. I do push back hard at Airbnb on some of its constantly shifting policies but I've enjoyed my hosting experience and the guests I've met along the way. Helps that my daughter/cohost lives in the lower apartment and I live around the corner. Sometimes guests don't want host contact (which I suppose maintains the mystery) but I'll drive by and see them on the porch enjoying themselves. I'm lucky, my neighbors have known me and the girls for decades so they all signed the city form saying they were supporting me having an STR in the duplex. They treat the guests like part of the neighborhood and I keep the headcount below what the city allows to show my appreciation (lots of people are too much wear an tear anyway).
Mostly - I'm glad I found this community and the Zoom meetings just made everything so much more personal. Sending love and hopes you stay safe during the pandemic. Let's keep the discussion going.
We are stronger together! ❤️