Is there something you’ve always wanted to try? Maybe it’s surfing, or nature photography, or even burlesque? It can be intimidating to seek out experiences like that on your own if you don’t know anyone in the scene.
Airbnb Experiences is designed to give guests an opportunity to try something extraordinary – with a welcoming expert host who can’t wait to share their city with you. Cat LaCohie, otherwise known as Vixen DeVille, is an Airbnb Experience host in Los Angeles who shares the world of burlesque with guests who are curious about the art form.
Today Cat shares the process of developing an experience with Airbnb, the specifics of what’s involved in her one- and three-day experiences, and the advantages the program provides to travelers. And if you’re interested in becoming a host yourself, Cat offers invaluable advice regarding how to create a unique experience.
The qualities the company is looking for in Airbnb Experience hosts
- Willingness to meet and spend time with guests
Why Airbnb approached Cat to serve as host
- Her niche in burlesque fit the wide spectrum of interests Airbnb was going for
- Cat’s Yelp reviews spoke to her approach in working with others
Airbnb’s initial approach in developing experiences
- Provide a range of activities
- Select interesting and fun hosts
How Airbnb provided support in developing each distinct experience
- Marketing copy
- Promotional photos, videos
- Hosts paid for time during beta testing (though experiences offered for free)
- Provided retainer for hosts to ensure availability during testing phase
- Airbnb employees did experiences themselves to provide feedback
Cat’s one-day experience
- ‘Pregame’ dress up and selfies
- Burlesque show
Cat’s three-day immersion
- Day One – attend burlesque show
- Day Two – class with Cat to learn burlesque technique
- Day Three – photo shoot with costumes
The benefits of Airbnb Experiences vs. a typical tourist experience
- Extraordinary activities
- Expert guidance
- Part of a group – instantly
The diverse guests Cat has hosted
- Groups with genuine interest in pursuing burlesque
- Individuals moving to LA and looking to make interesting friends
- Older women looking to get a new lease on life
Cat’s advice to potential Airbnb Experience hosts
- Develop an experience that is linked to your passion
- Be sure you have an ‘in’ (share your world/network)
- Be flexible and adapt to your guests’ requests
- Interact and show interest in your guests
- Choose activities that a visitor would NOT know about (rather than what’s ‘popular’)
The financial aspects of hosting an experience
- Cat’s one-day experience costs $99 for four hours
- Airbnb receives 20%
- Cat’s expenses include show tickets, drinks, photographer/makeup artist fees
- The more people participating, the more lucrative
- One person doing one-day experience, only $30 profit
- Six people, as much as $500 profit in one night
Connect with Cat
Facebook – https://m.facebook.com/burlesqueclassLA/
Connect with Jasper
This episode is sponsored by Hostfully.com where you can create a custom digital guidebook for your guests!
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Complete Transcript for Get Paid for Your Pad Episode 147
Welcome to Get Paid For Your Pad, the definitive show on Airbnb hosting, featuring the best advice on how to maximize profits from your Airbnb listing, as well as real-life experiences from Airbnb hosts all over the world. Welcome.
Jasper: This episode is brought to you by Hostfully, a company that helps you make beautiful guidebooks for your listing. Make your own at hostfully.com/pad, and a special for Get Paid For Your Pad listeners, you’ll get a free guidebook consultation after you make your guidebook.
Welcome, everybody, episode 147 of Get Paid For Your Pad. My name is Jasper, I’m your host, as always, and today I’m very excited to be speaking to the first Airbnb Experience host that I’ve ever interviewed. So, Cat LaCohie is her name. Cat, welcome to the show.
Cat: Hey, I didn’t realize I was the first Experience host. I didn’t know that before the call.
Jasper: Absolutely, yeah. And I’ve been wanting to speak to an Experience host for a while. Since the moment that Airbnb launched the new Experiences platform, I’ve been very curious about it. I’m very curious to see if they can make it happen, if it’s going to be as big of a hit as the home rentals. And I think there’s a lot of opportunity for a lot of people to jump on the platform, given there’s so many Airbnb users on the platform already, that I think it could be really great. It could be really big.
I signed up myself. I haven’t heard anything from Airbnb yet, though. How long did it take you? Well, you didn’t sign up, right, you were asked.
Cat: Yeah. So, they launched in November, but they contacted me in July. I think they contacted me first in July, saying that they were looking to set this all up, and I think they had like four cities that they were going to test in, do the beta testing. I believe that that was Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo, I think maybe London, and there was another one, I can’t remember where that was. And they were sort of just seeing how it would work, what the response would be, and I know that they’re initial approach was, they wanted to have a spectrum of interests for people to pick from.
So, they came to Los Angeles and they were like, “What do we want on our list of things? We want someone who’s into surfing, someone who knows the nightlife, maybe someone who’s into yoga, that kind of thing.” And burlesque was something, specifically, that they wanted to look into, but they also were like, “It’s not just about your interests, but also about having the type of people that use Airbnb.” They really wanted to keep that, people who were welcoming, and people who wanted to meet other people, and people who were excited to actually spend time with other people, rather than just, “Hey, come and see my interests, and then you’re up to your devices.”
And so, they’d searched for burlesque people in Los Angeles and my Yelp page had had a lot of reviews on it that weren’t just about my teaching but it was also about me as a person, like, “Cat’s so approachable,” and “Cat really makes you feel at ease.” And that’s kind of what interested them to start off with, was my approach to working with other people and my, I guess, inspiration with other people.
So, that’s kind of what drew them to me, and then when they called me, I was just really excited because I had just been putting together… Because I was already teaching burlesque anyway, and I have my studio in my apartment where I do workshops and I do photo shoots and stuff, so I already had kind of an experience set up, in essence. I just didn’t know it. But, when the guy was talking to me, I was like, “Yes! I’m so excited. I’m driving right now. Let me just call you back because this is very exciting.”
And then, it was Matt Orr who called me and we ended up having like a two-hour conversation. We were just getting on really well as friends, you know, and I think that’s when we were both like, “Yeah, this is going to be a good fit.”
Jasper: Were you hosting on Airbnb at the time, or no?
Cat: No, I wasn’t. I had previously used Airbnb. They didn’t even know. I think they just found my Yelp reviews and called me because of that, but I had used Airbnb before and my roommate had previously registered his room on Airbnb, so we’d done that a couple of times. So, I had an Airbnb account because I had used it, I just had never been a host before, so it was really quite new. When they called and said, “Hey, I’m for Airbnb,” I was like, “Oh God, what have I done wrong now? Which bill did I not pay?” I thought I was in trouble, but no, they were like, “Can we talk about Experiences together?”
So, it was really fun and it was just nice to have that other guy to bounce the ideas off because they knew exactly what they wanted to be able to offer their customers, and they had a very strong idea of how they wanted it to work, and I had a very strong idea of what I could offer. And matching those two together was a really fun process, really.
Jasper: Interesting. So, they really had a good idea about what they were looking for, and they weren’t necessarily going for Airbnb hosts, they were just going for the people that they thought would be the best fit for the activity that they had in mind.
Cat: Exactly. Their priority was to have a range of activities and to have just really good people who were going to make the experience really fun. So, even if the activity was just, “Let’s go for dinner somewhere,” it was like you’re going to have dinner with a really interesting, fun person.
So, originally, what they wanted was to have a three-day experience, like a longer-term thing so that people, if they were visiting for a week, you’d do, “On day one, we do this; on day two, we do this; and then on day three, we do this.” But, it’s only for like a couple of hours. You’re not like spending three full days with somebody, it’s just that you’d always have… You’d get to know someone over the course of a couple of days, but each experience was just going to be a couple of hours.
And once they tested those out, they were then taking submissions for just like a one-off experience, which was just one day, but maybe for four hours. So, I have both now. I have mixed and matched mine so that you can either take a four-day experience, or you can just do the one-off experience. I think, because the one-off experience is a cheaper option, for people who have no idea what they’re doing, it’s a safer option, as well, because if you sign up to spend more than one day with someone, you’re like, “What if we don’t like each other?” or “What if this is insane?”
But, the experiences where there’s been two or three people all signed up for the three-day experience has become a real close-knit ‘getting to know somebody’. I’ve met some really amazing people over the three-day experiences who are like my close friend now, you know, and we keep in contact and they’re in my life now as actual people. So, it’s been a really fun experience just for me to be able to meet those people.
Jasper: And did Airbnb provide a lot of support in creating the experience, in setting it up and marketing it?
Cat: Yeah, they were amazing. They just gave me way more support than I was expecting to get. And they just really, really listened to what the problems would be because they wanted to make this happen. They were so passionate. I’ve never known a company to be so personally passionate about launching an idea.
So, they talked to us about what we wanted to do, and then we submitted a form, and they did a lot of writing the copy for us. I mean, I forget that not everybody runs their own business, and I run my own business. I do my marketing and everything else, so I’m kind of used to writing copy and making things sound good, but obviously, not everyone does that. So, they were happy to write the copy for us. They came and took promotional pictures, which I know they do for their hosting of places or something, and they filmed promotional videos for it. They set up the app so that we could put in a calendar and everything.
And then, what they did was, they did… Before the launch, they were very aware that, because it’s a new product, no one knows what they’re signing up for, the reviews were the most important thing. And I think that’s the same with when they started Airbnb, people were like, “What? I’m going to stay in a stranger’s house? What’s going on?” But, the more you see reviews of people, the more you trust that, you know, they’re not ax murderers or whatever else.
So, they were really like, “We need to get reviews,” so they did a whole beta testing before the November launch, where anybody who was traveling to Los Angeles, they offered them, “Because you’ve booked to use Airbnb while you’re traveling, do you want to take an experience on the house?” So, they were offering it to people for free so long as they would review it, but they were still going to pay us to run the experience because they were like, “Well, we’re using your time.”
So, they were funneling a lot of money into launching this whole project because they were just so passionate about it, about it working, you know. And because, obviously, for me, I was running photo shoots and making up faces, and so, I needed to then pay my photographer and my make-up artist, so I’m like, “Well, if you’re offering this to people for free, I’m then going to be out of pocket,” but they were totally, they just really believed in the idea.
And so, that first couple of months, it was like tweaking, getting reviews, making sure, “Oh, maybe that experience lasts a bit too long,” or, “Maybe you don’t need that because that’s too much.” And they were really, along the way, talking to us, communicating with us, letting us know what the feedback was. A lot of people from Airbnb took the experiences, so they had, firsthand, they knew exactly what they were offering their customers. It wasn’t just like, “Hey, put an experience together,” and then floundering by yourself. I’d had at least, I think, 10 people from Airbnb come and take the experience themselves and give feedback directly back to Airbnb.
So, yeah, it was really very supportive, and very hands-on, and I’ve loved working with them. It’s just been a really, really fun experience.
Jasper: And so, there’s quite a lot of people who took your experience and Airbnb paid for it, and this was before November. This was during the beta launch. Did all those people who took the experience, did they all leave a review? I mean, are those reviews still visible on the Experience page?
Cat: Yup, they’re still visible. I don’t know if everybody did leave a review, but the people who did leave a review, they’re still up there right now, yeah.
Jasper: Okay, interesting. I’m actually looking at the Experience right now, and one of the things that I was wondering about is, what about the timing? Can you set certain days where you’re open to do the experience? Because I imagine, you know, you have other things to do, as well, so you’re not going to be available every single day.
Cat: Of course. So, what they did to begin with was, because it wasn’t going to work unless everybody had availability, so they gave us like a retainer thing to say, especially with the three-day experience that takes up so much of your time, but, “If you make it available to at least six people twice a month, then we’ll pay you a retainer fee,” in that, again, the beta testing, so that they could guarantee that we’d be available to do it, which was so helpful, again, because I’m like, “Well, I can’t put that up there and take time off work if only one person signs up and then I’m making, what, like $100 for three days of my life.”
So, it was a really helpful thing that they were like, “Well, we’re going to secure, while we’re in this testing phase, we’re going to pay you a retainer to hold those dates open.” That’s no longer the issue now that they’ve launched, but that, in the first stage, is really great. Because now, obviously, they’ve got, because they’ve done the launch, there’s more awareness, but you basically have a calendar on your app, you have to download the app, and then you just type in the days that you want to run the event.
The difficulty I found was that my three-day event happened over four days, if that makes sense. So, it happened on the Thursday, the Friday, nothing would happen on the Saturday, and the final day would be the Sunday because I want them to have a day in between to kind of chill out. You know, it’s a lot to be hanging around with a stranger for three days. But then, it meant I couldn’t put anything in for that Saturday because in the mind of the app, it was taking over those four days. Do you know what I mean?
And then, sometimes it would list back, when it was having glitches, it would list a four-day experience, so I think some people were like, “Ugh, four days, that’s a bit too much to be hanging around this person.” But now, it just says three days and it has that little gap in it. But, there was a lot of little glitches all the way along, but like I said, they had the foresight to say, “You know, we wanted, three to four months before the launch, to try it out, see how the app works, see what people need, see what people don’t need.”
I think they had a restriction where, if you had a three-day experience, say, starting on like the Wednesday, you couldn’t book anything in for the Tuesday because they wanted you to be prepped and focused for that experience. They really, really treated it like, “You know, this is a job and this is professional, and you need to be on it when people come. They’re spending money to spend time with you. They’re not spending money for you to essentially be their tour guide.” It’s wasn’t just a slap-dash, “Yeah, yeah, whatever, you’ll just take someone for a drink if you have the spare time.” You know? It was very much like, “You’re booking out your time to be with these people and to give them your attention.”
Jasper: And do you have two experiences listed now? Because I’m looking at one that states ‘four hours’, and then you also have the one that’s three days, or spread out over the four days.
Cat: Yeah. So, what happens is that, the three-day experience that I have, the first experience is that they come to a burlesque show, and either I’ll be in that show or I will go to the show with them because I can’t know in advance when I’m booked for a show. I know that the shows are going on, but I only get booked up like a month in advance, whereas the app will take bookings like three or four months in advance. And some people like to go and see the show and see you in it because it’s like they feel they know somebody in the show, and some people like to go and watch the show with you because it’s like there’s someone sat at the table who knows the people in the show. So, I didn’t really feel like there was any benefit, pros or cons, or anything outweighed if I was in the show or not.
So, the first experience is, I take them to a show. So, I meet them before the show, and then if I’m in it, I’ll run away, and then I’ll speak to them between, in the intermission and stuff. And the second experience is, they come to my studio, and depending on who they are, if they actually want to learn some burlesque technique, I’ll teach them some of that. If they just want to play around, dress up and play around with props and costumes and stuff, they do that. It really depends if it’s two people, or one person, or six people. I just try to talk to the group and go, “What’s your interest? What do you want from this?”
And then, the third day is, I have a photo shoot. And so, based on the costumes they picked in the workshop, or if they’ve brought something, some people have brought stuff with them that they never get a chance to wear or they found on their travels, and we do the photo shoot on the final day.
Some people can’t commit to those three days, some people don’t really want to do the photo shoot element, so the one-day experience is, they come to my apartment like an hour before the show and we do the dress-up time then, and we just take selfies with the costume, and again, I teach them some technique stuff. And it’s kind of like a pre-game. So, they’ll come to my studio, they’ll see my props and costume storage, I’ll talk to them about the world of burlesque, whatever, and then we’ll all take an Uber to a show.
And, again, either I’m in that show or I’m just watching it, but usually, I think, usually I’m just watching the show, and that nice because we have a chance to get to know each other. We have a couple of drinks at my place, and then we’ll all go and see the show together, and I’ll know all the bar staff and I’ll know all people in the show. And so, it’s kind of like, for someone who’s traveling and doesn’t know anybody and is kind of like, “Ugh, I don’t where the best place is to go to meet good people,” it’s like an instant, they’re part of the group. You know, as soon as I take them into a venue, it’s like they’re one of the locals.
And then, for anybody who’s interested in burlesque but has never gone to a show before, they might be like, “Oh, I don’t know what to wear,” or “I don’t know how to behave. I’m not sure where I should sit. I’m not sure whether I should be cheering or not.” Well, it’s like anything, you know. If you want to try anything new, you usually will take a friend with you, just for kind of moral support. So, it’s a nice way of, someone who’s interested in that, for me to go, “Hey, I’ll take you under my wing and we can experience this together.”
So, I think there are the two benefits, really, of any of the experiences. It’s for someone who’s going to a new town and doesn’t want to do the typical touristy stuff but wants some kind of guidance to make the most of their time in that town. And, second of all, if you want to experience something new, like hang gliding or surfing, or whatever, and you’re like, “I have the fear,” at least you know you’re getting the expert guidance for your first foray into whatever that world is that you want to experience.
Jasper: And have you been getting a lot of guests taking the experience, or is it kind of occasionally?
Cat: Yeah, it comes and goes, you know. Some months are busier than others. I had nothing booked up for April, and then two days ago, three people booked up for the same date yesterday, so it was kind like, “Oh, whoa! There’s three people!” And you can set a timer so that you can go, “Well, these are the available dates, but you need to book up at least two days in advance.” Sometimes, it’s like, well, if your experience is just something a bit more low-key, then you can just book it that morning, but you can set your own restrictions.
But, I’ve had so many different styles of people, just doing it for different reasons. I’ve had some girls doing it because they really do want to get into burlesque. Some of them are moving to L.A. and they’re just wanting to get that basic sort of introduction to people and stuff so that when they actually more here, they’ve got that base of fans. I’ve had sort of older women come and do it, and they’re like, “This is the most amazing experience I’ve ever had.” Like, especially during the photo shoot, this woman was like, “I feel visible again.” She was like, “I used to be a stewardess and I used to get all this attention from guys and, well, just from anybody. And now I feel a bit older and I’m retired, I miss that attention, and I felt like I was past that, really.” And then we did this makeover photo shoot and she was like, “Oh my God, I feel like me again!”
I mean, me, as a teacher, when I teach burlesque, that’s kind of what I’m trying to get with people, is giving them this new lease on life and this kind of rediscovery of themselves. And so, that’s what I passionately believe in, anyhow, and so when people come do my experience, some people might just be doing it for a night out, and that’s cool, I’m all good for a night out, but people who do actually want to experience, especially the photo shoot experience, they want to try on stuff for the first time, and some people have never worn any of these styles of costumes.
And one girl came and said that she’d never got dressed up for Hallowe’en because her parents said it was the devil’s holiday, and I’m like, “Okay, come and let’s dress you up. You’re my new Barbie doll.” And I just get a kick out of passing that on to people and passing that gift on to people. And for people who come to see burlesque thinking it might be something seedy and whatever, but they come and see it’s just a fun, interactive, happy celebration, they come to the shows going, “Wow, I didn’t realize this is what is was about,” and we have the most amazing time.
And so, it’s just nice to be able to… I’m so passionate about that world and find it such an enjoyable and life-fulfilling experience, I just love being able to pass that on to people who have no idea what it was about or even if they would like it, you know. So, it’s good for me, as well.
Jasper: And do a lot of the guests take follow-up courses with you?
Cat: I’ve had one girl. Because they’re all sort of traveling, there’s not been that much option for it, but there was one girl who was moving to L.A. and she really wants to become a burlesque performer. And so, we’ve been talking about doing classes. I think I met her in, I think, August or September. I think it was more like October, and she’s hoping to take classes next month, so that’s the timescale of that. I don’t think anybody else has. I’ve had three or four people go, “I want to take classes with you,” but they all live kind of across the country somewhere, and I’m like, “Well, we can do Skype classes.”
But, yeah, I think if they came back… I had a girl from France, she came back and we did a whole… She was going to come back for another month, and so we did a whole private session where we did a burlesque act and she put it together, and then she actually performed at the place that we’d very first gone to when she came on the Airbnb experience. So, that was really awesome that she’d come back a second time and actually performed that time rather than just watching.
But, yeah, they all seem very excited by it, and even by it. And even just, like I had a guy who was over for, he’d written a horror script and had been selected at Shriekfest, and his wife put him on the experience just because she was like, “I think he would love to go out and experience that world.” And she called me and she was like, “Is it okay if I book him onto the experience? I know it’s weird, but he’s married and he’s not creepy, and blah-blah-blah.” I was like, “Yeah, absolutely.”
And so, he came on this experience, and he was so lovely and so appreciative, and then him and the other people on the trip got really, really close. And he came for the photo shoot and he was like, “Well, I don’t know what to do.” And I said, “Well, if you run this,” because he ran a podcast reviewing horror films, I said, “Let’s do like a horror shoot. Let’s put you in a cloak with a lantern and some chains.” And, you know, because it’s not just about being sexy, (I’m doing inverted fingers, by the way, when I say that), it’s about exploring other characters within yourself and just letting go a little bit. And so, we did this whole photo shoot with him being this horror grim reapery person. And so, at least he made use of…
I’m very much like, “Let’s do what pleases you.” I’m not going, “Come on this experience,” and everyone has to wear lingerie and a corset, and that’s the experience. It’s like, “Hey, come down, what do you want to use this experience for?” And so, yeah, he used it for commercial photos for his podcast, which was pretty cool. And then, we’ve had a conversation because I’m an actor and I do horror films, as well, we’ve had this conversation about, he’s reviewed my stuff, and so that’s been an ongoing friendship, as well, which I’m really appreciative of.
Jasper: Hosts, I can’t emphasize how important it is to share recommendations of things to do or eat near your listing beforehand. Your guests won’t have to go through TripAdvisor, Foursquare, or Yelp. They won’t have to scratch their head and think about possible places right in the moment. I’ve been using Hostfully to create an online and printable guidebook to show my guests my favorite coffee places in Amsterdam. They use my recommendations, and I’m getting fewer questions from my guests as a result. I’ve also included screenshots of my guidebook on my Airbnb listing as a way to differentiate my listing from others. So, make your own guidebook at hostfully.com/pad.
So, you mentioned that during your experience you really focus on the guests, what they want, to really customize their experience. I’m assuming that’s something that you would recommend to people who want to try the Airbnb experiences and want to be an Experience host, basically. Is there any other advice that you have for people who are listening right now and thinking of signing up?
Cat: Yeah, actually, they recommended this guy for me yesterday because he wanted to sign up, and Matt who got me involved, he was like, “You should call Cat because she knows exactly what she’s talking about.”
I would say, first off, you really need to do an experience that is linked to your passions and your interests, and that you have an in with. This guy was saying he wanted to take people around the best bars in Hollywood, and he was like, “Well, how do I contact the owners of the bars?” And I was like, “That’s not the way to go about it. The way to go about it is, what is your version of your town? Like, where do you go? What do you spend your time doing? What bars do you go to? What classes do you take? What activities do you do?”
You know, like when I take them to the burlesque shows, like I say, I know the door staff, I know the bar owners, I know the performers because that’s my world, I live in it. And the whole point of people paying you for an experience is it’s like you going to a town and your brother has backseat passes for something because he works with that company. It’s like you’re paying to have that ‘I know someone who knows somebody’. It’s not just, “I live here, I’ll escort you.” It’s like, “I work here, I live here, let me take you on a little journey with me that is my life.”
So, really think about what your passion is. You know, do you love going fishing? Do you love hiking? Do you love, whatever, even your job? Like, maybe your job is really interesting and you can take them round on a little back tour of the job that you do. But, it is really bringing the tourists, the travelers, into your life and into your world, and sharing with them your passion.
There was a girl who was in L.A., she’s a chef, I think she’s from Mexico, and she takes them round to all the unknown places that sell really good Mexican ingredients that nobody would know unless that was part of their life. So, that’s my first thing. Find a clash and find something that you can share with people.
And the second thing, I think, is just really know that some people will… Be flexible, you know. Some people might just do it because they want to just hang out. Like, some people just do my experience because they just want to go to the show and hang out, and they don’t want all the philosophical self growth stuff, you know, which I totally have on hand. But, some people are doing it because they really want to know about the burlesque world. They want to be a burlesque performer. They want to know everything about it. So, just be aware that if you do have this ingrown passion in something, they might not be as passionate and they don’t need to know it all.
Some people want to try martial arts for an hour. Some people want the whole ‘wax on, was off’ 12 years to learn that skill. But, it’s like any sort of teaching, is that you might have your lesson plan, but depending on your students, everyone has a different level, a different speed of learning, and a different level of knowledge already. So, just have your metaphorical lesson plan of what your experience is going to be, but just know that whoever takes your trip, there’s such a wide spectrum of people. You need to flexible with what they want, and what’s on hand, and don’t take offense if it is that they want something slightly different because they are paying for that experience, you know.
Jasper: Right. That makes a lot of sense. I mean, that makes a lot of sense to me that you put the needs of the guests first, kind of put your own ego on the side, and just kind of customize the experience to what your guests are looking for.
Cat: Because, I mean, I used to have before, like, “I’ll do a workshop with them and they can learn the techniques of burlesque,” and one girl was just like, “I just want to keep playing dress-up.” I’m like, “Fine, let’s just do that for an hour. That’s awesome. I love that you’re taking so much joy out of just trying on all the costumes.” That’s what it is, you know.
And also, the two things that they said to me that was mainly important is that you are interested in the people, and you do want to meet people, and you do want to host them. You’re not just sort of there babysitting them, you’re actually interacting with them and are interested in who they are and what their lives are. And also, you’re giving them an experience that they can’t just get online. You know, it can’t just be like, “I’ll take you to the Hollywood sign,” because you can anyone to take you to the Hollywood sign. Like, why are you taking them to the Hollywood sign? What is your story? What do you know? What’s your experience? Why are you so exciting and important?
Jasper: Yeah, I think it’s really good advice to start with what you’re passionate about when you’re creating the experience because, you know, when I first thought about creating an Airbnb experience, I kind of naturally, my mind went to what’s popular in Amsterdam, what do people want to see. And so, it’s like, “Oh, people want to go to the red-light district. People want to see the windmills. People want to see the cheese market.” And so, those ideas are the first ones that kind of come to mind, but I mean, I personally don’t have any interest in those activities at all, so it doesn’t really make sense for me to do that tour.
Cat: And you’ll be stuck on that tour, and you’ll be bored, and you won’t care, and then they won’t care, and then nobody will care, and everyone will be upset. Whereas, if you’re interested in something really mundane, if you’re like, “Let’s go and see the dung beetles that are building they’re little nests in the…” What?! But, if you’re so passionate about it, then people are like, “Okay, let’s go see the dung beetles then.” And then, you tell them all about the dung beetles, and it’s like your passion will rub off on the travelers, and then they’ll have this experience they never knew that they would have because who would have thought about looking at the dung beetles. You know what I mean?
Jasper: Yeah, and I totally see what you mean. This reminds me of Steve Irwin. You remember Steve Irwin?
Cat: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Jasper: The Crocodile Hunter?
Cat: Yeah. He was passionate, right, talking about it. He was so excited, and then you’d get excited. And that’s the experience that they’re paying for. Yes, people think about the windmills in Amsterdam, yes, we all think about the red-light district, but what do they not know about? That’s what you want to bring to them. Because you live there, you know the things that the tourists don’t know about, and that’s what they want. They want to go on Airbnb and click through Experience and go, “Oh my God, I never knew that the da-da-da-da existed in Amsterdam. That’s fricking cool! Tell me about it!” So, that’s what will light people up, for sure.
Jasper: Exactly. So, that was my second thought when I realized, “Okay, I’m not going to do these touristy things because I’m not very passionate about it.” I don’t know that much about it, either. So then, I thought about, “What do I want to do? What’s my interest?”
And, you know, I’m very interested in history, and especially the history of the Second World War. And I happened to be born in Arnhem, which is the city where there was a pretty big battle, and I know everything about it. Like, since I was three years old, I’ve been reading about it, I’ve been watching movies, and so I thought, “Okay, you know what? I don’t know if other people are going to really be interested in this, but I’m sure there’s some people who are interested in it, so let me just put it up and we’ll see what happens.”
Cat: It’s like the rules of dating, as well. If you pretend to be somebody that you think people will be interested in, then you’re going to meet people who are interested in that, and you’re not interested in that. So, you’re going to meet people that you just will not get on with. The reason I’ve met so many amazing people is because I’ve met all the crazy weirdos who are interested in burlesque and getting dressed up. Do you know what I mean?
So, even if nobody liked the idea of going to a burlesque show and having a photo shoot done, then that’s great because the people… If I made up an experience of, “Hey, let’s go to all the cool nightclubs in L.A.,” I don’t like going to all the cool nightclubs in L.A., so I’d meet all these people who did and I wouldn’t get on with them, and I’d have a really terrible time. But, because I’m doing something that I’m passionate about, I’m attracting the people out there in the world who all have a similar interest, so instantly, I meet these people and we have things in common, we vibe off each other.
And so, if you’re saying, “Oh yeah, nobody out there is interested in history,” yeah, but there will be, and that means that when you meet those people, you’re going to have the best time ever, and then you’ll be paid for it, to meet people who are like-minded and similarly passionate about what you’re passionate about. I think that’s a huge part of it, you know. It’s then not a job. It’s not like, “Oh, I’m being paid to take people around the sightseeing of L.A.” No, I’m being paid to share my passion with people, and that’s amazing. That’s an amazing feeling, you know?
Jasper: Absolutely. I totally feel you.
The last thing I wanted to talk about before I let you go, what’s the financial side? I know Airbnb takes 20%. You’re charging $99 for a four-hour experience, right? Is it worth it financially, or is it more like, you know, something that you enjoy doing and it makes a little bit of money on the side? Or, could this actually be an interesting thing for people to pursue in order to make a decent side income?
Cat: It really depends on what your expenses are. Because for the three-day experience, I believe that’s priced at $220, something like that, and so the shows, it depends which show I go to. Some shows are more expensive entry than the other ones, and some shows, I’m going to be there anyway. If I’m in the show, my time of being at the show is irrelevant because they’re spending time with me to be at the show, but then I would have been at the show anyway because I’m in it.
Then, the photo shoot, obviously, I’m paying a photographer and a makeup artist, but then if six people sign on to the photo shoot, then that’s negligible. Whereas, if it’s one person that signs on to the photo shoot, that’s like an entire day and two people’s salary I’m paying just for one person.
So, it really kind of depends on, you know, if you’re literally taking them round your place of work… Like, there’s a guy who does like a surfboard thing, and so he’s using his own equipment, it’s a place he’d be anyway. They then go for lunch, but the traveler pays for their lunch, so I guess you’re paying for your own lunch, maybe.
The one-day experience, if I have one person take it, then I’m not really making much at all. They spend an hour with me, which is at my studio in my apartment, so I’m not paying for studio hire. It’s my costumes and equipment, so that’s my own stock. I’m hanging out with them for an hour. And then, when we go out to the show, I’m paying for their ticket and my ticket, and then maybe a couple of drinks. So, I might only make like $30 or something if it’s one person. If it’s six people, then yeah, I could make like $400, $500 in one night. So, it’s really the amount of people who are taking the trip.
And, like I said, it’s also me making the most out of it in terms of, every time I go to a show, I’m either in the show already or I’m then networking with people who are in my world. So, it actually gives me a reason because I don’t get to go to burlesque shows that much if I’m not in them because I just feel like it’s my work and I have so many other things I need to get done in my life. But, because I’ve got an Airbnb person with me, it’s like, “Oh, cool, great, I get to go to that show I never get to go to,” because I have to now, you know, and I’ve actually had a lot of good networking results from having gone to a show that I probably wouldn’t have gone to just because I happened to have an Airbnb person with me.
So, it’s, like I said, make it work for you. You’ve really got to just figure out how it works into your life, how much time you have available, and just make it work for you, really.
Jasper: Awesome. For those who are listening and who might be traveling to Los Angeles, or maybe who live in Los Angeles or nearby, you can find Cat’s experience at airbnb.com/experiences371. So, you’re number 371 of all the Experience people. Obviously, I’ll put the link in the show notes, as well.
Thank you so much, Cat. I think this is really useful. I do have more questions. Maybe we can do another interview at some point because there’s a lot to talk about. You know, I’ve never talked about this subject before, so it’s really insightful.
Cat: If people want to find me, they can look up Cat LaCohie, but my performance name as a burlesque performer is Vixen DeVille, so they can also find me under that name, as well.
Jasper: Awesome. Well, we’ll put that in the show notes, too. Thanks so much for taking the time. It’s been really insightful, and I wish you all the best with your burlesque business and your Airbnb experience.
Cat: Yeah, and good luck with your concoction of your own experience.
Jasper: Thank you. And for all the listeners out there, of course, next week on Monday, there’ll be another interview. And every Thursday, there is the news updates, of course. So, hope to see you then.