Emir Dukic, Founder and CEO of Rabbu, provides landlords of long-term rentals with a second option – renting on Airbnb. Rabbu manages everything from assisting with furnishing and decorating to listing and cleaning. Photo by Hygge/Julia Fay Murray.
Emir Dukic has overcome many obstacles in his life, which has helped to mold his entrepreneurial promise.
He is originally from Bosnia, and at a young age, he and his family escaped the region’s civil war for more stable conditions – ending up in Germany with temporary visas. Being temporary, his family was faced with a decision, to immigrate to the United States or to return to war-torn Bosnia.
It was when Dukic was in middle school, his family decided to immigrate to the United States, and through a church, they found residence in North Carolina. Through his school years, he excelled academically and graduated college with as a Civil Engineer from UNCC in 2008.
He started working locally in construction industry – and as most know, 2008 was a catastrophic year for the sector. So, after a few short months, he was let go. Dukic found other work but had the entrepreneurial itch.
He was dedicated to learning about entrepreneurship, so he joined Mac Lackey’s team at Kyck – a soccer registration platform – as an intern where we worked for free. He ended getting hired at Kyck as a business analyst and worked his way up to be the VP of Operations before they were acquired by NBC Sports.
Through the acquisition, NBC Sports hired Dukic, which he saw a promising learning opportunity –experiencing the transition from a startup to a corporate culture. All along, he knew the position wasn’t a long-term solution for him and his family.
In 2014, he and his wife bought a house in Plaza Midwood, which had a detached garage with a studio-like room above the garage. Essentially, the space was a room with a bathroom without a kitchen, so renting to a long-term tenant was out of the question.
Instead of converting the space into a man-cave – having his wife to tend to their two toddler boys by herself in the main house – the Dukic’s decided to list the space on Airbnb. Dukic’s father is a craftsman, so they enlisted his help.
“[He built] us some really cool furniture for the interior – a customer king bed, a TV stand, nightstands, all kinds of stuff right out of pallet wood”, Dukic explains. They then nicely decorated the room with high-quality items (e.g. bedding) and marketed space and the Plaza Midwood experience in the Airbnb listing.
It’s that last piece – marketing it – that really resonated with Dukic. You could say it’s a one-bedroom apartment above a garage or you could sell the experience. “You have to paint the picture so people can imagine themselves there.” If the apartment is in NoDa, he wants to reflect the art-scene – in Plaza Midwood it’s shabby-chic, and in Uptown it’s modern.
The results surprised the Dukic’s – the place was a smashing success. It’s now one of the highest reviewed Airbnb’s in town. They managed this listing on a part-time basis but wanted to further test the model.
Recently, Dukic partnered with a property owner who was planning to rent out his Uptown property to a long-term renter until Dukic had a suggestion – “how about we put this on Airbnb to see how it’ll do? I’ll help you furnish it, and there will be some upside for you.”
He delivered – the place was furnished and marketed on Airbnb. “It’s right on the edge of Uptown, and it absolutely killed it.” The property generated around three times of what a long-term tenant would yield.
Dukic and his wife knew that they were on to something. They considered buying other properties in 2016, but the Charlotte housing market was red-hot. They then decided to pursue the model to partner with property owners. So, Rabbu will act as the property manager by furnishing and locally decorating the space. They will then list, market, and maintain the Airbnb, and will send property owners a cut of the rental revenue every month.
Over last year, he and his wife have partnered with homeowners to run five properties and handled all of the operations – setup and cleaning – themselves to learn the routine and to ensure guests had a good experience. Rabbu started to gain momentum, so Dukic left his full-time job to further expand the platform.
The focus is now on scaling the business. They have twenty properties under management – including a property in Savannah, GA. Dukic mentions that they set up the platform and their services – “with the goal of creating a hotel-like brand within the short-term rental [market].”
He admits a consistent experience is key for repeat guests, and he wants each property to be clean, to have the same type of mattress, and to reflect the respective neighborhood’s style. With consistency, comes partnerships.
They’ve started to partner with mattress and snack companies. The potential for both parties is exceptional – Rabbu could get discounted (if not free) supplies while companies could leverage this channel as a way to product test or to merely advertising.
Rabbu also has the potential to scale through alternative channels has Dukic has had property investors and Airbnb reach out to discuss expanding to more mid-sized markets through partnerships.
He says it cliché, but to the ‘wantrepreneur’, he says to just go for it. “Go dabble, experiment, see what feels right, see what has traction, [and] see what you enjoy. Whatever you start to see momentum behind, put more and more resources and effort behind it.” If it becomes sizable and you’re willing to take the risk, pursue it full-time.
Lastly, he suggests connecting with other like-minded entrepreneurs. The Charlotte scene is small and tight-knit, but the majority is willing to help.
You can check out Rabbu and their listings at https://rabbu.com.