Member profile: Merilee Karr of UnderTheDoormat
A big smile, a warm voice and a lot of expertise: these are just some of the attributes of Merilee Karr, CEO and founder of UnderTheDoormat, a high-end short-term accommodation company. Before starting her own company five years ago, in July 2014, she worked for 13 years at oil and gas company Shell. Her last role was managing the maintenance of petrol sites across the world and, being a lover of travel, she came to realise that what she was looking for in the accommodation sector didn’t yet exist.
She records an experience with a major holiday letting website, when she went to Lausanne, Switzerland, for a triathlon. “We got there, and the house wasn’t clean, and the owner hadn’t said that we would be cat sitting.” The chaotic situation left her frustrated – it was just another stepping stone on her motivation to open her own company.
“UnderTheDoormat is essentially a distributed hotel,” she says. But not a competition to hotels: “We aren’t hurting their industry.” The idea is that big hotel chains have a particular set of services that is not exactly what UnderTheDoormat is about. Hotels recognise that – chains such as Accor and Marriott are investing more and more in models similar to Airbnb and Booking.com and making partnerships with the likes of UnderTheDoormat.
This acceptance from big chains has been a gradual change of mindset rather than an aha moment, according to Merilee. They are not focusing on taking clients away from hotels but rather, their target is homeowners who travel and don’t want to leave their house empty, or who are between tenants, and developers who don’t sell their properties so fast. “Certain cities have limits regarding how many nights can be rented out to visitors, usually between 140 and 180 per year,” Merilee says.
Following certain standards are crucial for the success of her brand. Not only in terms of health and safety but in terms of quality too. That’s why she’s also the industry body chair for the Short-Term Accommodation Association (STAA), set up three years ago. She regularly meets with MPs in an effort to create an accredited body that will be an industry standard for home owners who want to have a stamp of quality in their property.
With over 250 properties partnering with UnderTheDoormat, Merilee feels it’s time to expand. She’s raising investment for growth with the ambition of taking UnderTheDoormat to other European capitals.
This Friday, August 23rd, our podcast episode will be released and it’s all about Merilee’s journey and her insights on the short-term accommodation industry. Stay tuned!
To know more about UnderTheDoormat, click here.
To know more about becoming a member at Qandor, book a call with us today.