Arguably, the pandemic has hit small-business owners the hardest. But, where some see an insurmountable challenge, others see opportunity.
Emily Revell not only started her business during the pandemic, but she got it up and running in one of the hardest-hit industries: travel. In the early months of 2020, while the rest of us were making sourdough starters and watching Tiger King, she was writing business proposals and researching grants. From running one property rental in her hometown of Revelstoke, BC, Emily is now the founder of Stay Revy, a property management company that also advises homeowners how to self-manage renting out their homes to create second-income streams.
With travel restrictions still very much in place, Emily has had to get creative and resourceful in these unprecedented times. We sat down with her to learn more about how uncharacteristically quiet seasons have turned out to be beneficial for turning her ideas into reality and why despite the current situation, she’s still betting big on travel.
Tell us a bit about what inspired you to start your business, Stay Revy?
Stay Revy started as a passion project from years of experience in the hospitality industry. I have always loved the outdoors and I wanted to create something that both drew people to Revelstoke and contributed to the well-being of local residents.
You got it up and running in the middle of the pandemic. What was the biggest challenge for you?
I started Stay Revy in early March prior to knowing how long the pandemic would last. During the first few months the unknown was the biggest challenge in terms of planning, as we weren’t sure how long the lockdowns would last. Now, looking back at what I’ve accomplished I feel I can face any other challenge that is thrown our way.
Were there any parts of the process that you actually found easier than you anticipated?
To be completely honest I don’t think I would be where I am today without the pandemic happening. Initially it gave me the time I needed to sit down and let the idea of Stay Revy come into fruition. And because everyone else was staying home, I was able to dedicate a lot of time at the beginning to really planning every aspect of rolling out the business. In the early planning stages companies like Small Business BC, were offering discounted business courses and webinars. I was able to take advantage of all these and was able to give myself the space and time I needed to plan, prep and create. Once I had my business plan, I had people I trusted look it over. Community Futures was quite helpful at this stage in the planning process
What did starting this business during COVID teach you about yourself?
It helped me see my true potential. I couldn’t see myself in this role until I got going, and then it just all came flowing out as if it had been sitting in my mind all along. Now I feel empowered in my position, proud of my everyday work and I love what I do. It has taught me to be patient and flexible. Every day is different and you have no idea what restriction or rule is around the corner. We have to adapt and think on our feet in an ever-changing climate. I have become much stronger willed. Getting a business up and running is tricky, it’s not always going to run smoothly, and throw COVID into that, I was dealing with my fair share of hurdles to jump through. I had to learn to not let these hurdles affect my confidence or my decision making. I had to accept what was happening and move forward.
Do you have any predictions for trends in the travel-industry post-COVID?
Historically, there is normally a big spike in travel after a prolonged period of forced rest. I know so many people who are itching to travel as soon as they are allowed. We are lucky to be in rural BC, and we have seen most people choosing to travel to rural areas over urban areas since the pandemic started. I hope that even when people can travel within the province we will see a boost in tourism within our community. So many local businesses and attractions count on the tourism industry to survive. Hopefully, when it is safe, we can welcome people into our communities with open arms. We are on the precipice of a large travel boom and Stay Revy are ready and waiting.
What advice would you give to someone interested in learning more about getting into this industry?
Look at industry leaders and how they are conducting business. I’m constantly looking at Airbnb and VRBO for information and to see how they are setting standards in the industry and then ensuring I’m aligned with those industry standards. There are so many webinars, blogs and interviews that you can look through to learn more about the industry you are getting into. It is important to utilize resources like these when you start out so you can learn while moving forward with your business.
What advice do you have for women who are thinking about starting a business in an industry that has been hit hard by the pandemic?
The best piece of advice I could give anyone is to find a mentor. I would not be where I am today without my mentor. I have been empowered by my mentor and feel like I have had a crash course in business by working with them. There are so many people out there willing to help businesses that are starting out. I would even look for someone who is in a similar industry and could give you insight into how you could position your company within the industry during this time.
What’s the next challenge you’re tackling?
We continue to face the challenge of the pandemic every day and are looking forward to when we can get back to usual travel. In the meantime, we continue to try and expand the company, gaining new properties and planning some exciting new ideas for the future. Now I know what Stay Revy can achieve, I get excited when I see a challenge. It just means that we are growing as a company, and I am growing as an entrepreneur.