Meet Deidre Mathis, the woman behind the first Black-owned hostel in the U.S. based in Houston. She opened WanderStay in 2018 and the facility also offers co-working spaces for busy travelers.
Mathis is a big solo traveler and it was her experience traveling around the world that motivated her to go into the hospitality industry. “I met these fabulous women and we formed this amazing bond and continued to travel together for a year and a half, doing nothing but staying in hostels,” she told Forbes.
However, after moving to Houston, she realized there was a market for the hostel business and she did not think twice about exploring it. Of interest to her was the profitability of the hostel business. According to her, there are over 400 hostels in the United States that collectively made $17 million in 2016.
“It’s a profitable industry,” she said. “But that’s not why I’m getting into it. I’m getting into it because I have a passion for traveling and for putting people together. So the money’s just a bonus.”
To start her hostel, Mathis explored multiple sources of capital, in addition to getting a small business loan. She ran an Indiegogo campaign and raised $5,000 in just 31 days. “It was good not just to raise the funds, but to have the community stand behind me and support me,” she said.
With her dream coming to fruition, Mathis said she is excited that she is offering international and domestic travelers a place to stay. She sees Wanderstay Hotels as a place for young travelers to have a nice and decent place to stay.
Mathis also said that she was proud she had made her dream come true two years after conceptualizing it. According to her, “I meet people all the time and they say, ‘It’s taken me six or seven years to get my business off the ground.’ So the fact that I had this imaginable amount of desire and passion and the fact that I got it done in two years makes me incredibly happy.”
Starting Wanderstay Hotels at the age of 32 did not come easy also because of Mathis’ skin color.
“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,” the hotelier and author told Sass Magazine. “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.”
Mathis is the author of a budget travel book, Wanderlust: For the Young, Broke Professional, which she wrote after taking a post-graduation gap year, she told Forbes.