Deidre Mathis has fashioned her life to reflect her limitless compassion and heart. Wanderstay is a boutique, private & shared accommodations business located in Houston, Texas, but its effects have reached far beyond the state’s borders. She blesses us all with her Instagram, which is full of self-compassion and love. Deidre has been featured in Forbes and has been repeatedly recognized for her incredible accomplishments. In her interview with us, she provides the sort of answers that will no doubt touch a great number of readers.
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
Wanderstay opened summer 2018. We provide accommodations looking for access to a travel community. I got the idea for the business after going to Australia for one year for a gap study abroad. While abroad, I would stay in boutique accommodations and I fell in love with them. I knew I wanted to start something similar, so that’s what I did!
I’ve had a great ride thus far, minus the virus. We’ve served 4,000 people from 28 countries in 21 states. According to TripAdvisor, we’re #1 out of 102 specialty accommodations in Houston based on guest reviews. We’re very proud of that. I’m really excited for the growth of the company when life gets back to normal.
2. Who/What inspired you to venture into the travel industry, and specifically focus on providing a uniquely uplifting experience that celebrates your guests?
I tell my staff members that without our guests, we literally have no business. Everything we do revolves around them. We like to highlight our guests and their travel stories and experiences while they’re here in Houston. We try to make it all about them. Even before the gap year study abroad session, I had the opportunity to do a short term study abroad program during my sophomore year of college. That is literally what changed my life. I got the opportunity to go to the Dominican Republic. It opened my eyes to travel and gave me the travel bug. Love and passion and fire!
3. What is your typical day like & how have you adjusted to the current pandemic?
I’m the kind of person who walks around with an actual planner. I’m not a person that puts things in my phone, I write everything down. I get up at about 8:00 am and look at my planner and assess the things I need to do. I’ll put them in order of importance and try to knock it out by 5:00. Work/life balance is really important to me, so I work as if I’m working in a traditional office setting.
Normally, employees run the day in day out of Wanderstay. I’m behind the scenes setting meetings, trying to increase brand recognition, speaking at conferences and universities. Usually, I’m participating in some form of promoting the company or working in my home office doing back end duties for the hostel. My employees are the bread and butter of everything.
After work, my partner and I will go out and ride our bikes, play with our dogs, try to walk around our neighborhood, try to do something that keeps us moving. I’ll meet up with friends, happy hours, or dinners. Being an entrepreneur can be very isolating and lonely. So typically, minus all this COVID stuff, at least 2-3 times a week I’ll have some type of outing planned.
During COVID, I haven’t been social at all. I read a lot. I’ve been working on our expansion for our second location next year which was originally slated to open up later this year. I’ve been taking some classes. I’m making sure that I’ve been doing things at home that are going to keep me in a routine.
4. What do you think has helped you the most with your success?
I would say just having the passion and work ethic, honestly!
5. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome to achieve your goals?
Starting the business. Getting lending, getting money. Being a woman of color, we all know that we’re the least funded sector, so it’s really hard to get funding. Being a small business owner without a family of entrepreneurs or people I could call and say: hey how do I do x-y-z. I’m learning every single day. This is only year two of the business, so I’m still learning every single day.
6. How do you reward yourself after a hard day’s/week’s/month’s work?
Travel! When I’m not working, I try to take as many trips as possible, I get massages every other week, I take care of myself. I’m really into work/life balance, so making sure I’m hanging with friends and loved ones is important. I work very hard and play equally hard.
7. What advice can you give to our readers?
Find something you love. Find something that really moves you. Then don’t stop until you can make that your every day. Not everybody is meant to be an entrepreneur. Social media makes it look glamorous, and that’s just not the truth. People need to focus on their passions. If you wanna work in corporate, nonprofits, run your own business, whatever it is. Just make sure that you’re surrounding yourself with like-minded people, mentors, researching industries, etc. Make sure you’re doing as much as you can so that you can stand out and be the go-to person. I’ve been noticing lately that everyone’s encouraging people to own their own businesses. It’s not something everyone should do or even wants to do.
We need to talk about how people can live authentically with what they want to do. Find what you’re passionate about.
8. Who do you look up to or admire?
I love Michelle Obama. Also, a best friend of mine who had a kid when we were fourteen and she grew up to defy all odds. She’s doing extremely well for herself, just got her master’s at Stanford and is the CEO of a huge non-profit in Florida. Honestly, every day small business owners who are working hard every single day.
9. Wanderstay seems to be a natural consequence of your love for traveling and for people. Can you tell us one thing you know about yourself that makes you so capable of selflessness and uplifting others for who they are? Is this a skill you’ve had to work on at times?
I just try to remain as positive as possible. When I’m creating a brand for myself, I have to ask myself how I want to be perceived and what message do I want to come across. This can mean an inspirational quote, personal stories, talking about our future goals as a company or person. It’s about building that relatableness. I am literally just beginning in all of this. I am by no means an expert or anything. People appreciate that I’m open and transparent about that. I get people all the time who aren’t business owners but say they still draw inspiration and strength from my page because they see me doing all these amazing things. When people say “I can draw inspiration from you,” that is the highest compliment.