CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN…. Makes sure you space is Clean. I cannot stress that enough. Have a routine where every surface is wiped down at the very least whether it needs it or not between each stay. I recommend that a new host cleans their Airbnb for at least the first 3 months so they understand what needs to be done so when they do decide to hire someone, they can be very clear with what needs to be done between each stay.

Many people dream of becoming an Airbnb host but don’t know where to start. In this series called “5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host” we are interviewing successful Airbnb hosts who share lessons from their experience about how to run a very successful Airbnb property. As part of this series I had the pleasure of interviewing AC Reeves.

AC Reeves is an Artist, Wife, Mother, Yoga Instructor, Ex-Realtor, Community Developer, Airbnb Super Host and especially a LOVER of Selma AL.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?

Hello Fotis! Thank you So much for this opportunity.

So here’s my quick backstory.

I am a “recovering helicopter mom” who moved to Selma Alabama 23 years ago with my husband Allen Reeves who is a native of Selma and our two daughters Lizzie and Anne Smith (toddler and 6 month old). I was not Happy about the move. I came ‘Kicking and Screaming” using foul language and saying how I was “NOT Happy about this and Nothing will MAKE ME HAPPY”. I came here to my Beloved Adopted Hometown with the Worst attitude.

BUT Quickly I fell in Love with this place.

I am an Artist and see Selma in ALL her Abundance. I also come from researchers and educators so unknowingly I have been in the middle of a 20 plus year independent study of Selma. And just to be clear, I am only on the 3rd layer of this “12 layer cake” I call home. Selma is a Very Complex Place on So MANY MANY MANY Levels.

SO, Being a recovering Helicopter Mom I needed to put that Mama energy somewhere else and got into Real Estate and started learning about community development. Basically, I am a huge busy body.

What led you to first start becoming an Airbnb host?

Learning about community development in a roundabout way brought me to become an AIRBNB HOST. Again, having that researcher (busybody) in me I really delved into what led to a community’s redevelopment. My research showed that one of the biggest components of developing a downtown is having people living downtown. I co-owned a real estate company at the time and from 2011–2017 we renovated 4 historic properties creating 17 lofts and 4 retail/commercial spaces to fill the residential need. On the last renovation I knew I wanted these 5 to 6 lofts to be lodging and not long-term leases. The Woolworth Building is only 2 blocks up from the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Tourist come daily to walk our bridge but at the time we were not offering any lodging downtown. I knew I needed to fill that void. That is how I first found out about Airbnb.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this?

The most interesting story would be back in 2019 when Joan Baez and her band stayed in the lofts. I had just been open less than a year. Joan Baez was starting the last leg of her Fare the Well Tour and she decided that she wanted to start it in Selma.

First, you need to know that when I renovated the Woolworth Building and created the 5 Airbnb’s, Woolworth Lofts, my intention was for small groups to come to Selma and use the lofts as a HUB while they were visiting the area. All 5 lofts are each unique because we followed the floor plan of the existing offices which were created when the building was built in 1908. I always envisioned the groups meeting in Suite B, the largest for meals & to gather as they “unpack” what they may have taken in while visiting Selma and our surrounding areas.

At that point I had not had any small groups rent all the lofts at one time. When I walked up the stairs the morning after their first night, all the doors to each loft were open and the band members were all sitting around the dining room table in Suite B as Joan made them breakfast using the local, eggs, cheese, goats’ milk and vegetables from my friend’s sustainable farm. I actually started crying “This is (sniff sniff) EXACTLY why I created these Airbnb’s”!!! Joan’s stay and the concert she gave us across the street at the Walton Theatre was such an incredible Gift!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I first started hosting, I did not really understand the calendar or maybe I did not trust it. Airbnb does an incredible job handling the calendar for all the lofts. IF I had only looked at the summary of ongoing stays as well as new check in’s I would have been fine, but I was using the calendar and transposing it to another calendar. Well in making things so overly complicated I sent the same check in info to 2 different guests. This sweet couple of middle-aged sisters from England were freaked out beyond belief when a young man used the code, after they were already in bed, to get into their loft! Luckily, they all called me and EVERYONE GOT UPGRADED. The sisters were already upgraded, and I gave them a gift basket of local goodies as my apology and paid for the man to go to dinner on me while I cleaned Suite B for his upgrade. I think I also gave them small prints or paintings I had done as an apology as well. Despite that disaster, they all gave me 5 stars. In my welcome note I tell my guests that I am imperfectly striving for excellence and please let me know how I can do better. Owning your short comings and then striving to make it better speaks to your guests. We are all human trying to do the best we can. I have found if you own when you have messed up and make it right the best way you can, guests are very appreciative.

What are some of the common mistakes you have seen people make when they first start hosting with Airbnb?

So here is the biggest mistakes…..trying to work around Airbnb. Guests at times want to stay longer and pay directly to hosts, or just want go around Airbnb completely. I think that is the biggest mistake a host can make. Airbnb fees are not large at all and for this nominal fee they handle the calendar, taking in the money, paying the lodging taxes and do an incredible job. Things can get very unclear when not following the structures in place.

What are some of the things that can be done to avoid these errors?

Don’t go around AIRBNB, they have created structures that work. Clear boundaries are important when someone is coming to stay in your space be it in your home or properties you own. It is easier to relax both you as the host and your guests when you know the lay of the land and what is expected. It is important not to make things too complex but straight forward. Also, responding quickly to guests is SO important. I have found guests really do not want you all up in the business but want as much info at their fingertips as they can have. I leave a printed welcome note with info like wifi, where the thermostat is etc, and I also have chalk board painted tables so I can leave a specific welcome message for them. I give them my cell and ask them to text with any questions since that is the quickest way to reach me. But I always use the structures Airbnb has put in place.

Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the Airbnb experience? In your opinion, what makes you different from the rest?

What makes me different? I think it is my LOVE of Selma Alabama. Selma is holding on to a very, important, WORLD CHANGING Story for Humanity. It is when Humanity showed it’s very best and it’s very worst. It is a Good Friday Moment. We are a community defined by Systemic Hatred…..It is a LOT for a small community to hold. But we do hold it for you and the rest of the world and because of that Selma is about 20 years ahead of the rest of the country, because we are IN IT!!! There are no discussions we can really opt out of. We are a Family, a dysfunction one admittedly, but a family. We KNOW each other, and some have for generations. We are ALL UP IN EACH OTHERS GRILL and we are STILL trying to figure this all out. And we are so close, I feel like we are about to bust open like a “can of biscuits”!

People were coming to Selma to Walk our Bridge and have their catharsis especially after the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday compounded with the opening of Ava Durvernay’s movie SELMA. These visitors were coming in bus loads and needed Sanctuary where they could process all that they had encountered while visiting. So I began a mission to create sanctuary in Selma, Alabama while offering them a different view of this community I love….Seeing Her thru my lens.

My ability to create SANCTUARY is what makes me different. My lofts are not just nice clean places to sleep, which they are, but they are filled with LOVE. I was there for every step of the renovation sometimes working along with the crew.. For the first 2 years I personally cleaned each loft while sending love to each new guest before they arrived with each sweep of the floor, each swish of the toilet brush. This cleaning became my spiritual practice as I prayed that each guest found exactly what they needed while staying at Woolworth Lofts. I filled each space with local art. One of my favorite artists who displays in the lofts is Charlie “Tin Man” Lucas. Charlie is self-taught artist who is internationally known and was part of a show at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC. His studio is just a couple of blocks from the lofts. I have books on local and regional artists like Charlie as well as collections of books about Selma’s history, the Black Belt of Alabama as well as books written by local authors. ‘Before” photos of each loft are displayed so the guests can see the buildings transformation. I have lemongrass essential oil diffusing in the hallway and in each loft. By each bed is a sound machine to make for a great night sleep. I have even snuck in selenite crystals which are supposed to cleanse the energy of a space. I will use any JUJU I can find to create this since of sanctuary. I also created a tourism app and website. The app currently has 3 self-guided audio walking tours with an interactive map to help my guests “way find” around Selma. My intention for the platform is to allow Selmian’s to tell their Selma Story through a walking or windshield tour with that person getting paid each time their tour is downloaded. Letting our guests see Selma thru many local’s lens is my goal. Currently the 3 tours are from the lens of a 55 year old white woman who has been loving up on this place for the last 20 plus years, aka ME.

Wonderful. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share “5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host”? Please share a story or example for each.

CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN…. Makes sure you space is Clean. I cannot stress that enough. Have a routine where every surface is wiped down at the very least whether it needs it or not between each stay. I recommend that a new host cleans their Airbnb for at least the first 3 months so they understand what needs to be done so when they do decide to hire someone, they can be very clear with what needs to be done between each stay.

BE CLEAR Be clear in all things from check in to check out. Make sure your instructions are on the Airbnb App and are updated regularly. If you have a lockbox, have a photo on how it opens. If you are leaving keys in the lock of the door send of photo of that. Do NOT make it complex but be SO thorough that you guests do not need you. A perfect example was my lockbox. Even though I had written instruction on how to open the lockbox, it was not until I had a photo showing it open that I stopped getting calls from frustrated guests saying they could not open the lockbox. Also, give out your cell phone number and ask guests not to hesitate to contact you with any questions, so if something is not clear, you can make it so quickly.

PROVIDE WHAT YOU WOULD WANT IF YOU WERE GUEST Provide a space as well as amenities that you would want. IF you provide a kitchen have it stocked with pots & pans, cooking utensils, plates, glasses, eating utensils etc…Have a way your guests can make coffee and provide the coffee with sugar and sweetener. Have the type of sheets you like to sleep on. Have plenty of towels with your guest having access to your linen closet to get more if needed. Have plenty of toilet paper, paper towels as well as dishtowels. In the beginning I did not have the funds to fill the lofts exactly as I wanted so I would always ask the guests how could I host better? Was there something you didn’t have that you needed? As they told me I started to add more things. I still want to add more things, it is a work in progress and probably will always be.

HIGHLIGHT YOUR TOWN IN YOUR LOFT AND COLLABORATE WITH OTHER AIRBNBS IN YOUR AREA As I said in one of the early questions I fill each of my lofts with local art, local books, give information about local stores, museums, and any “insider” info I can provide. In my experience most Airbnb guests want to know more about your community even if they are staying for just one night. I believe this very thing has led to so many return visits, because what they have found in the lofts piques their curiosity and they want to take a closer look. Go to local business owners and merchants and ask if they would like to put something in your Airbnb that could promote their business.

Find other Airbnbs in your area and collaborate with them. We are not in competition with each other, we all offer incredibly unique experiences to our guests. If you have a good collaborating relationship with other Airbnb Hosts, they will send you business when they are filled up and you will do the same, it is what we call a Win Win. I live in the Black Belt Region of Alabama. Since the beginning I have been working with other Airbnb Hosts from surrounding towns with our collective intention of moving our guests throughout our region, which BLESSES EVERYONE Hosts, Guests and our Communities!

BE YOUR AUTHENITIC SELF Let your space reflect who you are and what you are wanting to put out to the world. IT is time for us to start showing up and stop hiding. We are moving in a new direction as a human family, and part of that is being willing to Show Up. With an Airbnb you have a vehicle to Show up, in how you decorate, what you provide your guests, notes you may leave them. It is time for us to all lean into one another and this is a way for you to lean in. I REALLY LEAN IN, and my guests seem to appreciate it. They leave me lovely notes, become my dearest FB friends, and follow me on Instagram. Hosting an Airbnb is not a sterile, cookie cutter experience and my Airbnb Guests are leaning in too. We can come from different places but when we all lean in we find commonalities and for a moment we realize that yes we are in fact all ONE, members of this Human Family.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

YOU ARE A TRAVEL INSIDER… My favorite travel experience is staying at the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi in Santa Fe New Mexico. It is small and intimate boutique hotel with a restaurant and bar on the first floor and other nice cozy shared space like the library. There is the most knowledgeable concierge who seems to know all the surrounding areas and he always is ready to help me map out my day no matter if my goals are shopping, art, museums, hiking, or off the beaten path treasures. No one is in ever in my personal space unless I am asking for something and yet they still provide such excellent customer service that you can relax and enjoy your stay knowing that they are there to help you with whatever you need. There are adobe fireplaces in each room and when I come upstairs to the room after a long day of whatever I have gotten up to, the fire is lit, my bed is turned down and I just exhale with the yumminess of the being so cared for, so nurtured….Sanctuary

Can you share with our readers how you’ve used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I have 3 goals they are:

  1. Create Prosperity.
  2. Help Heal my City.

Not too big of challenge, is it? But really these are my intentions. Right now, we are a country torn apart, more apart then ever in my memorable history, but I see it more as if we are Opening Up. As we have all been on this collective “Covid Time Out” we are having to come to grips with systems that do not work for ALL THE PEOPLE and never have. In Selma, we know that because we have already been Broken Open. Like I said before we are holding on to an important story for the rest of the world, so we literally wake up every day with on our shoulders. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about Systemic Racism and how we can dismantle it..

I think my role is to give Sanctuary to my guests while walking the fine line of not allowing them to discharge their pain on Selma. What sometimes happens is that guests come to Selma, after being in Montgomery maybe or Birmingham and have seen what atrocities occurred during the Civil and Voting Rights. I have watched guests and visitors who literally cannot take IN any more of this pain and shut down. It is like I can see them checking off boxes in their mind saying to themselves,

“Wow this is rough… am I a part of this system that allowed these crimes against humanity to happen…..Wait……No I am NOT part of this problem…..these people down here are awful…..I have done my Pilgrimage and it was HARD…..OK, now I am going home to my gated community and having a much deserved drink, that was HARD”

But here’s the deal We are ALL part of this problem because we are ALL part of this System of Systemic Racism. We are all human beings of equal value, no one’s value is more and no one’s value is less. We as human beings have the capacity to do incredibly, beautiful, wonderful things and we have that same capacity to do the most horrendous things. We all, every one of us, needs to own this truth. What I know for sure is all of this is SO COMPLEX for us to completely figure it all out, but what is not complex is seeing the person in front of you with LOVE knowing that this person as a human being just like you. That is not complex, SIMPLE AS YOU GET but does not mean it is easy.

By creating sanctuary for my guests, I let them see Selma from a different view, open their eyes up to the beautiful architecture they are experiencing, the art all around them created by someone living in town, books about the region, the history, the people, and then they start seeing Selma as a 3 dimensional community and not just a time capsule to one very important painful day.

Selma is SO much MORE and her people are so very precious. Her people, me included are Broken, Funny, Scared, Crazy, Salt of the Earth, Assholes, aka Human Beings just like everyone else, we are just human beings living in the shadow of the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

When my guests start really SEEING Selma and HEARING her people, they Fall in LOVE HER! And here’s the deal. Love is the only thing that works, we have tried hate it has NEVER WORKED, Love is the answer. And when Selma is LOVED and not Shamed, She will Heal, and when She Heals SHE WILL CHANGE THE WORLD AGAIN….and thru Airbnb I am literally watching the healing take place with each guest I host.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Baby, the Movement is already rolling! I believe Selma is going to be the Epicenter for healing for our country, because we are healing. 3 years ago, my 5 lofts were the only lodging downtown, since then we now have over 30 Airbnbs and yesterday the ST James Hotel, the oldest river hotel this side of the Mississippi was reopened as Hilton Tapestry Brand. AS we are healing, we are opening more and more. WE are Showing Up, Leaning IN and welcoming our guests so they can really SEE us, really HEAR us. We still have many members of our community who took those beatings for the rest of the world that day on the Edmund Bridge, and they especially need to be seen and heard. We have already lost so many. So, come to Selma and be a part of a movement of LOVE! As one of my heroes, Becca Stevens of Thistle Farms in Nashville says, “LOVE HEALS”. Come see us with Love as your intent and be a apart of movement to change our world for the better and in doing this I promise you will fall in LOVE with us! I know we will LOVE YOU!

How can our readers further follow you on social media?

You can find me on my website as well as Instagram @annecatharinereeves and @woolworthlofts.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

AC Reeves of Woolworth Lofts: 5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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