Tampa startup aims to take hospitality to the next level

As an AirBnB host in New York, Shuchi Vyas was constantly looking for new ways to wow her guests.

“They were paying a premium to stay in New York City,” recalls Vyas, who moved to Tampa in 2017. “I wanted to go above and beyond for them.”

Oftentimes, that meant last-minute trips to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s to pick up welcome gifts, snacks and toiletries that would delight her guests and start their visit off on the right foot. But that wasn’t always easy for Vyas, who at the time was managing international campaigns for Habitat for Humanity and doing a lot of traveling herself. A seed was planted in Vyas’s head -- there had to be a better way for AirBnB hosts and others in the hospitality industry -- to set themselves apart from the crowd when it came to amenities.

Fast forward to now and Vyas’s idea has become a reality. And her subscription box startup company, GuestBox, has been racking up accolades since its founding two years ago. In the first six months of 2019 alone, she’s taken third place at TiEcon’s pitch competition and was selected as one of eight finalists at the Rise of the Rest’s Tampa pitch competition.

The concept behind GuestBox centers on elevating the traveler experience. Together with her growing team, Vyas curates boxes of eco-friendly luxury products that guests can use during and after their vacations. The boxes contain everything from high-end skincare products to exotic coffee beans to bamboo toothbrushes, and they're packaged in a way that travelers can easily take them home once their vacation is over.

“We’re always looking for interesting, trending, mission-driven brands,” Vyas says, noting that many of the brands she includes in her boxes are founded and led by female and minority entrepreneurs. “You’ll find some brands that you know, as well as some that you don’t.”

To keep the content of her GuestBoxes fresh, Vyas is constantly searching for new and innovative products, although word of mouth has picked up and now companies are coming to her as well. She’s especially interested in products with local connections so that visitors on vacation in, say, Austin, will get boxes filled with made-in-Austin products.

“We’d love to see more Tampa brands represented,” Vyas says. “We encourage them to reach out to us.”

She sees championing other Tampa Bay businesses as a way to give back to the city that’s given so much to her.

“I’ve found such a great community here in Tampa,” she says of the rich and supportive startup scene.

As for what’s next for GuestBox, the future looks bright. The company has already expanded into the hotel and vacation rental sector and hired more staff to support its growth. Vyas says she is still capitalizing on the connections she made during the Rise of the Rest competition and is continuing to seek new customers and investors. She’s hoping to close her seed round of funding soon. All the while, she’s staying focused on the benefits each GuestBox represents for all parties.

“The value we’re providing is multifold -- the property gets great reviews, and the products we include in the boxes have an opportunity to further their brands,” she says. “GuestBox is helping to standardize a high-quality guest experience.”

Contact GuestBox for more information by clicking here. Tampa Bay-area produced products are especially encouraged to reach out.

Read more articles by Jaymi Butler.

Jaymi Butler is a writer and editor who enjoys telling the stories of growth and innovation in the Tampa Bay Area, which she has called home since 2003. A former reporter for the Savannah Morning News, The State, and The Tampa Tribune, she has covered a variety of topics ranging from business to features to public health -- and she even got to sit in on an American Idol audition just feet away from Simon Cowell!