Interview with Camilla Shaughnessy, Founder of EventfulStays.com

Camilla Shaughnessy is the founder of EventfulStays.com, a UK accommodation website which specialises in mid- to high-end home stays available for short term lets searchable by event. Camilla enjoyed the echelons of senior positions in corporate life before establishing her own consultancy firm in 1994. She went on to launch Eventful Stays in December 2010, inspired by renting out her Oxfordshire home to help generate additional income after the market crash in early 2010 when she and her husband lost their savings. While investigating ways in which to rent out her home – which features a pool house, helipad and gym – Camilla realised that, whilst there are numerous holiday rental companies, none specialise in major event-focused breaks or indeed personal ‘events’ such as special birthdays, wedding anniversaries and hen weekends – and so Eventful Stays was born.

What is it that you do exactly?

I get up at 5am when my head is usually buzzing with ideas and get a couple of hours of work done before the phones start ringing. I look after the day-to-day running of the website, deal with new potential rentals to make sure they adhere to our standards and manage the marketing and public relations teams. By 7.30am it’s time for a break so I go for a run, cycle, do a bit of kickboxing or 60 lengths in the pool. I’m lucky that my office is in my home – my team works from the summer house – so no commuting for me. When everyone has arrived, the office banter begins and we start the day with a motivational chat. As I recruit mainly young graduates I make sure they are involved or know about all the big decisions so they can see the effort that goes into running a new business. They’ve all had to watch me lament the loss of my beloved sports car which had to be sold to pay for the next phase of the website!

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

Starting a website and overcoming all the hurdles that inevitably brings is mentally stimulating and I’m sure not everyone can say that about their job. I’m also a member of ‘Modern Muse’, which was established last year by the Everywoman network. Modern Muse aims to inspire and motivate young women and girls about business and entrepreneurship. I recruit young, mainly female graduates on paid internships and arm them with the skills needed for a professional upmarket start up business. Once a week, some of the team stay for supper – or as they put it ‘are held hostage’ – so that they can have open and frank exchanges about their hopes and aspirations, ideas and frustrations. I also line up discussion groups with schools and college sixth forms to engage young women in understanding the opportunities that can be made available to those with drive, determination and a bit of imagination. All they need is a little inspiration and to know what is possible. That gives me a lot of satisfaction.

What would you say are the 3 best places you’ve ever stayed?

I’d say the strangest place I’ve ever spent a night was a luxury converted Double Decker Bus with an on-board Jacuzzi, which I now think of as a great alternative for the more, uhm, discerning festival-goer (that would be doing Glastonbury in style!).

To celebrate my sister’s wedding we stayed at this delightful pousada in Portugal. I’m a big fan of avoiding hotels and B&B’s when a home stay is an alternative, if you haven’t noticed.

I enjoyed a stay at a fabulous Georgian Beach House in Ilfracombe, Devon where we celebrated a memorable winter family reunion. But then our family, being of Irish descent, usually have pretty sizable get-togethers! We just celebrated my father’s 87th birthday at a sumptuous cottage in Gloucestershire. We dined in style and a spontaneous game of water polo turned into a fun riot, as no one seemed to know the rules – or be bothered about them. The kids just looked on in horror at their mad parents until they gave in and joined the fun. My father played referee – needless to say!

What’s been your most memorable dining experience to date?

Well, I once helped out my friend Gerald – the owner of a firm that provides personal bodyguards – by having lunch at The Ivy with a ‘loaned’ team of protectors positioned in and around the restaurant, foyer and outside – with cars at the ready. Best favour I’ve ever done! The bodyguards were on their final VIP training exercise so I stepped in as their client. Needless to say the other diners were completely intrigued – especially as they obviously didn’t recognise me. I then went to Brown’s, where I had a business meeting over tea, and the doorman was completely taken aback when asking if I wanted a taxi, he suddenly realised I had three cars awaiting me. Shopping in Harrods was equally as entertaining. It was like having five husbands watch what you are spending.

Have you rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous, either through your work or your travels?

Well just this week I rubbed shoulders with the Prime Minister at a Conservative lunch and I often see Jeremy Clarkson as he lives about 10-miles away from my home from Chipping Norton.

What currently ranks highest on your travel wish list?

My schedule is pretty punishing so if I went anywhere it would sadly have to be with my laptop and iPhone in hand! But first and foremost is spending time with my husband and son. This summer I have decided to go back to my roots and spend a week cycling and fine dining in Ireland – for the simple reason that my husband would only agree on the basis of the fine dining and my 15-year-old son’s prerequisite was dare-devil off-road biking. My next priority is time with my friends. Perhaps a trip to Scotland to walk, talk and stay in a Laird’s castle. And once the sports car is replaced – definitely a priority – I’ll look at going somewhere warm and beautiful like the Maldives.

Thank you for taking part in our interview, Camilla. I’m off to Scotland myself next month to do a special feature on some very luxurious accommodation on a Scottish island… watch this space for details!

If you would like to be interviewed on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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