How 2 friends turned an Airbnb Experience into a 6-figure business

  • Friends and business companions Manville Chan and Jeff Parsons started internet hosting ramen-making courses in San Francisco to earn cash whereas Chan seemed for a new job in tech.
  • After beginning to share their programs on Airbnb Experience, Chan and Parsons have scaled their business and now obtain nearly all of their bookings by means of their very own web site. 
  • They run two to 4 courses day by day, together with most weekends, in a house they bought from a former barbeque restaurant.
  • Chan estimated that his full-time business brings in $60,000 to $100,000 in income per thirty days.
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Manville Chan and Jeff Parsons began internet hosting Italian dinners on culinary expertise platform EatWith whereas dwelling in Texas in 2014. At the time they pursued this aspect gig, Chan labored as a product supervisor at a small tech agency and Parsons labored in communications.

“With EatWith, I had three-course/five-course inventive Italian dinners. Both included pasta as one of the courses,” Chan mentioned. “I’ve always loved to cook and have always been passionate about Italian food, especially pasta.”

After Chan was laid off as a part of a collection of job cuts, he moved to San Francisco in December 2017 in quest of a new job. “I thought, San Francisco is where the tech jobs are, so I’ll look there,” Chan mentioned. Around the identical time, Parsons’ firm relocated him to San Francisco to supervise West Coast operations of the agency.

Chan did not have many connections within the space, so he and Parsons determined to proceed to host a cooking class in order that Chan may “get by” whereas out of a job. 

Manville Chan shows his class how to prepare ramen noodles for The Story of Ramen in SF

Manville Chan reveals his class how you can put together ramen noodles.

The Story of Ramen

However, as a substitute of pasta, they determined to host a ramen-making tutorial.

“Switching to ramen was an idea that I first came up with in January 2017. At the time, I realized that ‘just serving dinner’ does not provide value added to customers to demand a higher price for a small-scale operation. So I came up with some cooking ideas. Ramen was one of them, and it took off,” Chan mentioned.

He and Parsons arrange the ramen cooking class as an Airbnb Experience in Chan’s San Francisco condo. The expertise grew to become so standard that, in July 2018, Chan determined to desert his seek for a full-time tech job in San Francisco and tackle the challenge full-time. He expanded the business past Airbnb and named it The Story of Ramen. Individuals can guide the category by means of the business’s web site or by means of Airbnb.

“When we started, neither Jeff nor I were professionally trained in ramen making,” Chan mentioned. “No one complained, but since then, we did go to a ramen school to become trained.”

Airbnb Experiences are actions coordinated and led by “local hosts” across the globe. They embody every little thing from cooking courses, like Chan and Parsons’ expertise, to photograph shoots throughout New York City. They will be a good avenue for small business homeowners like Chan as a result of Airbnb supplies promoting for the courses supplied by means of its web site. Experiences can even supply full-time workers an alternative to begin and develop a aspect gig.

Initially, Chan acquired 64% of his bookings by means of Airbnb. Now that his class is extra well-known in San Francisco, he receives nearly all of them by means of his firm’s web site. His class stays on Airbnb, and he receives many bookings from folks visiting the realm by means of the platform, he mentioned. Chan acts because the chief expertise officer of The Story of Ramen, and Parsons because the chief advertising and marketing officer.

“We applied to do the Airbnb Experience soon after the experience platform launched, so the application was quite simple,” Chan instructed Business Insider. The software requested for a description of the expertise he needed to host, he recalled, and for his credentials.

In his software, he described the pasta dinners he’d hosted in Texas by means of EatWith and linked to evaluations of the category. Within about 4 weeks of making use of, he and Parsons acquired a quick interview with Airbnb. 

“The interview was about 20 minutes and informal,” Parsons mentioned. “They wanted to hear more about our expertise and what we offered that was unique.”

Airbnb accepted the expertise roughly three to 5 weeks after the interview. Chan famous that, on the time, the “Airbnb Experience team was very small and they were short staffed in processing applications.” Since then, he mentioned, the workforce has grown.

Parsons and Chan began internet hosting the ramen courses in Chan’s condo, which may solely match 10 to 12 folks. Wanting to maneuver the expertise exterior of Chan’s private house, they finally started renting one other condo in San Francisco to host the category. But when landlords discovered concerning the expertise, they needed to arrange store elsewhere — repeatedly and once more.

“People kept asking the neighbors where the experience was, and eventually some of them reported it to the building, and we could no longer run it there,” Chan mentioned. “We have rented out a lot of pop-up spaces around the city, but the landlords would often find out.”

A yr and a half in the past, Chan and Parsons moved into their present location, a former barbeque restaurant. Including the leftover gear, they spent $150,000 to signal the lease. In June 2019, Chan saved up sufficient to purchase the house and now owns it with a mortgage. 

Chan and Parsons run wherever from two to 4 ramen-making experiences virtually day by day of the week. Each class lasts roughly two hours and usually contains 24 folks. Some of those people guide by means of Airbnb Experience, the place the category is priced at $60 per individual, and others guide by means of Chan’s web site, the place the category is listed at $55 per individual. Airbnb takes a 20% minimize for every reserving made by means of their platform.

“When guests come in, we immediately serve them potstickers as appetizers,” Chan mentioned. “Then they wash their hands and we talk a little bit about the background of ramen and the ingredients that we use. Then we start making noodles from scratch, and after that, we go into the kitchen and cook the noodles.”

One participant at The Story of Ramen in SF prepares the noodles for her ramen dish

One participant prepares the noodles for her ramen dish.

The Story of Ramen

Chan emphasised that folks typically join these kind of experiences with friends or as a group, so to make sure friends have time to bond, they finish with a mochi dessert. He additionally makes the category extremely customizable by means of his web site. “If someone has a birthday, they can tell us online in advance and we can serve birthday cake at the end,” Chan mentioned. 

“We think the business that we do is the future of dining in creating an experience around food,” Parsons shared. ” We don’t look at ourselves as a cooking class or a traditional restaurant. We are right in the middle, where we want you to have an experience around the food you are eating, and in our case, we’re going to teach you how to make the ramen.” 

Chan and Parsons presently run ads for his or her web site on Yelp. Besides these adverts, they depend on phrase of mouth, Airbnb, and SEO to maintain their expertise booked.

“We put all of the information on the help page,” Chan mentioned. “We have our gluten-free policy, our policy on bringing pets, our policy on children, and so on. The more information you have, the more people you pick up with Google, so that’s how we increase our reach.”

Chan mentioned after they first began, their purchasers have been largely metropolis guests or locals in search of a new expertise. Now, 70% of their business is from company groups in San Francisco, like Uber and Lyft, who’re in search of some workforce bonding.

“A lot of companies tell me they don’t have to just pick a restaurant or a bar for the team bonding because everyone will just eat and drink,” Chan mentioned. “They want something more engaging. Making noodles and working as a team is interactive and engaging.” 

For these company bookings, they typically cost as a lot as $75 per individual or $115 for an prolonged four-hour class, which is cheaper than most different cooking courses, he added. 

Chan estimates that the business brings in $60,000 to $100,000 in income per thirty days, relying on what number of courses he runs in a given month. Some of this income additionally comes from reward playing cards bought on his web site, particularly across the holidays.

“In December, gift cards were 20% of our total revenue. We sold $21,000 worth of gift cards that month,” Chan mentioned. 

Monthly prices — which embody the mortgage, updating gear, and shopping for meals — fall between $40,000 and $50,000, in keeping with Chan; for an particular person class, he estimated the worth of meals per individual to be $7.

For these seeking to open their very own experiences on Airbnb, Chan recommended scaling the business early. “I have met with a lot of Airbnb hosts with amazing reviews, but some say they can only have six people per class. That makes it hard to make it your full-time job,” Chan mentioned.

Parsons advisable sustaining a “good reputation.” Once that’s achieved, he recommended taking a danger and “scaling the operations up.” 

“This could be done by hiring temp staff and renting pop-up locations,” he mentioned. “Also, keep thinking how to get a bigger group to join rather than individuals. In our case, we found corporate team building business as our sweet spot.”

As The Story of Ramen grows extra, Chan and Parsons are hoping to step away from educating and deal with constructing franchises exterior of San Francisco. “But it’s not easy to find someone on the street who can teach ramen, so we are still teaching now,” Chan mentioned.

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