Photo Credit: Courtesy of Yaa Birago
How Femmebnb Is Making International Travel Safer For Black Women
In 2017, IT consultant Yaa Birago decided to treat herself to a solo Euro trip for her 30th birthday with stops in Paris, Rome, and Barcelona. What was to be a celebratory event soon turned sour when she arrived for the Rome leg of her vacation.
Her Airbnb host did not pick her up at the Metro as promised. Instead, Birago was left to find the rental on her own, enduring the degrading catcalls and sexually explicit remarks of several men loitering in the area. She shared her concerns with the host, who nonchalantly brushed them off as a harmless, common occurrence. The incident left her shaken.
“It was after the fact that I found out it happens a lot, especially to Black women when they go to Europe,” shared Birago. “A lot of them look at Black women as sexual objects, and it was then I came to the realization that it wasn’t even only me, there are other people that have gone through some of these situations. I started to talk to different women, and even my lawyer said she went through a similar situation in Portugal. There has to be something that can be done here, right? And that’s basically how Femmebnb was created.”
Femmebnb is a platform created by Birago and her business partner Diana Obeng that “reshapes the way women host and travel by curating a community of like-minded individuals who realize the importance of safety during travel or hosting.”
The social networking site provides a 24/7 AI-Powered Travel Assistant to help with planning trip logistics and features an online space for travelers to connect in real time at any location. Safety is the top priority. Everyone on the platform is subject to verification using email, phone number, government ID, and even video to ensure credibility and trust in the community.
The company completed a soft launch last November after winning first place in the Women’s Business Fund competition hosted by fashion brand House of CB. They have won the Volition Startup Pitch Competition, been nominated for a 2021 Bessie Award by Wanderful, and are about to launch in India as part of the Canadian-Indian Acceleration Program ’21 Cohort powered by Accenture Ventures & Carleton University.
Birago was recently recognized as one of the Top 20 Women CEOs in Vacation Rental Tech. Femmebnb also has a social impact component. With every transaction on the platform, a portion goes to provide menstrual products to girls in Africa and fight menstrual inequities.
“The feedback has been really good,” said Birago. “Some of the women are like, this is exactly what I need, especially for solo travelers. There was a long thread on LinkedIn I stumbled upon. People are talking about it and how it is such a great company for women or women travelers in general. We have also done market validations. We’ve interviewed over 280 women. Over 76% of them are really looking forward to this app and using it. So we’ve gotten a lot of good feedback in terms of what we’ve created so far.”
One of the major hurdles, according to Birago, is silencing the naysayers who question the long-term viability of a platform geared solely towards women. But she remains undeterred in her purpose.
“Trying to tell people that this is needed for women is one of the biggest challenges. Of course, the funding is important because without it we’re not able to run. Getting funding has been challenging for us because we are new. A lot of investors during the pandemic are laid back, but we are still very optimistic things will work out once everything is back to normal.”
Book your next adventure on Femmebnb.