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When Luke Tillman-Young first contacted me, he sent me a story of a problem he had as an Airbnb guest, and how he built his company to solve it. And that’s what made me take notice of the awesome business he built to help Airbnb hosts.
It’s called HonorTab, and it brings the mini-fridge concept to Airbnb. No more heading out in the middle of the night for a snack—HonorTab lets you grab a snack right where you are and pay for it on your laptop or mobile device.
Luke is a genuine, fabulous guy, and I’m happy to have had the pleasure of interviewing him. Enjoy!
The Abundant Host: For people who don’t know about HonorTab, tell us how it works, and how it can help people who want to become Abundant Hosts.
Luke: HonorTab provides a platform for hosts to offer luxury amenities to their guests. Guests can open a tab at their Airbnb by entering a unique code provided to them by their host (we have stickers, labels and fridge magnets for that). At any point during their stay, or when they leave, guests can close out their tab and pay for items that they used around the rental such as snacks, toiletries, and other items listed on the tab.
How did you come up with this idea?
My wife and I stayed at an Airbnb in Santa Monica. After a trip (brief though ours was), we were hungry and thirsty and wanted to relax for a bit. The host had water bottles in the fridge, and we were grateful for those, but I found myself wishing there was something more substantial at hand.
We made a quick trip to the local Whole Foods and picked up some drinks and snacks for the weekend, but I just kept thinking about how nice it would have been to have stuff available in the apartment when we got there. I’d have been willing to pay at least a few dollars for a soda or a beer, had it been handy.
That got me thinking. As I’m a software developer, it quickly formed into a real idea for an honor-based mini-bar type system for Airbnbs. It could allow guests to have a stocked fridge or pantry available, prices set by the host, and an app or website to make it all clean and simple.
When we got back from our weekend away, I got to work, and I’ve spent the past almost-year developing HonorTab.
The entire process is designed to be so simple that I can show it to you in less than 15 seconds:
Awesome! Luke, what is the intention and deep personal mission of your company?
To make people’s vacations better. Americans don’t vacation nearly enough, so when we do decide to spend some money on ourselves, we shouldn’t have to deal with small distractions. When my wife and I vacation, we often end up having to take time away from our vacation to figure out how to get items that we left at home. Besides, like most people, the first thing we end up doing is going shopping for some basic necessities like snacks and drinks.
Personally, I like to have a couple of things available that I can snack on when I first arrive at a place, because more often than not, I’m tired from traveling and I may not be in the mood to go hunt for a nice restaurant just yet. Sometimes it’s nice to be lazy. And it seems counter-intuitive to go on a vacation to relax, but feel like you have to go out and stay busy the whole time. HonorTab literally puts the last B back in Airbnb, and stays true to their original mission.
What was it like starting your business, getting investment (if any), and working with Airbnb (if you do)?
HonorTab is fully funded out of my pocket at this point. HonorTab was an easy company to start because I didn’t have to go through the lengthy validation process that most other businesses have to go through. I started HonorTab because I was hungry at my Airbnb and there was no immediate way for the host to provide me with food without them losing money. I set out to solve that problem, and HonorTab was born.
Luke, are you yourself a host on Airbnb?
I am not an AirBnB host, but I am a very frequent Airbnb guest. It sounds counterintuitive but I really think that the best chance HonorTab has of surviving is to make sure guests don’t feel like they are getting nickel-and-dimed, and instead feel as though they are being offered amenities that they would expect to find in a fancy, expensive hotel. I’ve designed HonorTab to be guest-centric and to be so easy and intuitive that the process seems entirely natural. I do work very closely with a number of Airbnb hosts, to make sure they are having a good time, too.
How does HonorTab encourage embracing the community culture of Airbnb, of “being at home wherever you are”?
One of the few things that hotels get right is that you will never actually go hungry, or feel stressed about finding your way around. Most decent hotels have personal concierge service that will direct you towards the nearest vegan restaurant or call a taxi for you. Amenities like that make your vacation feel even more awesome. Just coming back from a day-trip to your hotel is like treating yourself to something wonderful.
HonorTab’s goal is to bridge that gap between the offerings of a 5-star luxury hotel and your typical Airbnb. Part of the allure of staying at an Airbnb is the uniqueness of each accommodation; no two places are the same. I think HonorTab is a great addition to that uniqueness because each HonorTab will be completely different and reflect the identity of the host, and hopefully have a positive impact on the guest.
What’s your biggest piece of advice for potential Airbnb hosts?
Take care of your guests and they’ll love you forever. One of the cool things about HonorTab is that you can generate coupon codes that you can then share with your guests. So for instance if you wanted to give your guest a $5 coupon to spend on some snacks from the HonorTab that would definitely go a long way. Remember, people are seldom mad when they are full.
Ha, very true! To you, what does it mean to be an Abundant Host?
The thing that stands out to me from each one of my great hosts has been their genuine kindness and concern for my well-being. At their cores, both Airbnb and HonorTab exist to make money, that is just the fundamental truth, but what makes a company great are its people. When you add an element of genuine care, something great happens. Airbnb has successfully fostered this through so many Abundant Hosts, and it’s that type of genuine goodness that I hope to bring to HonorTab.
Beautiful. Ok Luke, what’s the number one first thing people can do on your website to enhance their hosting experience?
The first thing I encourage HonorTab hosts to do is to request swag. Every new HonorTab host can request a free package that contains fridge magnets, tags and small stickers for individual items which can all be used to make it clear and easy for your guests to find your HonorTab and to identify the items in your home are available to purchase.
One other piece of advice for new hosts is this: Don’t make your HonorTab boring. One of the biggest challenges that I am currently facing with HonorTab is sparking the creativity of the hosts to use HonorTab to enhance the experiences of the guests. Guests can get cans of Coco-Cola and Doritos almost anywhere.
I completely agree. That’s awesome.
Consider including some higher-quality items as well, things they may not have seen before, or things that are unique to your area. Make your guests feel pampered and curious. And don’t forget that HonorTab can be used for more than just snacks. Put together a basket of frequently-forgotten bathroom items, or maybe services that you could offer as well.
Thanks so much for chatting! How can our readers find you?
Thanks for reading! Have a question that wasn't answered here? If you'd like more specific help, I'd love to work one-on-one with you. Or, if you want to work collaboratively in a group with fellow motivated hosts, find out if the next Abundant Hosting Mastermind group is open. I also wrote a book, Cleaning Up, where I give you the nuts and bolts (and so much more) of finding your perfect turnover assistant, thereby upleveling your profit and success on Airbnb. Have a beautiful day!