Q + A

the voice of lauren richardson

Our relationship with our homes and the structures that surround us has changed in insurmountable ways. Stay-at-home orders and remote work policies are forcing communities to further understand the importance of design in both the home and local environments.

Because of this shift, the population is also beginning to re-think the way they travel. Weekend getaways have extended to week-long stays. Hotel reservations are pushed aside for more home-like accommodations. As long as there is a reliable WiFi connection, travelers are opting to work remotely from anywhere in the world.

Lauren Richardson, Founder of The Sursy, recognized this shift in hospitality prior to stay-at-home orders. By offering carefully curated, shoppable home share spaces, Lauren’s team merges the need for an elevated, home-like stay with the desire to connect to the local community for design-led accommodations that create a sense of space.

What’s your story? 

I’m originally from North Carolina. After graduating from the University of Georgia with an English Literature degree — the humanities are alive and well, people! —  I moved to Texas and worked for a tech startup doing social media marketing for small businesses.

My dad is an entrepreneur and small business owner himself, so between my upbringing and this first real-world career experience, it’s no wonder I have such a strong passion for supporting local. After a number of years helping to grow the product and lead the account team in Austin, I took a leap and moved to San Francisco to pivot into a role at an experiential marketing agency.

I worked to produce trade shows and events across the country, designing strategic partnerships on behalf of Fortune500 brands to help them best reach and engage with their target consumer. I made a personal move to Denver in late 2017, where I now live with my fiancé, Stepen, and our pup, Cooper. After years of dreaming, I founded The Sursy in 2018.

To what do you attribute your success?

Success is earned through grit and gumption. A coworker-turned-friend that I met early on in my career (hey, Jessica!) and I frequently discussed this combination of positivity, perseverance, and passion being the core of success.

Really, sometimes you “win” simply because you stuck it out the longest; if you keep an eye on the endgame and stay resourceful while being willing to put in the work, it’s crazy what you can achieve. Also, especially early on in the entrepreneurship journey, a bit of naivety towards all that could go wrong helps keep discouragement at bay. You just don’t know what you don’t know, and I like to remember that can be an asset.

In what ways do you manage a work/life balance?

I don’t. Ha! I do have balance from my perspective, but likely not the same as the work / life balance 95% of people would consider sane. I like to work, and I think it’s a real privilege to be able earn a living doing work I genuinely love and that feels rewarding.

That said, I am known to take a spontaneous off-the-grid road trip or day off. On days where I am feeling particularly “not in creative flow,” I will lean into that and, even if it’s in the middle of the traditional work week, I will pause to go on a long walk, listen to a podcast, call my family and friends to chat, or do something crafty to clear my brain. These mental health days are super important and perhaps my approach to balancing it all, because, in my case, work and life are so blurred…and I like it that way. 

How did you know there was a gap between short-term rental owners and thoughtful design?

It’s gotten better and better over the past few years as far as what premium inventory is available on short-term rental sites like Airbnb — especially with their Plus, Luxe and Business listing classification additions. But when I was traveling a ton in the early days of home sharing, there was no consistency or design focus in the majority of spaces available.

It was people renting out a spare bedroom in their home or garage apartment with no thought towards any level of hospitality or design or experience. It was obvious to me after my first Airbnb booking in the “aughts and tens” era that there was an opportunity to fuse the quality of name brand hotels with the authenticity of a home share in a way that was design-led and locally-focused.

In what simple ways can a home transform into an inviting space for hospitality?

One of my industry idols Liz Lambert, Founder of Bunkhouse Group, has talked a lot about using design to create a sense of place, and I love that expression. A home can become inviting through design, with personal style being applied in a way that feels new and fresh to those visiting.

That’s the fun of traveling and staying in new places; you get to see and experience things in a new way from someone else’s perspective. A home has a sense of place through the textiles, decor, and furnishings used throughout the space — even scents and tchotchkes throughout — all which reflect and are unique to the owner. Design to me — whether for a home or for a hospitality destination — has the ability to form a very neat relationship between people and spatial settings.

An unexpected pandemic has completely re-informed the hospitality market. How have you pivoted The Sursy to accommodate the current needs of the modern traveler?

While no business is recession-proof (much less global pandemic proof), The Sursy’s multidimensional business model has always been set up to cater to the modern traveler and consumer in a way that I think resonates now more than ever. We’re not just talking about creating a destination for those visiting Colorado, but for those that live here full time.

The staycation trend has been on the up and up for years. Remote work had become commonplace at companies large and small even before COVID hit, so creating a space that feels welcoming for one night or thirty — or even for an hour or an evening — feels appropriate and dare I say: needed.

I think the pandemic, even with the sh*tstorm it has brought to the hospitality industry in particular, will wind up being a time to learn and thrive from. It brings people back to the basics, reinvesting in their local communities in a way that elevates and supports those around us. It may sound lofty, but I believe people will gather again, and my hope is that The Sursy becomes a destination that meets people where they are and stays rooted in community through the pandemic and for all the years ahead.

What can artists gain from having both a presence within short-term rentals and on The Sursy’s ecommerce site?

The Sursy’s shoppable spaces offer dwell time with consumers that no other traditional brick and mortar shop can, and as a small, local online retailer, we take pride in promoting products on behalf of the artists and makers we partner with. Guests of our shoppable Airbnbs are living with the locally made art, furniture and decor for days on end — an average of a 10-night stay amidst COVID times! — which is the epitome of a low-key, no pressure sales environment.

A sursy is a southern slang term for a souvenir, so the biggest benefit of our retail-meets-hospitality model for artists, makers, and creatives is that we’re providing a space where guests can experience a “living gallery” of their work; we’re bringing the old-school gift shop to the customer in an innovative way that feels *buzzword!* authentic and allows for an emotion and memory to be tied to inanimate objects. We create shoppable spaces that cultivate brand loyalty and encourage shopping small and local, which is a win on many levels: a win for us, a win for our maker partners, a win for the guests, and a win for the local community, its people, and its economy.

Why is design so important for retail and short-term rental spaces?

I’m a big believer in the power of the built world to create experiences. Because of this, I feel strongly that design is paramount not only when it comes to designing for retail and short-term rental spaces, but for all environments where humans are interacting with and paying attention to the space around them, both consciously and unconsciously. Think about how you feel when you see intricate architectural detailing on an old building, or walk into a space with a huge vaulted ceiling, or sink down into a comfy chair – these emotions tied to an experience with your surroundings are the result of thoughtful design; I love that.

Experience The Sursy’s shoppable spaces through curated stays and an enviable online shop.