My entrepreneurial adventure started just before my 19th birthday. One day a friend said that we should open up a sun tanning salon. My first reaction was that we can’t do that – we don’t have the money or experience. We planned and dreamed, then planned more then we dreamed, and then created a business plan, borrowed from friends and family and to my surprise the local bank gave us a small business loan.
This is where it started. Small business 101 and 4 years later we sold it for a decent profit to a major chain. It was after this experience; I knew I would never work for anyone else again. Years on I started The International Adventure Travel Show just when adventure travel was starting to become popular. It was a 4 days consumer and travel industry trade show which attracted exhibitors from as far away as Peru, Ecuador, and Ghana. We had a ton of fun putting this event on every year and eventually sold it to a subsidiary of NIKE. After the show sold, I moved to Berlin to see what entrepreneurial adventures I could find there. It didn’t take long and met a gentleman who was renting very high end ski chalets for short term rental to uber wealthy Russians. I ended up working with him as a “licensee” in Geneva and Berlin. After a few months, I decided to move back to Vancouver and start Wolf Wörster Villas and focus on the UHNW.
The company which is still in existence today is a client focused ultra luxury villa consultancy firm.
In offering some of the most exclusive vacation estates in the world (average rental was over $9,000 a night), the agency built up a unique clientele of high profile individuals, families, including presidents, royalty, business leaders and celebrities.
Over the years operating the villa agency, we came across a number of high end rental homes that had safety challenges such as a lack of CO2 monitors, not enough smoke alarms, unsafe balconies and a lack of safety measures around the home pools and more. The luxury villa business and the short term rental business as a whole lacks any regulation. In fact, we have had a number of injuries and even a fatality - I knew I needed to solve this problem for my guests.
So I started SecureVillas, an organization which provides third - party safety and security audits for
luxury short - term rental properties.
The company grew quickly and I brought on a consultant (now our current CEO) and a number of other senior management,
changed the name to CertiStay, and are covering the mass market, not just the high end. CertiStay, a leader of regulatory reform at the municipal level, helping to create the new regulations for
which Short Term Rental Property Owners must comply.
This business will be here to stay.
Advise to young and old entrepreneurs around the world?
Over prepare! In my experience it always takes longer, more effort and more investment to reach your business goals than expected.