Justine Baker is founder and CEO to Budlodge; a 420 Cannabis Friendly Tourism, Find Places to Stay or Host in legal states & countries. Similar to AirBnB but exclusive to legalized states & countries that are cannabis friendly. BudLodge allows adults to list, find or Book a Cannabis Friendly Room or Rental (Hostel, Hotel, BnB Bed and Breakfast, Vacation Resort or Home, even Treehouses and Unique Rentals. Further: Cannabis Chefs can be booked for classes or catering events, tour guides & rides can be found and events around the world can be planned and booked.
When did you first start the project and how did it come to mind?
I was actually working on a travel portal site with a friend. Initially, after a stay at a local non-420 hostel, I had the idea for BudLodge and registered the domain. However, I let it sit, as my friend and I continued to pursue the other site.
Yet, the more stays I had at the local hostel, and the legalization of cannabis spreading, it became more obvious there was a need for people to travel without having to ask or hide.
BudLodge was the natural evolution of the original company. It gave us the experience needed. That said, ideas are always fun, making them a reality is tough.
You have to still do it, or you shouldn’t have bothered. People (family, friends and then, your customers) believe in you, advocate, spread the word and often help you grow or know others that can. It is more than just a demand, anyone can create a site. It is the who and why. A company is only successful because people use the service. If you don’t bother, it’s transparent, if you LOVE it, you and the why are contagious.
At the start of budlodge you seen a major spike in traffic over a very short period of time, has the traction remained the same and how many bookings do you have per month?
When I finally began BudLodge I started going in a different direction than the AirBnB for Cannabis Travel. Still, I needed to know, is this something people want. As I started designing, I was also posting everywhere to see if there was any demand. By day 46 of design, there were over 3.1 mil hits, approximately 900k unique and we were averaging as low as 80k – 110k a day. Election day was the lowest traffic.
It took another stay for me to completely pivot back to what the site was originally intended. It also gave me time to observe what is needed for hosts and guests that use online booking sites. I deleted the entire site and started from scratch. Now that it has listings, including chefs and events, it’s time to start spreading the word like before. This time, people can add their service or book. As the campaign goes viral, more traffic will equal more hosts and brands to be seen and booked around the world (where it is legal).
What is the long term vision for budlodge?
Not everyone that travels is just looking for a room to stay at. It is important to incorporate the needs of travelers and bring those individuals and companies with tourism services to them.
What are the biggest challenges on the growth of the platform and where do you see budlodge in five years from now?
Staying focused and determined through challenges, including personal attacks against the founders and the platform, isn’t easy. You either let it distract and settle or you keep going and make a difference in the world. Struggling isn’t something anyone enjoys. If you can change the world, the lives of those you love and build something people will use for years to come, do it.
Five years from now, I expect more countries and states will legalize and I would like to pursue building and acquiring actual BudLodge resorts & hotels. There are more things up my sleeve, and most businesses must be able to scale for longevity. If Amazon stuck with books or Google stuck with their search engine, would they still exist? Perhaps, but not at the level they are.
How many listings do you currently have on budlodge? And where is the main concentration of those properties?
We are still new, as word spreads, we expect to have many listings and different types of hosts, also connecting travelers with brands and more important, related businesses near their destination. We are a global site and look forward to having listings around the world. As long as cannabis is legalized there.
With the emerging cannabis market blossoming worldwide, do you see big players like AirBnB as potential competition?
AirBnB paved the way for many and we intend to be a service to the majority of travelers in our industry of travel. AirBnB is familiar to most, and familiarity allows for ease of use, as we transition the site. We will never have non-420 friendly places, so in that respect, AirBnB will have the edge. However, as legalization continues, more people will seek out 420 travel stays and experiences. We all want to connect and be where we are welcome, especially when we are traveling. BudLodge IS home and that is where WE have the edge.
How has the platform been funded to date, and do you have plans for financing on the open market in future?
Thankfully, I know how to design. Having had my own firm and other work in various aspects of the tech world since the 90s. This saves a bit and has allowed funding from myself and friends to stretch farther than it would otherwise. Now it is time to market, and it isn’t as expensive to create that viral growth as one would think. It is, time consuming. With traffic, comes more revenue (advertisers and a % of bookings), allowing the company to grow at the pace it should be. Implementing the affiliate/referral program, also helps spread the word.
Within your budloge network, what are the standard do’s and dont’s for a client staying at one of your host properties?
Hmmm, I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone how to run their business. Whether it is a property or a service on the site. If someone allows illegal activity, like sales of cannabis on their property, we would remove them. If someone wishes to ad and isn’t in a legal state, we can’t. We are focused on cannabis tourism and travel, which is not just wake n’ bake tours, as many seem to think. This is an industry that allows industries within it and many opportunities for a variety of businesses. Ours is focused on travel and tourism.
With price comparison in general, how does cannabis friendly accommodation compare with non cannabis friendly accommodation?
Though complimentary wifi and even champagne, alcohol, are allowed at many places, it is considered sales if it is complimentary cannabis. I would suggest that people base their rates on their location and the type of service they are providing. Start out small, build from there and from my experience in flipping my apartment years ago, upgrade furnishings for better comfort. Keep it simple, charge less. Improve along the way, and raise the rate.
What is the funkiest cannabis friendly space you have seen to date?
There are some very amazing places, 420 and not, there is something for everyone. Best advice to guests talk with prior guests and read reviews to find the place or service for you and your needs. This is especially important if the location is far from things you’d also like to do when traveling for business or pleasure.