After 17 years, Steve Brenner and Linda Martinez are selling their vacation rental website, Cross-Pollinate. The couple started Cross-Pollinate in 2000 as a way to manage the requests from guests they couldn’t accommodate in their hostel, The Beehive, in Rome. Over the years, Brenner and Martinez grew the business to include 500 private apartments, B&Bs and guesthouses in eight European cities: Rome, Florence, Venice, Paris, Barcelona, London, Lisbon and Istanbul.
Now, they are looking for a buyer for Cross-Pollinate so they can focus on their primary business, The Beehive. This is a great opportunity for someone who wants to live the European dream by “living well instead of living just to work,” as Brenner says. The couple have run Cross-Pollinate as a side business for 17 years, but a new owner who is willing to make it their primary business could create significant returns.
According to Brenner, the work involved in maintaining the business mainly includes responding to emails, which takes him about an hour a day. Beyond basic maintenance, he says, “Adding new properties, social media and marketing are open for however much time and effort someone wants to put into it.”
Brenner has been able to compete with larger vacation rental companies such as VRBO and AirBnB by offering personalized customer service and relationships with property owners to ensure all properties meet their standards. Recognizing that many travelers don’t like excessive choice when it comes to accommodations, Brenner and Martinez offer personalized property suggestions to customers.
Brenner sees a lot of growth potential in the business for the right owner who is able to invest time in marketing, curate more properties, and easily expand into popular locations such as Milan, the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre. He and Martinez will be happy to pass on the data they’ve gathered about what kinds of places travelers are looking for in each city.
“The [vacation rental] market is very large and although it is mostly dominated by a few key players, they have increased awareness about this kind of accommodation option. Big players are also suffering a lot of backlash due to their size and are being forced to regulate in a way that we are pretty much immune to. As with most commerce, more options for consumers is a good thing, and small, personalised service is something a lot of people want. It might be a smaller market that we appeal to, but the company can be very successful and profitable with a small market as it is compact and easy to run,” says Brenner.
While the new owner doesn’t have to live in Italy – the flexibility of the business means Cross-Pollinate can be run from anywhere in the world – they should be familiar with and love Europe and Italy, as the majority of customers are visiting Italy.
If you’re intrigued by this business opportunity, contact Linda via email at [email protected].
— Elaine Murphy