Interview: Hughes founded Want Me Get Me to give everyone a red carpet travel experience

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For the jet setter in all of us, traveling in style isn’t so cheap anymore. New company Want Me Get Me helps cut some of those costs by connecting a collection of boutique and luxury hotels around the world with chic consumers. These accommodations offer the best rates and guarantee  members special perks like free wi-fi, room upgrades, and placement on hotel VIP lists. 

With a beautiful, easy to navigate site that is free of the clutter you see on so many booking engines, you won’t get a headache trying to find your perfect spot. 

Other free perks that you could get through your experience with Want Me Get Me include things like a spa credit, free breakfast, a bottle of champagne in your room, with guaranteed upgrades at the time of booking.  

“If you checked into the Peninsula Beverly Hills, your initials are monogrammed on your pillow,” Want Me Get Me Founder Harrison Hughes told 429Magazine. “Another property might simply give you a room with a better view and write a note telling you how they appreciate your business. Those things go a long way.”

429Magazine talks with Hughes about his venture, inspiration, successful business tips, and what the company has in connection with the LGBT community.

429Magazine: Tell me about your company. How did the concept come about? What year was the company founded?

Harrison Hughes: The idea came about in late 2011 when we realized there were really no great online booking sites that upgraded your stay. Every site seemed to be focused on getting you $10 off your hotel rate. When you really look at it, you add on $20 wi-fi, breakfast, etc… you do not end up with a better deal. 

You also don’t get the “red carpet” experience. We offered up our model to select hotels and they loved the idea. It allowed them to give their guests a fantastic experience, which is what this caliber of hotels ultimately wants to do. When you check out, you’ll have saved money and had such a better experience than you would have, had you been suckered into that flash sale on that deal site. 

429Mag: Were you limited in resources and destinations when first starting out?

Hughes: We’re still in Beta but adding hotels every day. We’ve been lucky to have such support from such great brands like Morgans, Orient Express, Park Hyatt, Thompson and Firmdale Hotels. Our members have such great experiences, we are working every day to add new hotels and destinations so that they can have the VIP treatment in every city with qualifying hotels as they do now in NYC and London.  

429Mag: Tell me about how you got to where you are now? What’s your professional journey been like so far?

Hughes: I’ve always been entrepreneurial. In college, I co-founded an apparel company that now has sales above $10m and is sold in over 600 stores across the country. I’ve always had that need to create. 

429Mag: What did you major at in college? 5 years ago, did you see yourself where you are now?

Hughes: I was a finance major at SMU. Well, I came out about 5 years ago, so I certainly never saw myself here. Before I came out, I thought I’d be living some miserable, closeted sham of a life.

Growing up in the south, you get kind of brainwashed about what the world is really like. Growing up, and even through college, I never thought being out was a possibility. That scared the shit out of me. So, one day, I just blurted it out to my closest friend. Since then, I’ve taken the most unexpected journey, but one I wouldn’t trade for any other route.

429Mag: What’s your definition of success?

Hughes: To be cliche, success is being happy with yourself and being able to be kind to others. If you aren’t happy with yourself both personally or professionally, I don’t think it is possible to be successful. In addition, if you can’t pay it forward and be kind to others, I don’t think the world will end up letting you keep your success. I’m a big believer in Karma.

429Mag: How do you overcome your obstacles?

Hughes: Pretty easy. Either work as hard as possible to get over the obstacle, or go around and find another route. Nothing ever works out as you initially plan. Ever.

429Mag: Who or what inspires you?

Hughes: This changes frequently, but I’d have to say the team at AFER [American Foundation of Equal Rights]. One day soon, we’ll have the same equality as the rest of America enjoys. We’ll look back and owe a huge debt of gratitude to Ken Mehlman, Lance Black, and that whole team.

429Mag: Greatest accomplishment?

Hughes: Two things. First, coming out. Second, seeing the first hotel room booked the day we launched the website.

429Mag: How do you specifically utilize social media for the company? Has it been effective?

Hughes: We use social media largely for member service and feedback, as well as to showcase our properties. We’re still improving the site to get out of “Beta” and adding hotels daily. We’ll really change the way we use social media once we are ready to be 100% out in the market.

429Mag: A lot of publicity has been generated from the Wall Street Journal, Inc., Business Insider, among others. Has the company expanded a great deal from the exposure?

Hughes: It’s been really interesting. We had a lot of coverage the day we launched into Beta. However, we’ve held back on a lot of the coverage and marketing until we move from “Beta” to “Public.” We’re perfectionists, and want to make sure everything is exactly right. 

429Mag: Are there any destinations the company hasn’t reached yet that you’d like to open the market to?

Hughes: Oh, lots. We’re across the globe from New York to Machu Picchu to Bangkok. We’re now focusing on adding hotels in all markets. We hand pick these properties to make sure they can meet the service level. So, that process takes a little time. We’re also building out our cruise and villa components. That will be a really exciting time.”¨

429Mag: What’s your favorite destination?

Hughes: I like to pretend I’m a New Yorker now. When I need to get away, I like to grab an Uber down to the Crosby Street Hotel and have a stay-cation. For a quick weekend, I love the Delano in Miami. I’m often in LA and think the Montage is such a beautiful hotel. It is impossible to have a bad experience there.

429Mag: What is Want Me Get Me’s relationship with the LGBT community?

Hughes: We’re a new company but with straight and gay leadership. We’ll be as supportive to the community as possible. Once we are big enough, I hope to get one of those perfect HRC ratings! 

429Mag: Are many of the hotels you pick LGBT-friendly? Is there an issue if they are anti-gay establishments?

Hughes: I guess it depends on how you grade or qualify a hotel as LGBT-friendly. I do not know of any hotel on our platform that could possibly be seen as not LGBT-friendly. All of these properties have top-notch service. They are in the business of making you happy whether you are gay or straight. If we ever had a complaint from a member about a hotel, we would pull the hotel immediately. 

429Mag: Is being gay a defining factor for you in your personal and professional life?

Hughes: Not really. The hospitality industry is already fairly progressive. Actually, I’m not sure if it is the hospitality industry or that the main players are all in metropolitan cities where there is no tolerance for discriminatory behavior.

429Mag: What’s your advice for young LGBT professionals?

Hughes: First, come out if you haven’t already. Second, join groups like dot429 and StartOut to meet other professionals. You can meet a lot of great people who can lend great advice.

429Mag: What’s next for you and the company? 

Hughes: Same as yesterday! Every day involves building the best hotel booking platform, curating a great collection of awesome hotels, and making sure each member has a great experience. 

Check out Want Me Get Me here. 

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