Noël Russell
Noël Russell

Noël Russell: We’re Located in the Epicenter of Tech Innovation Here in San Francisco, While Also Living in Destination State for Travelers

Noël Russell of Whimstay.

Tell us about yourself?

I am the Chief Experience Officer and Founding Team at Whimstay.

I’m a Digital Marketing & Communications Specialist and a UX enthusiast.

My background is in the outdoor, travel and apparel industries and I live in Oakland, California.

What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?

That there’s some secret code that needs to be cracked to start one.

There isn’t. If you have a great idea, a boatload of passion, and believe in what you’re reaching for with your whole heart – you’ve got what it takes.

What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?

That all I need is within me and that a good team is a sum of its part – we are each capable of more than we’ve ever imagined when we’re willing to link arms with those who’s strengths compliment our own.

If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

To never look back. It’s important to learn from our mistakes but its equally important to stay focused on what’s ahead.

A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?

It’s often been said “love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life” and its easy to doubt there’s any truth behind that statement – until you’ve lived it.

For me, sometimes work is play and sometimes play is work.

I’m willing to embrace the fluidity of seasons and allow myself to exist in the gray areas where what’s considered “work” and what’s considered “fun” intersect.

I lean into the love I have for my teammates, and enjoy each moment engaging with them – whether its over dinner or over a hard conversation.

I think when we seek joy in the mundane as well as the marvelous – that’s when we really find flourishing, and I’m definitely reaching for that daily.

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

Whimstay was founded on a desire to find a win-win for travelers and property managers alike. Our CEO, Ben Jamshahi, has been a vacation rental owner for many years, and found that his units remained vacant nearly 50% of the year.

After some quick research, he realized he’s not alone in that either. In fact, across the globe, over 50% of vacation rental properties empty each night and billions of dollars in lost earnings each year.

So we set out to fix that, by securing exclusive discounts with property managers on last-minute inventory that otherwise would likely go unrented.

Whimstay helps property managers optimize their efforts to fill unbooked inventory and cancellations, while giving travelers the opportunity to “seize the stay” at awesome discounts and travel more, for less.

What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?

We’re creative about solutions and we don’t stop dreaming about how everything can be improved.

There is no limit to our ability to poke holes in solutions and find ways to make something good, even better.

We don’t take “no” for an answer and we don’t believe anything is ever “finished” or “complete” – everything is a work in progress.

How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?

We’ve found success in both B2B and DTC sales by offering something that everyone wins from. We meet needs that have existed for a long time, and aim to help every customer achieve their goals – whether that’s increasing occupancy rates or taking a dream vacation without breaking the bank.

As far as lessons go, I think our Head of Partnerships and Growth, Alex Alioto, really leads our team with wisdom here.

He hit the ground running in the midst of the pandemic, working on onboard B2B clients in order for us to have inventory to sell.

His ability to center his sights on opportunities — always seeking out solutions for roadblocks and staying unabashedly optimistic about our ability to make a difference — has really motivated the rest of us as we scrambled to build the bridge while we were walking on it.

Our CEO, Ben Jamshahi, also sings the same song – forever reminding us that nothing is impossible, and constantly pushing out the circle of limitations we place upon ourselves by asking us to achieve the things we’re deserving of, and constantly reminding us of our worth.

What do you consider are the main strengths of operating your business in California over other states in the US?

We’re located in the epicenter of tech innovation here in San Francisco, while also living in destination state for travelers.

It’s the perfect mashup of influence to urge us to do our very best at what we’ve set out to do.

What (if any) are the weaknesses of operating your business within California?

Only that we don’t get to give IRL high-fives to our offshore teammates and nationwide colleagues every day.

We’re a remote team, with members across the globe, so we’ve done a wonderful job and building comradery while working virtually.

That said, we’ll forever wish we could meet in person for coffee or team lunches at times – and many factors will always make these opportunities limited.

We are currently suffering through a cost of living crisis. With California already being one of the most expensive states to live in, how has this impacted your business?

As a global team, we have set out to find the right people for the work we’re doing – regardless of geographic location.

I believe we’ve done an exceptional job of managing operating costs while building a strong remote workforce.

It is no secret that California is the birthplace of innovation. But that also makes it incredibly competitive. How have you found the competitive environment of California?

Competition fires us up.

There is nothing better than living in a place where you look to your right and left and see someone just as passionate and driven as you are.

The sky’s the limit and we get to work alongside folks who are reaching just as hard and far as we are every day.

Have you considered moving your company to another state? If so, which state and why?

No, we’re rooted in California, but we’re committed to growing a global team where each member finds their sense of “place” within a collective of passionate, innovative and creative colleagues driven to disrupt an industry we love.

Our foundation is built on one another, not on the location of our office building.

Where do you see your business in the next 5 years?

I see us shaking up the travel industry at a global scale and in the very best ways.

We’re busting down barriers and reimagining solutions — efforts that won’t benefit our business alone, but so many other companies and adjacent industries. And we’re here for it.

And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?

We’d love to have folks visit our website, download the app, and engage with us on our social channels.

Follow Whimstay on Twitter or Linkedin.

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