Photo Credit: Deontae Mack, founder and CEO of Vibesbnb Courtesy: Deonte Mack
Meet The Man Behind Black-Owned Cannabis-Friendly Rental App Vibesbnb
Deontae Mack is a Black entrepreneur who founded Vibesbnb, a Black-owned online startup, where he lists cannabis-friendly rentals. The site has more than 150 listings, mostly in Florida, and Mack said about 2,000 users have signed up in the first year.
Born in Michigan, he moved to Florida at the age of 22 to attend Florida International University. He couldn’t graduate because, like many Americans, the school quickly consumed his student loan funds, which hindered his progress and ultimately led him to become an entrepreneur.
“I leveled up through networking and strong character. From age 22 to 27 I worked for different companies like Best Buy and AT&T. I always was great with technology but I never was satisfied with hourly pay,” Mack told Travel Noire.
In 2017, he became an Airbnb host, after getting his first apartment in Hollywood, Florida. While driving Uber and Lyft, one of his passengers told him they were staying in an Airbnb on South Beach and recommended he should give it a try as an Airbnb host.
And that’s what he did. The very first month he started hosting on Airbnb, he earned around $1,200. “It was insane to me because roommates were only paying around $600-$700. Quickly, I realized the opportunity. Like any other job, if you focus 100% after a goal, you can achieve real results quickly in the hospitality space.”
A Cannabis-Friendly Community
Mack told Trave Noire that the app development came after three years of doing Airbnb and understanding the value of networking, creativity, and wanting to solve the education problem in the cannabis community.
It happened after he noticed his occupancy rate was declining and had to think about new business opportunities. He ran into an article that Florida had just approved a bill in 2016 allowing medicinal use on private properties.
“It was the first time I started thinking like an entrepreneur. I thought to myself, this is the start of the cannabis experience in Florida becoming legal and America stopped looking down upon it as it was in previous years,” he said.
In fact, according to cannabis market research firm BDSA, cannabis sales in the U.S. may climb from $25 billion in 2021 to $42 billion in 2026.
However, discrimination in the marketplace was rampant towards Black and brown individuals. Also, many people use cannabis for different reasons. These findings made Mack think to himself, “Where do you go to book a 420-friendly reservation?”
“I have talked with over 3,000 guests and listened to their complaints and an overwhelming amount of them had their reservations canceled, police called on them, or had just come from a situation dealing with another host who described their legal cannabis as ‘drugs’ on the property. Years later, I’m a product of the home-sharing economy. I opened my own online travel agency, Vibesbnb, and quickly doubled my income as a cannabis hospitality host.”
In 2019, he took the concept of his cannabis-friendly rental app to Miami because it was a growing area. He noticed that developing cities like Wynwood, Miami Beach, and Brickell were attracting thousands of visitors.
Funding the Venture
“I had saved up investment from Hollywood being fully booked and raised seed capital from family and opened up a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house just 12 minutes from each of these locations. We rent the rooms individually and offer a social and networking experience with local experiences like bud delivery from Weedsies.com and Street Dreams Rental slingshots.”
In September 2020, www.empoweringpeoplefoundation.org, which helps individuals build generational wealth, decided to sponsor the start-up.
“This program helped us find the tools needed to succeed. It propelled us to launch the app on April 20, 2021.”
Thousands of users have benefited from the app service, according to Mack. “We promise to our users no smoking fines, no police calls, and no cancellations based on your communication and choice of cannabis medicine. We allow users to find a cannabis-friendly host that enjoys serving customers in the cannabis hospitality space.”
According to Mack, the app is unique because it focuses on the user experience based on the ZIP Code.
“When they travel to certain areas, we recommend nearby dispensaries and experiences and Miami vibes in that area,” he said. Soon, the app will allow bud delivery and vacation package experiences where guests can book an all-in-one cannabis Hospitality Marketplace.