Interview With Victor "Vick" Okoroji
Describe your product or service:
“We give small businesses and contractors who have services [the ability] to provide direct access to their customers at home. Some of these services may look like nail & beauty, barber & grooming, housekeeping, spa & therapy, food & dining, pet care, and babysitting. All the services that make life easier and add peace to our lives.
We focus on renters in multi-family properties because we believe these customers have the least control over their environment. Our goal is to have their lifestyle (the life they choose) delivered right to their doorstep, the same way DoorDash delivers food. We have been able to partner with apartments, hotels, student living, and assisted living to see this idea of the village helping the village come to fruition. It’s truly a joy to see people get exactly what they need.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“Our Company Values are listed [on the Staybird website]. We also have a mission to spread peace. The effects of the COVID-19 shutdowns go way beyond just business. Today, homes are listed as an unsafe space contributing to a number of new mental and emotional disorders. The number #1 factor in anxiety cases is the overarching to-do list. We just want to help people manage a little better Our team is predominantly African-American and my co-founder is a woman — two of the groups with the highest undiscussed mental disruption. This is personal for us. We have plans to launch a nonprofit in the future to continue to be a voice for social reconstruction.”
How are you funded? I.e. venture capital, angel investors, etc.
“We have raised $35,000 in funding from a few friends and family investors, but we are mostly bootstrapped at this point with personal funding. We are however in the process of raising an additional $250,000 to $3 million to hit our first milestones. $250,000 gets us by for 18 months with minimal development, but $3 million gets the job done and allows for scalability.”
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“We are a ragtag bunch of five entrepreneurs. My co-founder Ashton “Ash” Boudreaux is a first-time female founder with a background in management, human resources, and consumer hospitality. She has always seen the world [as] big but never bigger than herself. Ash is passionate about improving relationships and strengthening families from the inside out. I am the other founder, who is definitely not as cool as she is, but I have a background in sales and consulting for startups.
We have three new partners, Javonte Patrick, Jacoby Green, and Matthew Davis, that come from different backgrounds but are long time friends that launched a commercial cleaning and hospitality company that quickly grew to success with multiple contracts, including one with Concordia University. They will be helping us grow and scale Staybird to what it needs to be.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“I have always wanted to help people — finding the right vehicle has been the challenge. My journey started with sales. Unlike most career salesmen, I really enjoyed building meaningful relationships with my customers, to the point where it became a conflict in the workplace. In sales, you are not taught to actually care about your customer. It’s very transactional. You find a problem and diagnose it. I knew very early on I could not do that forever. So, I went into consulting where I got a chance to be a part of the origin story of many startups and mom-and-pop businesses. That, for me, was very fulfilling. It almost broke me to see customers whose businesses I helped to start completely crumble because of a global pandemic. Staybird was born out of the idea that no one should ever decide what business is essential or not ever again. The only reason they couldn’t stay open was because how can you adapt a brick-and-mortar business that fast to be mobile. I decided to tackle this very hard challenge in helping these businesses evolve and provide mobile services because I don’t know how many of these businesses can survive another shutdown. My mission is solely this: let’s work together, to live together.”
How did you come up with your startup idea? How did you decide to actually act on the idea? What gave you confidence that you were on the right track?
“How we came up with the idea:
December 28, 2020, three friends are gearing up for a weekend away in San Antonio. These three friends are travelers from Houston. Naturally, if one is traveling to a city where they do not live, the individual must consider alternative means of dwelling while away. A few options may present themselves: stay with a friend or a relative, grab a hotel, or book a motel. Today, fortunately through innovation, we now have the industrious, tech-optimized bed and breakfasts (or BnBs). It is odd that BnBs have become widely accepted in our culture, considering that the generation that now swears by BnBs grew up in a time where knocking on a stranger's door was taboo. Funny how the times change.
Technology drives cultural shifts. With the disruption of BnB hosting platforms, the BnB Industry was able to create giants that now hold up 6 million doors that can be rented for a nightly rate [...] BnBs are proving to be more popular than even Mega Hotel franchises. So, why did these three friends have to stay in a hotel? Well, a certain BnB platform, for whatever reason, denied them the ability to book a BnB. The three friends were booking at the last minute and ran into snag after snag until they eventually decided to go with ol’ reliable, a well-known chain that never disappointed. So what happens when there is no crossover between a BnB concept and a full-service hotel (an ol’ reliable)? The punchline to that frustrating night is opportunity. There lied the opportunity to disrupt the industry once again
We were going to build an all-inclusive platform that would allow vacation rentals to look and feel like an upscale Airbnb but power-packed with services that would clearly highlight the difference in experience right from when you walk through the doors.
How we got started:
Like anyone that doesn’t know if they have a good idea or not, I called the first person I knew that was an investor (after doing some research) and asked for their feedback. They told me that I needed to pitch this at Silicon. They immediately put us in contact with the best lawyer they knew, who is still our lawyer today, and that's how we started.
What gave me confidence:
Honestly that first phone call. This gentleman said what I was onto, if done right, could become a billion-dollar opportunity. I had always helped billion-dollar companies grow their business, but I had never been told that what I would set out to create would come anywhere close to a billion. So, that's what I took into every conversation. To the point where I have people asking me to invest before I can even put a business plan together. They saw the vision, they saw the mission and believed in the product. I knew it was only a matter of time before things aligned for me.”
How did you come up with your company name? Did you have other names you considered?
“This is fun. I have always liked compound names, especially with some playful elements. The first name that was very short-lived was HostLemon and then thank goodness the name Staybird popped into my mind. Ash and I started with let's go for something cutesy and then we started to give the name meaning like ‘As people flock like birds, anywhere they go can be a nest.’ We went with the birdhouse because birds honestly have it so easy, and they can fly anywhere and get a nice meal and be on their way. We said ‘what if people could go anywhere in the world and take their lifestyle with them?’ Queue: Lifestyle delivered. We went with blue because the sky was the limit. We had a mission that if successful would change the way people lived and the structure of the economy as we know it.”
What is the greatest challenge you faced in starting your business, and how did you overcome it?
“Our greatest challenge has been fundraising. Since we are an early-stage startup still pre-revenue, finding investors that are willing to take the risk is a challenge, even though we are well into our MVP and proof of concept. We did not let that discourage us. We have found overwhelming support from a lot of the big funds and accelerators, and even some private investors. The biggest challenge internally I would say is balancing time between fundraising and building our product. We wholeheartedly believe we are building what most esteem as a unicorn. We are not naïve. We know everyone says that about their product, but I wouldn't have quit my job and gone all into Staybird (without any revenue at the time and still very much in the idea stage with no implementation) if I did not believe we were building something truly world changing. A lot of our investors have come from people who honestly just loved our concept and would use it as customers when [given] the chance. While we are still not yet at our goal, we have no doubt we will be able to raise the funding needed to build the right software and pay for a lot of the contract help needed to service our areas with the best providers.”
Who is your product or service made for? Who is your target market?
“Staybird is made for three types of users: People who live in a rent-based arrangement like apartments, hotels, Airbnbs, student living communities, assisted living communities, and others. Our clientele here needs access to on-demand services and wants to take more control over their lifestyle. Rolling services into their living arrangements allows them to potentially save money on rent, budget their lifestyle, and take services they love with them on the go. The second user is the real estate partner who wishes to improve their own customer experience through lifestyle-based services without having to "hire" more staff, which can become too costly.”
What's your marketing strategy?
“We have a content-driven marketing plan centered around hospitality and customer service, updates to the service industry, helpful tips, and simply general education on how to elevate your hospitality business. The goal is to build a knowledge base speaking to the quality and standard that customers of today demand in a technological world. On top of that, our brand will stay true to the personalities of our founding team. We will develop collateral that reflects our core values and leverage a grassroots platform to raise awareness for the current state of the market while we spread peace. Our focus will be on the communities we build through social media and email subscribers and add value through blog and video content. We have some unique concepts planned to engage our cities and honestly just have fun while we build this out, but I have to keep that hushed. What I will say is we are planning a huge reveal party for our first official launch, and you won't want to miss it. Stay tuned!”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“We have yet to acquire our first 100 customers. However, we do have a growing network for 14 partners and 30 service providers. While we have gone live, our services have not yet rolled out in any of our segments. When [we] officially launch, we plan to do a ‘gender-reveal’ styled party and we expect between 100 and 150 service jobs in our first two months (which is three to four jobs every other day).”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
- “Services orders per month
- Available jobs per day
- Frequent order type
- Average cost per service
- # of local providers in network
- # of partners in network
- # of service requests per month
- Order accuracy (reviews), customer success
- On-time deliveries
- Response time from provider to accept jobs
- Average delivery time
- Distance from provider to the customer
- Customer rating of provider
- Customer rating of service
- Customer rating of Staybird
- # of services available
- # of service categories
- # of pre-sign ups for other cities”
What's your favorite book on entrepreneurship?
“‘The Entrepreneur Rollercoaster’ — This is a hard one for me because I read a lot of books on entrepreneurs and biographies, but I love this book because it basically tells you the exact journey of an entrepreneur so there are no surprises to what it will take. One of my mentors said when you can get to a place where nothing surprises you anymore, you'll be emotionally strong enough to stand the test of being an entrepreneur. I always recommend my current reads or relevant reads based on the conversation, but for every new entrepreneur, this is the go-to. If you have not read this book, READ IT. It's like operating in hindsight.”
What is your favorite startup or business podcast?
“‘How I Built This’ by Guy Raz — It's a Q&A with some of the most successful founders and how they got started. There is a lot of real talk, and it's inspiring and insightful.”
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“This did not surprise me, but not everyone will be excited that you are doing something that excites you. I have lost a lot of friends to entrepreneurship and it's honestly bittersweet. I have learned why people feel the way they do, but I do not think anything really prepares you for entrepreneurship. It can be lonely at times. But, you have to persevere. I am also happy in a way that I got to see the true colors of people (including family) as I started down this path. It forced me to dive deep and answer a lot of hard questions, but in the end, I had a deeper self love for myself. I have made so many beautiful friendships along the way despite all of that. This one phrase is true: You will have people come into your life for a season or a reason. Don't be sad about seasonal relationships. Cherish what you do have and stay true to who you are. Building a company is hard work and heart work. No matter how mentally prepared you are, startups will test your emotional limits.”
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
“I can't say there is really a balance but this what I can say: I am recently married and if I went all in completely with Staybird, I wouldn't have a wife for very long. And if I went all in with my wife and she was the center of my universe I would disappoint a lot of people and never live up to what I believe purpose is. My wife and I agree that there is a time for everything. I devote A LOT of my life, time and energy to Staybird but when I am with family or when I am working out or when I am with friends, I give 100% then also. I have not found a balance, but I do segment my life. I believe I have a mission that is greater than me, so it's a huge responsibility. If I can be transparent, my mind is always thinking of ‘what else’ do I need to do to improve the lives of those around me. How I manage is I just focus (and really focus, I am very intentional) on what is right in front of me.”
How do you stay motivated?
“Focusing on others. Left to my own accord, I would be lazy, but when I think about what other people are going through, everything that needs to be done that isn't, or just the lack of peace or hope out there — I figure no matter what I do, as long as I keep doing something, things will change, and things will get better. One of my biggest passions is helping others discover who they truly are, and I know that if I give up when things get too hard it may very hinder the next generation. I am big on transparency, so I am not going to say there are not times where things get discouraging. The one thing I know is my intentions are pure and my actions line up with that, so I can't really fail unless I quit. That keeps me going. I am in control, even when things are out of my control.”
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
“Waking up earlier, response time, reading more frequently, speaking more concisely (only reason I am elaborating is because I was told to), taking days to do nothing (not often but I think it's important), watching videos to learn new skills, listening to podcasts, following up with people.”
What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur?
“I feel like a proud dad every time something new happens with my company. But, the most profound moment in my career happened years ago when I started my first ecommerce company. I cannot put into words what I felt when I found my first business partner and then when I finally helped my first customer. It's so different than anything, and I don't have kids, but I truly believe it is the same "A-ha" moment when you see something that you created walking and talking. I was proud of myself. I continue to surprise myself the more that I push the envelope and it has led me to believe this: you can truly do whatever you put your mind to ... and if you really do it, I think you will be amazed at what you can do.”
More on Staybird
We were fortunate enough to hear some valuable insights during our interview with Victor "Vick" Okoroji, founder of hospitality startup Staybird that will inspire, motivate, and teach aspiring and established entrepreneurs alike.
If you’re looking to get involved in the startup ecosystem, a great place to begin is supporting new and innovative companies like Staybird — whether by working for a startup or by following them on social media. We asked Victor "Vick" Okoroji, founder of Staybird, to share the most impactful ways to support their startup, and this is what they had to say.