1st Black-Owned Hostel Brand Celebrates Anniversary With Biggest Deal Ever

Deidre Mathis, founder of Wanderstay, speaks on being the first Black-owned Hostel brand owner and her biggest deal for customers yet.

Wanderstay, the first Black-owned U.S. hostel brand, is celebrating the first anniversary of its boutique hotel. Founder Deidre Mathis is celebrating by releasing its biggest deal so that first-time customers can try out the space. 

Curious travelers to Houston will get to stay at one of Wanderstay’s themed rooms, with music, sports, and even safaris as inspiration. Tucked away in the cultural East End neighborhood, Mathis intentionally designed the space to bring fun and excitement back into adult luxury accommodations. 

Guests can enjoy this Black-owned oasis for over 50% of its regular rate, securing a 2-night stay for only $149 plus tax. While the chance to secure this deal ends on April 15, buyers have a year to redeem this never-again offer to participate in Wanderstay’s wanderlust. More information, including the discount code, can be found on Wanderstay’s social media accounts. 

To highlight this new deal, BLACK ENTERPRISE spoke with Mathis in a rapid-fire Q&A about accomplishing her wildest dreams, securing funding, and the community of “hostelers.”

How do we get from a hostel to a hotel? It seems like an entirely different ballgame. 

We opened the hostel in 2018. I made history as the first Black woman to operate and own a hostel in the U.S., but I knew then that I wanted to expand the hospitality brand. As I matured, other travelers did, too, and you realize hostels are mainly great when you are younger. As I got older, I wanted something more upscale that wouldn’t break the bank. So, I created a hotel for what my friends and I were looking for now. 

Please explain your purpose and mission with Wanderstay. Many people hear hostel and think of some negative connotations. How are you combatting and dismantling the narrative? What can make a hostel feel like a five-star experience?

When we first opened, people asked, “Why a hostel, and why Houston?” And I said, “Why not?” Frankly, there were no hostel options. I’m looking at the statistics; Houston has a ton of visitors and events but no options for this type of accommodation. As far as dismantling the stereotype, I haven’t had to do much because our target audience, the hostelers, is looking for us. But I still love introducing it to the Black and brown people who would have never otherwise thought about it. 

How has this experience, as you opened before the COVID-19 pandemic, shaped your business journey? 

We opened at a very unique time. We only had a year and a half in business before the pandemic hit. We just had to really pivot, and we did so very quickly. We’re located two miles from the medical center, so we would accommodate nurses and those visiting family. We always tell people that when it gets tough, think of how you can pivot to save your company. We maintain our brand standards, such as cleanliness and community, and people continue to utilize us. 

Can you explain your insight into gaining capital funds for this venture, especially while this avenue for Black women entrepreneurs is threatened?

So, I fully funded both of my projects through U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, which is a unicorn, right? First, as I have with the hostel, many start-ups use SBA loans, including those who open businesses in specific niche industries. I put myself in the right place at the right time. When I moved to Houston, I started networking, and I met as many people as I could.

In 2016, I entered as many pitch competitions as I could. I did about 18—and I won them all. People started to take notice then. So, when I started looking for money for my business, I had local banks that wanted to support me. With my second location, I picked up the phone and said, “Hey, I’m ready to grow,” the banks said, “OK, let’s do it.” So I tell folks, if you want an SBA loan, get active in your city and tell people what you’re up to. 

What experience have you brought to your visitors? How do you want to impact and shape how Black people travel?

I love how, most days, I sit at the desk and talk to my guests. They’re so proud of me and happy to learn we’re Black-owned. When you give good customer service, it doesn’t matter your skin color, but guests knowing that you look like them makes them even more excited to share your story. We also have many security measures in place to ensure that safety. 

We’re a hotel, but what we’re genuinely offering is a place for community. 

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome to reach this dream? Did it ever feel unobtainable? What do you have to say to fellow Black women with lofty dreams?

Sometimes I think, wow, not only did I have this dream, but I made it come true. Not once, but twice…but I want people to know that this wasn’t easy. I decided in 2014 to open this and worked my butt off for four and a half years. I wasn’t making money or getting any awards. But I was doing the business plans, looking at my finances, and making connections. Four years of getting that done gave me everything I needed when it was time to open finally. 

You are bringing the world to you with Wanderstay. What do you want them to leave with? 

We have so many things that connect us in this world, but I think we all feel lonely and disconnected. When people can look me in the eye and talk, they get something from that. You don’t get that at traditional hotels. I want people to leave Wanderstay feeling like they just left a family or a friend and can’t wait to see them again.