For 15 years, Mr & Mrs Smith has been guiding discerning travellers to the world’s most special places to stay. With the campaign already overfunding, we asked co-founder Tamara Lohan how they got here and what they’re raising for.
Who are Mr & Mrs Smith?
Quite simply, they are every couple that has ever snuck away for a stay in a special hotel. In the beginning, when we were setting out to publish our first guidebook to the most romantic and individual hotels in the UK, we needed a name that would capture imaginations, perhaps raise an eyebrow or two. We chose Mr & Mrs Smith.
Fifteen years on, the business has grown enormously in scale and scope. Today, Mr & Mrs Smith aren’t only slipping away for a weekend alone time in the countryside; they are celebrating honeymoons, anniversaries and birthdays, going on family holidays by the sea, booking villa breaks in the Caribbean and insider cultural experiences in the world’s great cities. And they all want the reassurance of knowing the place they are going is above and beyond the norm. There are now more than 1.5 million Mr and Mrs Smiths around the world – all using mrandmrssmith.com and Smith24 (our 24/7 team of global travel specialists) to find and book their perfect stay.
What were you doing before you founded Mr & Mrs Smith and what inspired you to set it up?
After several years working in the data side of brand and agency marketing, I realised that I would much rather work for myself than anyone else. My husband (then my boyfriend) James came to the same conclusion even sooner – I don’t think he’s ever worked for anyone else. He was running an events company when we met; I was helping my entrepreneur mother run her dating agency. So we both had a strong drive to go out on our own and create something; we just didn’t know what.
The answer came to us in 2002 after one too many disastrous weekends away. Our relationship was in its early stages, and James was still trying to impress me with hotel trips. The trouble was, the guidebooks kept sending us to duds. There simply wasn’t a guide on the market that told us the kind of things we wanted to know about the kind of places we wanted to go; that offered a curated collection of the best places to stay; gave you the insider low-down on what to do while you were there; or had a distinct and relatable human voice behind it.
We came home with a determination to fill that gap in the market and a back-of-a-beermat list of how we’d do it. A year later, the book became a bestseller; my boyfriend became my husband and business partner; and, over the last 15 years, Mr & Mrs Smith has become one of the most successful travel brands in the UK.
Why crowdfund when you’re a profitable company with a 15-year history?
It’s true, we’re not what you would consider a start-up, and we could easily continue turning a profit and growing steadily, but we’ve identified an opportunity to accelerate growth in a number of areas of the company that we believe will take us from ‘home-grown British success story’ to leading global travel business, without compromising the quality on which we’ve built our reputation. These include building on our strong foundations in the US (our fastest-growing region, bookings wise), accelerating the rate at which we can introduce new hotels and villas to the collection, and developing an acquisition we made earlier this year – SideStory – to introduce insider-led cultural experiences in global cities to our product portfolio.
We could have gone down the conventional investment route, but part of our success has always been down to our strong relationships with our members and how much they have supported us as we’ve grown – that’s why they were our first port of call when we raised money via a retail bond five years ago. This time, we wanted to give them the opportunity to acquire equity in Smith – to make it personal, so to speak – as well as to bring in new investors to become members and advocates of our business. Crowdcube is the perfect platform to do that. And, looking at how much we’ve raised already, it has definitely been the right choice!
The travel sector is highly competitive, what does Mr & Mrs Smith offer that’s unique?
There are plenty of prominent and highly successful players in the travel sector, especially online. We know we can’t compete with them in terms of choice or booking volume, and we’d never try. Where we can – and do – compete is at the level of curation, service and membership. No one else is offering the balanced high-tech, high-touch model we’ve built our business on: every hotel and villa personally visited and tastemaker reviewed; efficient online booking and round-the-clock personal support from a team of genuinely knowledgeable specialists; a very real sense of being in a club of like-minded travellers – ‘the travel club for hotel lovers’, as we call it. This combined offering is unique to Mr & Mrs Smith.
What are the most important things you’ve learned as a business owner?
- Get the right people – and keep them.
- Listen to your customers – establish two-way communication channels and act on what you learn.
- Continue investing in technology – it drives or touches every project.
- Adapt – the market is always moving; tech is always evolving, and you have to adapt to stay ahead. It’s entirely possible to find yourself running a different business to the one you started with – we certainly did.
Find out more about Mr & Mrs Smith and invest by visiting their pitch page.
Investments of this nature carry risks to your capital. Please Invest Aware.