A moment in time and a seized opportunity saw Rebecca team up with university friends to form Little Emperors.
Cast your mind back to 2008, the market crashed and the world headed into a global recession. At this time, Rebecca was working at Goldman Sachs and saw that most of the luxury hotels had been removed from the ‘approved hotel list’ for their corporate travel program. She then realised the potential of expanding the offering of luxury hotels to the rising number of SMEs who didn’t have the volume of trade to negotiate lower rates and Little Emperors was plotted out on a notepad.
Today, Little Emperors is a private members hotel club, offering access to preferred rates and guaranteed benefits at over 4,000 of the most exclusive hotels around the globe, handpicked by a team of travel advisors and luxury experts. With well over 30,000 members, Rebecca takes some time out to talk to Business Matters …
What products or services do you provide?
With both a web and app-based presence, Little Emperors is the essential travel companion for both frequent jetsetters and one-off luxury seekers. With our ‘lowest rate guaranteed’ policy, our members can book easily knowing that we ensure the lowest rates with the best benefits at all our hotel partners, and if there is a lower offer elsewhere, we guarantee to match it and add to it. Value is key to our business as we shift away from the traditional concierge model which is service driven, and charge a low entry fee (£250 a year) to bring value in luxury to our members.
Technology continues to drive Little Emperors forward and is where I maintain investment to ensure it remains cutting-edge. I feel lucky we got into travel tech as early as we did, and have been able to create some brilliant tech for our members. A sector traditionally characterised by human interactions will now have to provide the same valuable intangible aspects through more touch-less methods in a more digitalised world. The global High Net Worth population is surging and within this audience, the definition of luxury is ever evolving.
What type of businesses do you work with?
Most of our members are SMEs and entrepreneurs. We have upwards of 30,000 and are a B2C facing platform; however, we have recently hired Hannah Millar-Case who is launching a B2B platform using our technology at its core, whilst developing relevant features for B2B clients.
What problem does your company solve?
We use the collective buying power of our community of members (currently 30,000+) to negotiate business rates, and leisure benefits at luxury hotels across the world. People who work at large corporations are usually presented with a corporate travel programme, which allows them to stay in specific luxury hotels at negotiated corporate rates. Well – that’s what we do – but for SMEs and entrepreneurs – we use our membership base to negotiate the best rates and benefits to provide our members with value, and all presented via a mobile app which completes bookings within 4 clicks.
What is your USP?
Our all encompassing approach to our business makes the whole experience seamless for each client. Our app, MyLE, has pioneered this by completing bookings within just four clicks for our members. Little Emperors delivers value both in time and money, a value that is inaccessible without us.
What are your company values? Have you ever had them challenged and if so how have you dealt with it?
The importance of team culture sits at the very core of the company’s values. We all work very closely together, we travel together, eat together, do pretty much everything together, and my team refer to each other as family and friends. It is hard to understand from an interview if someone will be a good fit and embrace our culture and values, but we can tell quite soon into the role if they don’t!
How do you ensure that you recruit a team that reflects your company values?
We have two interview rounds; one with me and one with someone else on my team. I have been really lucky with my team. Apart from the odd few, we have remained the same for many years with just the current regularity of new additions (rather than any departures) as we grow in size.
Are you happy to offer a hybrid working model of home/office post-covid?
Absolutely. It works very well for us. We work from home Mondays and Fridays and Tuesdays – Thursdays the team all meet in the office.
Do you have any tips for managing suppliers and customers effectively?
Suppliers should be handled respectfully and with an open and ongoing channel of communication from the very top. A Founder and CEO should never lose sight of this and continue to recognise and nurture the relationship throughout the tenure. And with customers… transparency is key.
Any finance or cash-flow tips for new businesses starting out?
Don’t get too consumed in this and lose focus on the business itself. A lot of things are achieved through trial and error, and it’s impossible to predict and plan each step of a new business no matter how much you think you know.
If you could ask one thing of the government to change for businesses what would it be?
Business rates should be significantly reduced. It makes having offices very challenging.
What is your attitude towards your competitors?
The more good people there are, the better the industry is. Some of my closest friends are my biggest competitors, and we share tips with each other regularly.
Any thoughts on the future of your company and your dreams?
The roadmap for Little Emperors is very much focused on new features to include incredible content, visuals and filters, in addition to an integrated logic to be relevant to our members when they search, delivering value and speed in bookings, as well as accurate advice and recommendations. I am often considered controversial in the travel industry replacing the ‘human touch’ with tech, due to the industry’s pride in the familiarity and personalisation of customer engagement. However, tech has always sat at the absolute core of everything I do. My goal is for the app to become 100% personalised to each member and 100% tech; to find that perfect balance between integrating tech YET maintaining a luxury feel and a completely personalised experience.
Secrets of Success: Rebecca Masri MBE, Founder of Little Emperors