Founder & CEO, Mr & Mrs Smith
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After publishers rejected the idea of a new hotel guide, Tamara and her husband decided to print it themselves. They sold 100,000 copies in year one. There’s now an online booking service, employees from LA to Sydney and the Smith & Family brand. Tamara sets out the challenge of building a digital brand and disrupting an established market: “Stick to your beliefs, ensure everything is consistent with the brand and create an environment of trust.”
Tamara Lohan is the co-founder of Mr & Mrs Smith. The company was founded by Tamara and her husband James initially as a guidebook to boutique hotels in the UK and has since grown into a successful, global online brand and booking site. They sold the company to Hyatt Hotels Corporation. Tamara is also Non-Executive Director at Fortnum & Masons.
Like many entrepreneurial stories, Tamara and James established Mr & Mrs Smith as a solution to a problem. As young professionals seeking weekend breaks from London, they were disappointed by the number of dated, traditional-style hotels they ended up in that didn’t care about the customer experience. Believing there were stylish, modern, boutique hotels around the country that weren’t being covered by the long-established guidebooks from the likes of the AA, the couple started researching their own. Despite being written off by publishers and the book industry, they ploughed on. Upon securing distribution, they were told their initial print run of tens of thousands was wildly ambitious. The first Mr & Mrs Smith guide then went on to sell over 100,000.
Since then, the internet has revolutionised publishing, travel and accommodation and Mr & Mrs Smith has changed with it. The curated and content rich website continues to maintain the high standards of the books. Every hotel is rigorously and regularly tested by reviewers both open and anonymous. The hotel’s secrets, like which room has the best view, are uncovered. As well as reviewing and recommending, Mr & Mrs Smith also offer a booking service and a loyalty scheme. They have links to some of the world’s biggest travel companies such as British Airways and IHG and employ over 120 people fully distributed around the world. The Mr & Mrs Smith brand, and the newer Smith & Family, have established a solid reputation for unbiased recommendations of quality, interesting hotels from budget to high-end. The business is a certified B Corp.
Tamara examines the ups and downs, challenges, failures, and successes of the entrepreneurial journey, putting the customer first, the lessons in purpose and the importance of a consistent brand to all types of business. As well as continuing to lead the company as CEO, Tamara has also served as its CTO and COO, providing her with insights into building an online business, the underlying technology challenges, and the strategy of disrupting established markets. Co-founding a women’s network, she is a cheerleader for women in business and technology and understands the importance of personal brand.
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You can tell that Tamara has poured her personality wholeheartedly into the business – that’s what makes her success story so enthralling. The main thing I take away is her ability to capture the value of personal touches in customer service, like sending a bottle of Italian olive oil to help you reminisce about your break in Tuscany. After listening to Tamara speak, I dare you not to go onto her website and book a holiday! JLA Agent Carrie Wood
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