Student Success Stories Northwest
32-Year-Old Opens First Black-Owned Hostel In The U.S.
Deidre Mathis in Forbes
Talk about life goals: 32-year-old Deidre Mathis is a world traveler, an author and the first person to open a black-owned hostel in the United States.
“It’s been exciting to see my vision come to life,” says the entrepreneur, who is the force behind Wanderstay Hotels, a Houston-based hostel concept that she is planning to roll out to other locations.
After hatching the idea a mere two years ago, Mathis set to work creating the first property, which opened in August 2018 with a bright color scheme and coworking spaces for busy travelers. She was inspired by an experience she had at a hostel in Greece. “I’m a big solo traveler,” says Mathis. “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.”
When she moved to Houston, she said to herself, “There’s a market here for that.” According to Mathis, there are over 400 hostels in the U.S., and collectively they earned more than $17 million in 2016. “It’s a profitable industry,” she says. “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.” And if there’s anyone who knows something about handling money, it’s Mathis. She is the author of the book, Wanderlust: For the Young, Broke Professional, which she wrote after taking a post-graduation gap year. “I only had about $12,000 and I had to budget that money the best way possible,” she says. “And that money lasted me for about a year and a half.”
When creating Wanderstay, Mathis raised capital in a variety of ways. In addition to getting a small business loan, she ran an Indiegogo campaign that helped get the Houston community excited about the project — and brought in more than $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 says.
Mathis says she is excited to have the opportunity to offer international and domestic travelers a place where they can come together and have an instant community. “This is not a backpacker spot,” says Mathis. “This is a place for the young traveler on the go who is looking for somewhere nice to stay but doesn’t want to spend all their money on accommodations or be uncomfortable or unsafe.”
What makes Mathis most proud? “The fact that I had this goal and dream, and the fact that I made it come true two years after I had the vision — that’s almost unheard of. 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.”
When it comes to advising other entrepreneurs who want to take on a similarly ambitious project, Mathis warns that it’s not easy. she says. “You have to get funded, you have to buy a building, you have to go through contractors, you have to find an interior designer, you have to hire people, you have to come up with an HR plan. It is a lot.”