We had the good fortune of connecting with Victoria O’Connell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Victoria, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I was born in the Middle East with an Irish/Maltese background and later lived in Vanuatu which got me hooked early on culture and travel. After University in Edinburgh, I cofounded and helped manage an international e-commerce and real estate company for 20 years but would still always run vacation rentals on the side to supplement income and enable further travel. In 2017 my short-term rental flat was burglarised by a guy who disappeared after, leading me to branch out and start Golightly, with the mission to make travel safer for all women through its private platform. I often felt uncomfortable traveling but it made me realize that even as a host there is too much anonymity in the big sites, and having a connected network of women would help provide the needed trust and safety element going forward.
It was a major challenge launching right into the face of Covid, but Golightly’s mission has resonated with women around the world, our community expanded to 7000 members in over 88 countries since launch in 2020 and whilst its an awesome community of women, they can travel with whomever they wish.
My role is to continue the mission and make sure Golightly holds the lowest fees in the industry as I strongly believe that no woman should have to pay a premium for her safety. Women should also be confident in supplementing their incomes that make up for any gender pay gaps that exist. We plan to support this mission by always keeping a free level and with partnerships who believe in supporting women.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
So, Golightly is the first members-only travel club for women providing a platform to list and rent vacation rentals and home-shares. All members are vetted and connected via the friend-of-a-friend networking effect, providing a safer, more accountable booking platform for women and while only a member within the community can list or book a property, she can travel with whomever she wishes.
Golightly allows you to know your direct connection to your host and guest for accountability and safety, and has features to foster these community connections whilst traveling. Golightly has grown to a global network of women with over 7,000 members in 88 countries.
Having a bad experience renting out my space after having been a Vacation Rental Host for years, whilst taking inspiration from the trust and value communities of women had given me in the past, the idea of an accountable network to both host and travel came to light.
Launching into the face of Covid was an unexpected surprise as travel shut down around the world and we were thrown into the unknown. We were worried that we would lose the momentum and growth we had just gained since the pandemic began, so soon after we had launched but instead of letting it get us down, we focused all our energy on the product and on all the new features inline with our community growth and how travel looks during the pandemic and we ended up seeing huge growth in both members and listings.
Now, as travel slowly recovers, the most exciting part is that the more we grow and expand our community, the more we see the need for Golightly and the excitement for it to open up a world of travel to many who feel more comfortable doing so within a vetted community of women.
And whilst I believe that Golightly launched at a hard time for travel, it was at a huge time for community. This allowed us to support the growth and focus on the community over the past year. We have spent more time listening and built more community features to support their needs and wants. This, in turn has allowed for our community to have the engagement and excitement to support each other, which is so great to see. As hosts they offer exclusive discounts to other Golightly members, and as guests they tend to search on Golightly first when booking a vacation. This trust and loyalty builds the community and we allow networking online by offering profiles and connections between our members as well as the ability to search by industry, allowing members to take online networking offline when they travel.
I think by bringing community back into the travel industry, we allow members to feel that extra sense of accountability and safety, both as hosts and as guests, thus positioning safety and accountability as a driver for the industry once again.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We have just added this feature on our site – our survey of our members showed that the number one thing women look for when planning travel, is the recommendations of others. I have yet to visit Phoenix but it is high on my list as we have properties there and I can’t wait to check out the legendary sunsets!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I LOVE this question, because its so right!
I don’t believe in any way, shape or form that it is just me who would deserve recognition for Golightly but 100% to the team and even moreso to the community behind the mission that drives Golightly. We now have 7000 members in 88 countries since launch last year and I take full inspiration from each and every member of our community and the stories I hear, each emphasizing the need for the business which in turn make it easy for me to commit myself to the mission!