For some entrepreneurs, their own trips have inspired them to start companies catering to travelers’ unique needs. The Sursy Founder and CEO Lauren Richardson, for instance, traveled quite a bit for work. At one point, she was staying at a hotel in Chicago, where she fell in love with a coffee table book.
She wondered if she could find the book online or somewhere else. “But I wanted that one,” because it was in the place where she had stayed, Richardson told PYMNTS in an interview. “People have an emotional connection to objects when they travel” because those items have a story, she noted. She ended up getting the coffee table book from the hotel after asking for permission.
Richardson started noodling on the concept of fusing retail with hospitality in some capacity. The idea led to her experiential hospitality startup, The Sursy, which offers consumers shoppable stays in a Denver home share. (A “Sursy” is a term Richardson’s grandmother used to describe a little trinket brought back from a trip.) Travelers can book through homeshare booking channels such as Airbnb and VRBO.
The house contains items that come with small wooden tags that printed with the hashtag #SHOPTOSTAY. If the traveler likes an item, they can scan a quick-response (QR) code on the tag and take the product when they leave. If it’s a larger item such as a sofa, Richardson will ship it out the next day.
The house offers a range of products for sale – everything from the paint on the walls to the wallpaper, the sheets, the mattresses, the beds and the lighting fixtures. In all, there are 71 makers and 105 items for sale in the small, two-bedroom railroad house. Richardson works with small independent brands to support local makers and artists. The sheets, for instance, are from a company in Boulder, Colorado.
The homeshare also provides exposure for artisans who may struggle to afford a studio or gallery space. Richardson is, in essence, creating a living gallery. Some of the makers in the space include The Sage Bed out of Denver, Sheets & Giggles in Boulder and Meredith Steele from Denver.
The Sursy’s website features a range of items, from Ankara fabric napkins to “Not Done Yet” neon art to the Avocado Green Pillow. There’s also a Banksy coffee table book and an Aspen Grove giclee print for sale. The company is geared toward those who are willing to pay more for high-quality, sustainable items and who prioritize experiences. The house itself, an old, character-rich property that contains the shoppable space, is located in Lincoln Park. Richardson likes the neighborhood’s eclectic vibe.
Asked why the time is right for a concept like The Sursy, Richardson cited responsible consumerism. People care about shopping small and prefer sustainable materials. There is also an element of emotional connection: Consumers may not go into a brick-and-mortar store and become attached to a chair, but if they have a memorable weekend with a friend while staying in a fun Airbnb in a new city, an item could take on a deeper meaning.
At the same time, sharing economy platforms are booming: According to Airbnb’s website, for instance, the platform has more than six million listings worldwide, and there are over 100,000 cities with Airbnb listings. The company also reports that the average number of people staying at an Airbnb per night is two million. Its platform has more than 14,000 tiny houses, over 2,400 tree houses and more than 4,000 castles.
With homeshares proliferating around the world, some entrepreneurs are allowing consumers to take home souvenirs from their trips – and tapping into the sharing economy to turn regular stays into shoppable experiences.