By Deepthi Nair Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Anna Skigin is the founder of an Airbnb management company in Dubai that maximizes returns for owners by renting out their properties short term via platforms such as Airbnb and Booking.com.
It was during a trip to Dubai in early-2017 that Anna Skigin realized there was a business opportunity waiting to be tapped.
Although the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing had legalized Airbnb and holiday homes in Dubai in 2016, the concept of sharing economy had not really taken off in the city and the wider region.
"No one really knew the rules or how to get started. For those who knew, it seemed like a major hassle to get licensed and manage guests, cleaning and maintenance. This seemed like a massive opportunity -- to facilitate the whole process and help people earn more money from their properties," recalls Anna. This led her to establish Frank Porter, an Airbnb management company in Dubai that maximizes returns for the owners by renting out properties short term via platforms such as Airbnb and Booking.com.
"I have always loved the idea of the sharing economy. I have travelled all over the world and haven't booked a hotel in ages -- always preferring the local vibe of an Airbnb. I grew up in Canada and lived and worked in London and Geneva, where renting out your home is easy and much more common," says the founder and CEO of Frank Porter.
Once the firm takes on a property for management, it takes care of everything from licensing, styling, professional photography, listing, pricing, marketing, guest communication, check-in/check-out to cleaning/maintenance and paying the tourism taxes.
"Short-term renting gives owners full flexibility with their properties -- use it when you want, make money off it when you want and sell it when you want. This is what the sharing economy is all about -- freedom and flexibility -- and finally this has landed in the UAE. If you don't want the hassle of doing it yourself, our company can guide you through it. We understand guest needs and are able to maximise the revenue potential of the properties we manage," Anna adds.
A serial entrepreneur at heart, Anna launched Frank Porter in the last quarter of 2017 using her personal savings as well as help from family and friends. The firm today comprises six full-time employees along with two to three interns. The goal is to include 12 to 15 employees by the end of 2018. The CEO aims to eventually grow Frank Porter on an international scale.
Anna has previously developed and launched an Italian restaurant concept Panzo in London, from the ground up. She has also worked as a private banker in the Rothschild group in Geneva, Switzerland and done client advisory at leading auction houses -- Sotheby's and Phillips in London.
"I've always been passionate about art and design -- having worked in top London auction houses. This is a very complementary business to the short-term rental business -- helping and advising clients on how to best style their homes and earn more money. It is a natural extension of Frank Porter and something we are exploring," she observes.
Anna believes that it's a wonderful time to launch a business in the UAE since the startup world is going through a renaissance. She adds that there are many mentors willing and eager to help and advise startups.
"The fact that the startup environment is less mature makes it more exciting and fast-paced. There's a strong push in the region to invest in startups. People are excited about new ideas and concepts and are more willing to take risks than in North America or Europe. This is fantastic for entrepreneurs. I also find it amazing that there is a huge push for female entrepreneurs in the region. This is incredible to see and as a woman, I feel very good about the region's growth in that direction," Anna elaborates.
She, however, cites banks as the weakest link in the UAE's startup ecosystem.
Her advice to other entrepreneurs is to focus on what you're doing and not listen too much to other people's advice as "no one knows your business better than you".
A dual Russian and Canadian national, Anna studied finance and economics at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. She has a Masters of Art & Design from Christie's Education in London. Fluent in English, Russian and French, Anna enjoys yoga, skiing, art and literature.
Asked to whom she attributes her success, Anna says: "My mother, my father and all strong-willed and fearless women who paved the way for me and women everywhere."
Reaffirming the role of technology in Frank Porter's future growth plans, Anna says: "Technology is a huge factor in our business -- our main marketing is done online. We use social media extensively and plan to use it even more in the near future."
She names John Mackey's Whole Foods Market as her role model business. "I love the idea of conscious capitalism and acknowledging the importance of all stakeholders in your business [not just your shareholders] in order to truly prosper and grow. Mackey/Whole Foods are a great example of how to build and grow a company successfully, without only chasing the bottom line. He gives hope that not all companies need to be fundamentally greedy and ruthless in order to succeed," Anna concludes.