Women entrepreneurs get a $50 million boost hosting on Airbnb

As the US observes Women’s Equality Day, the holiday marking the passage of the 19th Amendment, we at Airbnb particularly want to celebrate the more than 10,000 women hosts across the country who have used their Airbnb income to support their own entrepreneurship.

Together, these 10,000+ women hosts earned $50 million in income through Airbnb in 2016 and used it to either support themselves while launching a new business, or as direct investment capital for a new business. Women hosts in the US earned an average $6,600 on Airbnb last year, according to a recent study of our women host community around the world.

Airbnb empowers hosts to earn extra income by leveraging what is typically their greatest expense, their home; setting their own listing price; and keeping 97 percent of it. While 60 percent of all US hosts say the income has helped them stay in their homes, and 51 percent say they use it to make ends meet, many hosts use the income to pursue new economic opportunities for themselves and to help their communities.

“Wherever I ended up buying my home, I wanted to have a positive impact,” says Rachel Pace, an Airbnb Home host and the owner of Penny Brew, a pop-up coffee shop and eatery in Washington, DC. Originally from Pittsburgh, Rachel relocated to Washington’s Deanwood neighborhood and began listing her basement apartment on Airbnb. Helped by that income, she has been staging Penny Brew pop-ups for a year and a half in anticipation of getting her own storefront. Once a space is secured, Rachel plans to have a roasting machine on-site and will hire and train local residents to ensure that the business is also contributing to economic growth in the area by creating jobs.

Originally from the Cayman Islands, Heather-Sky McField is a small business owner based in East New York, Brooklyn. After leaving her job as an operations manager of an investment bank to pursue building her own business, she learned her mom was terminally ill. Facing this sudden hardship, Heather-Sky leaned on her Airbnb income to help pay her mounting bills and avoid foreclosure on her home. She’s been a host for nearly two years now and has become a Host Club leader.

In that time, Heather-Sky built an event coordinating and hospitality staffing agency called Catalyst Events & Staffing; launched her bar, the Acoustik Garden Lounge; and is a volunteer operations director for the World of Money, a nonprofit that teaches financial literacy to children and young adults. “They say that life happens when you’re making plans. I made plans to pursue my business, life gave me the opportunity to be there for my mom during her last days, but it wouldn’t have been possible without Airbnb.”

Rachel, Heather, and the other 10,000 women host-entrepreneurs in the US are among 50,000 globally who have used their Airbnb income to support their own entrepreneurship.

According to the Kauffman Foundation, women start businesses with half the capital of men and use more capital from personal savings and credit card debt. Women also receive only about 3 percent of all venture capital funding, and are starting businesses at about half the rate of men, due in part to a financing gap in entrepreneurship.

In a recent Forbes piece about women and global tourism, Susan McPherson points out that, according to the International Labour Organization, women make up between 60 to 70 percent of the global tourism workforce. Yet UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai points out that while this may be the case, “women tend to be concentrated in the lowest paid and lowest status jobs and perform a large amount of unpaid work in family tourism businesses.”

For many women worldwide, hosting on Airbnb provides that critical extra income for their own entrepreneurship. We are thrilled to partner with a series of amazing organizations to increase the number of women host-entrepreneurs both in the US and across the globe:

Vital Voices created the VV GROW Fellowship to support female entrepreneurs, the only accelerator of its kind to partner with women business leaders to address their key obstacles to growth and to enhance their leadership impact. Attending trade fairs and other international market-access events can be great opportunities to grow a business, but the costs of transportation, accommodation and fees can create significant barriers for entrepreneurs.

To tackle this challenge, Vital Voices and Airbnb partnered in 2016 to provide travel credits to cover accommodation costs for Vital Voices fellows who travel for market access opportunities, networking and professional development opportunities. To date, the partnership has distributed travel credits that have resulted in 120 guests spending 300 nights total at listings across the globe.

Through a partnership with Global Fund for Women, Airbnb is supporting mission-critical travel for women leaders and activists to attend trainings, meetings and speaking engagements across the globe. From Colombia and the Czech Republic to Kenya and Kyrgyzstan, women have traveled using Airbnb credits to create stronger alliances across women’s movements globally. To date, Airbnb has donated approximately $45,000, with 90 guests spending 175 nights total at listings around the world.

In India, Airbnb has partnered with the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) to train some of the organization’s 2 million members in home sharing, hospitality and quality standards as well as responsible hosting practices, with the goal of building a strong community of SEWA hosts who can learn from one another and create a more welcoming environment for Indian women in hospitality. The effort is helping to create new livelihood opportunities for SEWA members.

One SEWA member and Airbnb host, Gauriben, said this partnership helps her “build more technology skills to help attract more visitors to our village. The whole village may not be able to travel, but guests coming from different parts of India and the world will have an opportunity to learn about our traditions, culture, language, food, and rural community life.

In Cape Town’s Langa Township, Airbnb is partnering with iKhaya Ie Langa, a non-profit dedicated to revitalizing the area through social enterprise and tourism. Through this partnership, local residents are trained to use the Airbnb platform to build new forms of income. In South Africa, women hosts earned nearly $2,000, on average, in 2016.

League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the oldest Hispanic civil rights organization in the US. Airbnb was a proud sponsor for their annual convention and the lead sponsor for their Women’s Legacy Awards. We also teamed up with the organization to support their Mujeres Poderosas initiative to encourage Latina entrepreneurs and offer grants for a training program.

Girls Leadership equips girls with the skills to exercise the power of their voice. This Oakland-based organization currently teaches 10,000 people per year, over half of whom are adults who serve as role models for the girls, and serves over half a million people online.

Airbnb is partnering with Girls Leadership to conduct an unprecedented study: Closing the Gap, Understanding How Girls of Color Become Leaders. We understand that when we have the data to better understand how girls of color emerge as leaders, we can better inform schools, organizations, communities and the private sector how to change the paradigm and ensure that all girls (and ultimately, women of color) have a chance to lead.

Women entrepreneurs also have found opportunities for innovation through Airbnb Experiences, excursions and other activities that are designed and led by local hosts.

Emily Gasner (right)

Emily Gasner is the CEO and co-founder of Working Solutions, a community development financial institution in San Francisco that provides micro-loans. She is also an Experience Host on Airbnb, leading guests on tours of local businesses. The proceeds from Emily’s Experience go to her nonprofit, which serves low-income entrepreneurs, women-, and minority-owned businesses.

Emily, Rachel, Carol and the thousands of other women Airbnb hosts around the world who are creating more opportunities and better livelihoods for themselves are what New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman recently deemed “self-driving people.” Airbnb CEO and Head of Community Brian Chesky told Friedman that when he retires (Brian is 35), “I’d like to say that Airbnb created 100 million new entrepreneurs in the world.”

While there is still much more work to be done to achieve universal gender equality, we want to celebrate these trailblazing women and organizations, who are paving the path towards a fairer and more equitable world.

Movement and online resource, supported by Airbnb’s public policy team, for anyone, anywhere who wants to learn about and advance home sharing as a solution.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store