Casai’s COO on Leadership and Being a Female Founder
The last few years have been big for female-founded companies. The number of female-led unicorns (privately held startup companies valued at over $1 billion) has increased from just four in 2013 to 21 in 2019. This same year, Casai launched, co-led by its female founder, Maricarmen Herrerías. Under COO Maricarmen’s leadership, Casai has grown its number of employees, product locations, and business ventures. Most recently, Casai has added a new brand Getaways by Casai. In the following Q&A, learn more about Maricarmen’s background, impact, and favorite moments at Casai.
Maricarmen has extensive leadership experience and knowledge of the finance and hospitality industries. She began her career at Compass Investments and later became the Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) manager at both Grupo Presidente and AT&T. She earned her bachelor’s in administration at Universidad Iberoamericana and holds a postgraduate degree in finance from the University of Anahuác. Maricarmen was born and raised in Mexico City and has lived there for nearly all her life. What she loves most about the city is its eclectic nature: amazing restaurants and museums to nightlife and events.
What past jobs or experiences led you to this point?
My past work experience was at a hospitality group in Mexico. I have always loved to travel and working in the industry made me fall even more in love with the hospitality industry.
What first made you confident in Casai as a concept?
During the first conversations with Nico, my co-founder, I remember thinking how we could make a difference in an industry that has been the same for so many years. The first thing we thought about was travel spaces – how you want to stay in a place where you can feel at home. Then it was technology; there is still a lack of technology in the industry. You look at the technology used by the guest – things we consider to be basic, like high-speed internet or streaming – of course, there is also the behind-the-scenes technology that’s used to run our operations that needed updating.
Can you talk about your role as the COO…
What are your day-to-day tasks?
Making sure that every are of our operations is running smoothly and that our guests are happy! Now, with our expansion, we make sure the quality you see in one unit in Mexico City is the same across the whole Latin American portfolio.
Can you tell us more about the overall operations at Casai? What different departments do you work closely with?
We work very closely with all teams but especially with the Growth, Revenue and Experience teams. This is because each department interacts with our day-to-day operations.
What has been the most rewarding part of your Casai journey?
The most rewarding part, for sure, is the team we have. The past two years have been challenging, as we had to scale and then the pandemic hit, but everybody has had the best attitude, always looking out for what is best for Casai.
What has been the most challenging?
The pandemic. When we started a tech-centric company focused on hospitality, we never expected to be in one of the most affected industries, let alone one of the most challenging moments in history for this industry.
What is something you have learned from this experience?
We learned to adapt and act fast. What we offer at Casai is very aligned to what travelers are looking for today, so we started to focus our communication on our guests. On the operational side, we have always highlighted the importance of cleaning. However, these days it’s not just for our guests but also for our staff.
What did you want to be when you grew up? What first sparked your interest in the finance and hospitality industries?
When I was little I used to tell my mom that I didn’t understand how people were at the office for 8 hours a day and returned to do the same the next day. I used to wonder, “how many problems can there be if they need to go every day?” I have always liked numbers so finance seemed like a good choice for me. It wasn’t until I started working in hospitality that I found my passion.
What was your vision for your future before you met Nico? Were you actively looking to pursue entrepreneurship?
Honestly, I was very happy at the company I used to work for and always thought that starting your own business was very complicated. But when I met Nico, he told me about launching a start-up and his experience and background. I saw that we were a great team and that our idea was worth me investing my time into.
What has been the biggest learning experience throughout this whole process?
Running a business is not easy, but it is worth it. Also, choose your team and co-founder wisely, as they will be your support group throughout the entire process.
What is one piece of advice you would give to other women or young girls in Mexico wanting to start their own business as a female founder?
Put the fear aside! Start-ups are changing the playing field for women. In Casai, 48% of our staff is women and lots of them are in important, powerful, decision-making roles at the company. We need more women in the entrepreneurship world with great ideas and a lot of passion.
Where do you see Casai in 5 years?
Hard question! I see Casai as part of the day-to-day life for travelers. I see us expanding to new cities and making a difference in the hospitality industry.