💡 Founder Spotlight: Rena Pacheco-Theard
This week is Cloudflare's Founder Spotlight on Cloudflare TV, featuring dozens entrepreneurs from across the tech industry and beyond!
This session features Rena Pacheco-Theard, co-founder and CEO of Boutiq. Boutiq is a vertically-integrated luxury vacation rental company, marketing and operating upscale rental properties listed across a variety of rental platforms under the Boutiq brand. Prior to launching Boutiq, Rena worked in finance and strategy for Indeed’s new product portfolio, and led an edtech startup, Prepify. She previously was a senior consultant at Deloitte and has also worked at organizations such as Bono's ONE Campaign. Rena earned an MBA from MIT Sloan, an MPAff from The University of Texas' LBJ School and a BS from Georgetown University.
Visit the Founder Spotlight hub to find the rest of these featured conversations — and tune in all week for more!
Hi, everyone, and welcome to another segment of Founder Spotlight on Cloudflare TV this week.
I'm Fallon Blossom, the Senior Strategic Programs Manager at Cloudflare TV, and I'm here again with another amazing founder to share their story about how they are where they are today.
So do you want to introduce yourself and tell everybody what you do?
Sure. My name is Rena Pacheco-Theard, and I'm CEO and co-founder at Boutique.
And so there's a lot more I can share about Boutique, but that's the very high level.
Oh, yeah. Let's go. What is it? What do you do?
What problem are you solving? How did you get started? All that. So Boutique, we're building a brand in the vacation rental space.
So think about the way that you can book a hotel on a number of different platforms, and you know what that quality standard is.
Bringing a brand into the vacation rental space, which there really aren't a lot of incumbents.
So bringing in a brand, raising the quality standard.
So it's kind of upper tier. So you really know and can count on that quality standard.
And then we bring data into the equation. So knowing where is there demand for these types of properties, but not enough supply.
Where can we find these particular homes, how to set them up, and then using data for the nightly pricing.
So really understanding what is that willingness to pay, kind of smart pricing, essentially looking forward and doing all of that in a way that creates the best guest experience, and then the best return for our investors who are the actual owners of the homes.
Wow. And so when I was kind of looking into it, this idea of brilliant luxury kind of jumped out at me.
Can you tell me more about like what that means and how that might play into like the guest experience as you just mentioned?
Well, and a lot of it, it comes from kind of why we started in the first place that a lot of just typical second home owners, there's sometimes a belief that you should see kind of what you can get away with, like put your used furniture, your used sheets, kind of the cheapest materials and still try to eke out some revenue.
And our perspective has always been what if you thought about indulging the guests and actually creating a space that your friends and your family that you would want to be in, and really taking that type of approach to hospitality, so that kind of like brilliant luxury, making investments, that's been our perspective.
And guests really respond to it because they want to be treated well, you don't want to be in a space and feel like you're unwelcome.
I think there's unfortunately, in the industry, people want to charge for like how many loads of laundry you did at the property, also like a cool heating fee, just things that are very anti guests that don't feel welcoming.
So our approach has been just the opposite that we want guests to feel very comfortable, totally welcomed.
And then we kind of talk about for each property, there's some kind of a wow factor.
So whether it's like right by the beach, it's right by the mountain, you go in, there's high ceilings that you want to feel inspired.
And we love that we're helping to kind of create this backdrop for memories that when this group travel, they're properties.
So when you're there with your friends and your families, you don't have to worry about not having like aluminum foil for your baking needs, like, we're gonna take care of that, everything's gonna be there, you can just focus on making memories.
And I think that really resonates with people. Oh, wow. Yeah, it resonates with me.
I'm like, Hmm, where do I want to go next? Oh, actually, so thinking about that, is there a property that you have that has a special significance to you?
Like, I don't know if you have a favorite? Just curious. Yeah, it's hard to have favorites.
I love them all. And there's something unique about each property, I would say one that came online pretty recently that we're all really excited about is so I'm here in Austin, that there's a property in Fredericksburg, Texas, it's called the Lincoln Street Inn.
And it was actually built originally in the 1860s.
There have been some, you know, add ons and modifications, but, you know, an incredible storied property.
And so when you're staying there, you're actually say it's a registered Texas historical location property.
So it's, it's on the National Registrar. It's very cool. So just that type of history and the fact that you can access the whole property with your group and make these great memories is very cool.
So I have a particularly soft spot for just that history.
But all of our properties offer something unique.
And I honestly, one thing that's funny about working and you know, running this company is I don't really take a lot of vacations.
But I feel like by seeing the pictures and knowing how much guests love it, I kind of get like, almost by proxy glow that I get to be near, but I hope to, you know, visit all the properties myself.
I think they're all so unique.
I'm like, that sounds like FOMO. I don't know. I don't know if I can get the full experience of vacation unless I'm there myself.
Yeah, that's right. But they really do look beautiful. And like, is there any strategy on like, how you chose the different locations?
And are you thinking of expanding?
Like, what does that look like? Yeah, so definitely a lot of expansion.
So we'd love for boutique to ultimately be a household name so that, you know, wherever you are across the US that you could stay at a boutique property.
But also, you know, we haven't talked as much about it, but the idea that you could own a boutique property.
And I think one of the original ways that that's done is just you as an individual would have that high debt to income ratio that you'd have to, you know, hurdle against where it's very expensive to buy a second home.
And so we're doing really cool things when it comes to our expansion and seeing these leisure destinations, getting more supply all across the US, but also increasing the accessibility from an investment perspective.
So looking at different models for co-investment, where you don't have to be the single owner of a particular product of a particular property, but also fractional ownership.
So you can have, you know, particular shares of a property.
And so when we talk about it, it's almost like we're democratizing the access to these properties, but also the investment in, because there are other, you know, really successful, cool models that are membership based.
So if you pay like a monthly fee, you can stay at these really nice properties.
Or if you are an investor in these properties, you can stay in them.
But our belief is like, anyone should be able to access these properties, right?
And so, you know, for these special occasions, so there's no gating feature of membership, or you have to be an owner to stay in them.
And then coming up with unique ways that folks can actually participate from the investment perspective.
So we're really excited about both of those.
And when it comes to the locations, kind of to your question, that it's really, we love leisure destinations.
This is where folks want to go. And I have an MBA, but I also have a Master of Public Policy, we only want to go where we're wanted.
So we want to make sure that there's a good regulatory environment that this type of activity, you know, as an engine of the economy, it's well, well established.
And so some of these markets is where we're seeing, you know, that particular need as well.
That is super interesting. Because, you know, in looking at your background, too, it seems like there's this like through line of advocacy, whether it be for like women in entrepreneurship, or access to opportunities, or, you know, those types of things.
Can you is that kind of part of the underpinning of why?
It is. And that's, I think, one is so interesting about Boutique, because any company is going to reflect its co founders, right?
It's going to reflect that team that gets it off the ground.
And then kind of what is that guiding vision?
And for myself, you know, throughout my life, I actually have discovered, I believe there are two keys for social economic mobility, and one is education.
So I obviously have done a lot in education and a big advocate for more equity in that space.
And the other is real estate. And that's where unfortunately, to act to participate in that asset class, you tend to already have to be well off.
And that's really challenging. If you're trying to help with wealth generation, for those who don't previously have access.
And so what's interesting, yes, we're building this luxury vacation rental company, but there's so much more to it.
So there's, you know, one, you don't need a membership to stay at these properties, etc.
Two, there's interesting financing mechanisms that you can actually participate in the ownership, which is very cool.
And then the third is that we actually respect everybody in that supply chain.
So it's not like, okay, we're building this and the folks who are on the ground, you know, we're not going to think about them as much we actually, all of those folks who are doing the cleanings who are, you know, there's when there's an electrical issue, there's plumbing, whatever, you know, all of those, we consider them our partners, because none of this happens without them.
And so we believe firmly in paying very fair wages so that everyone feels good in that whole supply chain.
Yeah. And I mean, supply chain is something that comes up often, especially now, since we're still in the midst of this pandemic.
Have you figured that or noticed that you had to pivot or do anything specifically, you know, these past couple of years dealing with everything that's been going on with travel and feeling nervous?
So boutique itself was founded in December of 2019.
We went through the Techstars Austin accelerator credit graduated from that in March of 2020.
If you remember that time, right after the freeze.
Yeah. So we, we basically, we came out into the pandemic. And I think there was a lot, there were a lot of questions about what is this pandemic going to mean for travel writ large, right.
And what we actually saw is that these single family residences, so you're not in a shared space, you're actually in a private home in these leisure destinations, not a bustling big city downtown.
That actually was a safe opportunity for small groups and families to travel, continue to make memories during this time.
And so we actually saw demand go way up.
And it's something where vacation, rental travel itself is pretty consistent.
And so when you see those increases, what's interesting is that some of these are people who they previously would have been traveling internationally on flights.
And instead they're doing drive to destinations. And so these drive to destinations have actually performed very well and are expected to continue.
And it's something where, you know, the industry itself, I think that, you know, you might think of vacation rentals or short-term rentals as they've been around forever, but they really haven't.
And it was actually 2008 that Airbnb was founded. So it's still a relatively nascent industry.
And so there are actually a lot people who haven't stayed in a short-term rental before, but the data shows when people stay at a short-term rental and a vacation rental, they tend to love it and they come back.
So there's still a lot of people who haven't been exposed to it, but the pandemic, I think allowed more people to see it and they love it, which is really exciting.
Oh, no. I mean, at certain points I had to kind of just get out and that's honestly what I did.
I totally understand. I feel like I'm a part of your target audience for sure.
So can you tell me more about the culture at Boutique?
Like how, what kind of culture have you created to kind of support all of this work?
Yeah. So most of us are in Austin, but we are a remote team. And that's something that's interesting because all of my prior work experiences have been more in person.
So there's this, you know, there's an office that you're all going to.
And I think that is typically where you look to for cultures, like what are the events that you're having?
How are people connecting in person?
And so we've had to do that in a virtual format. We do, of course, because some of us are here in Austin, like we're meeting up on Thursday for kind of a holiday get together.
But I think the idea is we want everyone to feel comfortable and to feel integrated and like a key part of the team, regardless of where they are located.
And so I would say we have kind of a casual culture that's very accepting. And we understand like when somebody is sick or, you know, there's some reason that they need to kind of tap out for a little bit and have somebody else help out.
I also think there's a good sense of humor that all of our team members share. In fact, one of our recent team members does stand up comedy, which is kind of like a cool addition.
So we all want to go see her. Yeah, you have to do like a on a Zoom or something.
That's it. Exactly. We've sometimes done kind of like virtual happy hours and things like that to keep to keep things kind of like fun and light, because obviously it's busy.
A startup, you wear a ton of hats. There's always there's never a dull day, but you want to make sure that people feel valued and integrated and, you know, that they see that future and how their work contributes to that broader picture.
Hmm. OK. I mean, that sounds like a great culture that will support the type of innovation and work that it takes to get all of these big things done.
So now that we've talked about the company, let's kind of pivot a little bit and talk about you.
Right. Because this is not the first company that you built, I noticed.
So like, tell me more about like your journey, like how you personally got from where you started to here.
Yeah. Well, I'd say just something that I've found is I get a lot of satisfaction from being able to track impact.
So knowing what am I doing or this group that I'm a part of, what are we doing and what is different because of it?
And I would say that is a common thread ever since I was very young, as I've always wanted to.
You know, it's kind of like maybe a bit cliche, but that idea of want to make a difference.
But your difference can be all sorts of different levels.
Right. The idea is you want things to be different in a positive way because you were there, because you were doing something.
And it's interesting because that entrepreneurial spirit, I would say, I definitely had that even from a young age.
It was interesting. I was thinking back.
I was like I did with my siblings. So I grew up middle of five kids in northern Idaho and with my siblings, we started like a little cleaning company.
So our neighborhood was called Cougar Gulch, which, of course, it's in Idaho, Cougar Gulch.
But we started like the Cougar Cleaners and we had like outfits and we would advertise around the neighborhood.
We, of course, did the lemonade stand, but we were in the country so we couldn't do it out in the country.
We did it at a friend's house when there was a bridge construction, which was the best time to do that.
Good strategy. Yeah. And then I had like a jewelry company with my cousin where we would sell at this kind of like fair that happened every year and then do it in other venues as well.
So always kind of working on building something, seeing how a market reacted.
And I would say something else from kind of my younger years that stayed with me is that I'm not afraid to take chances.
And it doesn't mean that everything that I go for works out, that everything that I, you know, attempt or apply for or whatever works out.
But I'm not afraid to take that chance and to say, you know what, the greater failure is in not trying.
So I'm going to put myself out there and go for these different things.
And I think that's how, you know, I grew up very working class family.
My dad was a firefighter. My mom stayed home with us.
She'd previously been a nurse, but with all the kids stayed home with us.
And so I had a very loving, you know, supportive childhood. We didn't have a ton of resources.
And it was that kind of drive, I think, that allowed me to go from Idaho to D.C.
kind of onto the various things that I've done. But it's all that kind of like internal feeling like, OK, there's more that can be done here.
Let's give it a shot. Yeah. And again, it seems like leave it better than I found it.
Take something from this, apply it to the next thing, leave it better than I found it, which I think that's really powerful.
So you I think you I've seen you also described as a social impact minded self starter.
So what does unpack that for me?
What does that mean? Yeah, I think it's something that I see a lot of other folks that model this, which is really nice.
But that idea that taking care of yourself is good, but taking care of others and moving others along as well and trying to create a broader change is even better.
So it's one thing to look out for yourself.
And if you can be successful, that's great. That's totally good.
But I would say it's not sufficient in terms of what it means to be kind of a I would say I don't know if the right term is like a well-rounded citizen, but that idea of how you interact in a community and so social impact, you know, it was interesting actually talking to you earlier about the work that you're doing.
It's that, you know, it's one thing to just look out for yourself.
But my perspective has always been somebody else is looking out for you, whether you knew it or not, that helped to open some doors and to create some change that we all benefited from.
So how do we continue that? And so I've done a lot when it comes to kind of female, you know, women empowerment, et cetera.
And that idea is, you know, it's great if I can do some of these things, but how else are you helping others?
And are you like reaching back and lifting other people up? And I think that that's something that's really important to me when I think about the role models that I have had and how they've been so inspiring.
It's also the work that they've done to kind of pave the way.
And so I think it's important for all of us to consider the impacts of what we're doing and making sure that we're not just focused on ourself, our business, but rather the community and some of these larger important issues.
And what are you noticing about like boutiques community? Because I think there could be an aspect of boutique that is kind of promoting self -care, right?
Take a load off, unplug from work, get out of your, we live at work now.
So get out of your like home slash office and go do something, treat yourself, right?
So yeah, is that- I like that. And it's actually something, one of, we've had some really incredible interns, one of our interns from UT, Xavier, he actually hit on that exact point about how the home can be this opportunity to unplug, to recharge, to, because it's these leisure destinations.
So they're near, you know, a mountain, a lake, et cetera.
There's some kind of beautiful natural draw that it's also this opportunity to kind of step back, be a little bit more in nature.
And these are not, you know, we're not the yurts. Like we're not, that is its own company.
It's like yurts out in the wild. That's not us. Far more creature comforts at a boutique property.
But it's that whole idea of how can you get into a different inspiring space and kind of reconnect with some different things and also just decompress.
And I think that is really important. And something that I think all of our team members would tell you that's really fun is when you read the reviews about the adventures and like the fun times, the memories that people made at the homes, because you'd be surprised people actually write very detailed reviews.
And sometimes they send like private, you know, message to the host where they're like, you know, we did X, Y, and Z.
Like we've had engagements happen, all sorts of really cool, like moments that we get to be a part of in some way.
And I think that it is very healthy. Like I said, I hope to go on more vacations myself.
Yeah, I'm like, I think you, I think you can make a business case for going to every single one.
There is certainly a business case for it.
100%. Um, so okay, so now we're going to move into more kind of questions about not work stuff.
So thinking about like pop culture and stuff like that, like what TV shows are you watching?
Are you binging right now? Is that something that you do to decompress?
So life is pretty busy, to be honest. Life is pretty busy. But at the end of the night, so we have a son was something I should mention is that with our co founders, one of my co founders is my husband, Dan.
So we are married in life and business.
And we have a son, Declan, who's about 20 months. And so once he's been put to bed, then we get to kind of relax and watch some TV shows.
So I feel like the ones that I've been binging are the ones that everyone's been binging.
Like I really loved only murders in the building. I thought it was so fun. I love nine perfect strangers.
There's all sorts of stuff. But then we also like finding on like acorn and some other little streaming services that like there's old series called Jack Irish, which is worth looking up.
I had so much fun.
And I wish there were far more episodes, but doing a little digging and kind of, you know, you want something that keeps you engaged and kind of more thought provoking.
And there's like the element of justice, et cetera. But yeah, we do enjoy kind of that downtime.
And then I think, I don't know if I mentioned to you, but I'm actually currently pregnant.
So I'm like seven months pregnant right now. So I'm doing, we're kind of preparing for life to become even, even busier.
We have a baby girl due in February.
So we're kind of getting ready for that. But like we do love getting into some good TV shows as we relax.
Cause everybody needs a little decompression time.
Oh yeah. I mean, I lean more towards like the reality TV stuff.
Cause I like a good thrill. I love a good one on one argument, a table flip or two, but those all sound awesome.
So, wow. Okay. So thinking about this, so you have been on this journey of entrepreneurship and also motherhood and also kind of balancing all of these things.
Like how does that all work? How do you kind of manage that?
Yeah. Well, it's funny because I remember I used to do consulting and I think that, you know, consulting is, you know, there's obviously such good work that takes place there.
But I found that that model of traveling, I was, you know, leaving on a Monday morning, coming back on a Thursday night, that's really hard.
It's hard in terms of being there with your family from a physical perspective.
Right. And it's something that I think people talk about work-life balance a lot.
And I would actually say with the pandemic and us working from home, I feel very fortunate that we get to be here for all of his moments.
So we do have a babysitter who comes during the day. She's here right now.
And that's huge. That's a big, big assist. And I love that I can just pop downstairs to say hello and get like a little squeeze in.
And I feel very, very fortunate because for so many, I think there wasn't that opportunity to be home and still pursue your professional ambitions the way that you wanted to.
So I actually think that that's opened up quite a bit, which I think is very exciting.
And I hope that type of flexibility stays around. But I also like the idea that you don't have to choose.
It isn't well, you know, I can't work on a company right now because I'm having a family.
It's like, no, you can do both. It doesn't mean that you're not going to be tired at times or that it's all going to be easy.
But I think that we're at a much better place where there's more of an understanding that these are things that can be done concurrently.
Like, you know, I feel just as competent, capable, et cetera.
And I feel like there's also like an added motivation as you understand your role model and a provider for these little lives now.
And so I actually think that that can be an asset. And I like that. I don't feel that I have to choose between the two.
That's beautiful. Yeah, because, again, you know, it's hard, especially when you maybe not might not be in a position of being running something or being able to build something.
And you're kind of almost at the mercy of the policies or the system within which you're working.
So, again, at a certain point, and I'm glad that we're moving towards systems that allow more flexibility.
And I mean, just thinking about boutique, are there any specific ways where you've been able or you've seen some successes in that space for your own company in terms of like that flexibility?
Well, that's something where whenever someone says like, hey, I've got this, you know, whether it's a doctor's appointment or the kid is sick, we're all very understanding and like we all know how to step up for someone else.
And I think that acknowledgement and realization like we're, yes, we're a team, but we also feel and part of it is probably because we're smaller, but we feel like a family and a family is going to, you know, show up for each other and not make you feel bad for having life happen.
Like that's when you actually need support. And I think that, you know, there's different occasions where all of us have had to step away for some something that has come up.
And I think that by working as a team and a family, we're able to ensure that continuity while also acknowledging that we're all human and we need some help from time to time.
And I think that's, you know, obviously important to recognize.
Oh, especially now because your average person is flirting with burnout.
Absolutely. Do you have any like tactics or suggestions on kind of like managing all of that stress or like saving on burnout, especially with everything you have going on?
Yeah. I think that being able to step away at a certain point is, is important.
And this is maybe not a great answer, but to be honest, one of the ways that I manage burnout is like finding the different things on a daily basis that I am looking forward to that I think kind of like can break up a day.
So like one, I never miss a meal. Like I'm always going to have my breakfast, my lunch, my dinner, I'm never going to miss a meal.
But I think, you know, having like that special dinner, that special lunch.
And, you know, here in Austin, there are just so many great food options.
And so whether it's something that you're making or something that you're ordering, but being able to treat yourself and take a break also, you know, honestly going for walks.
So we have a really cool greenbelt area behind our home that we're able to walk.
And that's, that's pretty awesome.
So whether it's just in the neighborhood or actually going out on a hike being able to decompress and not always be in front of your computer or another screen like the TV, I think that works well for me.
And then also we like listening a little bit to music.
There's KXP is a radio station out of Seattle, and they have incredible on YouTube, you can watch these KXP live in studio sessions.
And it's beautiful, just amazing, great diversity of music.
And our son loves it too.
So take a break for those little things. I would say those are all different tactics that we use.
Okay, all right. Now I have two more questions. I'm here in Austin as well.
Favorite place to eat or if not favorite, because that might be hard, the last really good meal you had here in Austin.
I actually really love there is a super comforting Vietnamese restaurant called broth and basil that has a pho beef rib that is just insane.
It's so good. And then like a chicken vermicelli.
So I order both and I can't finish both in one night. So it's like always have leftovers.
But especially like it's kind of a gray day. I'm already thinking about them today.
Yeah, no, this is very, it's good ramen weather right now.
For sure. And then the second question is, what has been your favorite? You said in studio session from the Seattle?
Well, there was interesting is there's so many, but one that just comes to mind right now is we went to an event here in Austin with one of the members of the Black Pumas, and they had done an in studio session at KXP.
And they actually remembered and were like, Oh, that was one of our favorites.
But I would say is Arlo Parks, Arlo Parks is fantastic. So I loved her KXP session, probably the most and our kid has watched it a ton of times as well.
Oh, yes, I like foster a love of music and you kids.
Well, I mean, I'm from New Orleans.
So like and you know, your family is to music is everything. That's right. For sure.
Um, so I Alright, we have a few minutes left. And I have two more questions for you.
And then I'll let you go. So what advice would you give yourself when you started your company so long ago?
Well, it's advice that I've actually shared, because I have done, you know, previous startups, whether it's one that I was leading, or I was helping other folks or as a mentor, etc.
But I would say, you know, there's always that kind of, as I mentioned before, not being held back by a fear of failure.
So the I would say, oftentimes, we say no to ourselves, as opposed to waiting for other people to say no to us.
And so we like we reserve, we wait, we decline to go for an opportunity.
And I feel like that's one of the biggest hindrances.
So feeling free to make mistakes to go for something that may not work out, but just feeling like you don't have to be held back by that fear of failure.
I would say that's honestly the biggest one, because, you know, you have to, you have to go for these different things, they're not all going to work out, but you have to be willing to put yourself and the company out and to try new things.
But then the second is just really, I've learned a lot from a, you know, from an operations perspective, about, you know, the business intricacies and making sure that you get everything documented, that you have a great legal team, that you know, the vesting when it comes to stock, just from like, honestly, just logistics, to make sure that even if you're working with people who are some of your best friends, that every startup is going to go through good times and through bad times, and it making sure that there's a good systematic approach to how the business is run that business continuity for everybody's benefit.
And so there's some kind of like very specific lessons that I've learned, that you might come in thinking a little bit more idealistically, I'm certainly idealistic in different ways.
But you also learn like, okay, we got to get these things buttoned up, and they're non-negotiable.