How Relay freed the team at Thanks For Visiting from banking frustration

By Corrina Allen

Technology and Finance Writer

Switching banks isn’t a decision any entrepreneur takes lightly. It can be time-consuming, tedious, and frustrating. But for Sarah and Annette, the duo behind the short-term rental community platform Thanks For Visiting, the time and energy they saved with Relay was well worth the effort.

Running to a branch to open a new account. Trying to find a meeting time that works for you, your co-founder, and your banking consultant. Waiting on hold while you’re transferred from one customer service person to the next. Who has time for that? Certainly not Sarah Karakaian and Annette Grant. The Thanks For Visiting co-founders are too busy hosting short-term rental (STR) guests, flipping houses, managing their investment properties, and running their virtual collective for other STR owners. Their Thanks For Visiting podcast just dropped its 300th episode, with their reach quickly growing from the pair’s friends and family to over two million downloads. 

Thanks For Visiting - Case Study - Firm Details - Relay

Running multiple businesses while building a content empire doesn’t leave Annette and Sarah a lot of time for unnecessary administrative tasks—especially in an industry where delays can cost dollars. While Sarah and Annette were laser-focussed on their goals and making the moves to achieve them, their local bank was holding them back. “It was just so frustrating,” says Sarah, “to the point where I lost out on an opportunity on a great rate because of their slow response time.”

The hospitality hook

The two women met in 2018 and bonded over their shared views on hosting short-term rental guests. For them, it wasn’t about passive income, but about actively hosting visitors and introducing them to their hometown of Columbus, Ohio. 

“Some of us like the work behind hosting guests — taking these four walls, sharing them with other people, and being involved in that process,” Sarah says. “If you love the hospitality side of it, this is an amazing way to build wealth through real estate. Where Annette and I really want to focus is on hospitality as the driver for your real estate strategy.”

Out of this passion for hosting, Thanks For Visiting was born… and little by little, Sarah and Annette found themselves a lot busier. 

A need for better banking 

Both Sarah and Annette were reaching a boiling point in terms of the inconveniences and frustration they were being subjected to by their bank at the time. “It is 2023,” says Sarah. “We should be able to go online and wire money, or go online and open a checking account or a savings account. We're not pulling a loan here, but it feels like that when you have to go and talk to a banker.” 

That's when fellow property investors The Real Estate Robinsons introduced Sarah and Annette to Relay. “With our bank,” explains Annette, “there was some archaic stuff with the online experience and we were like, ‘How are you guys this big and have been doing this for this long and you're not making moves?’ Relay was much more nimble.”

Game-changing features for saving time and energy

“Being able to open an account online is literally a game changer,” says Annette. When Thanks For Visiting decided to host their own conference, they created a separate business to fund the project. “I probably wouldn't have done that if I would've had to go to the bank and sit down and open an account and all that. It was just so easy,” she says.

“We're getting ready to start a new business next week and it'll be, ‘Boom! Everybody put your deposit in, transfer your funds, let's start this account.’ We never have to go to the bank together. That is a huge challenge for so many businesses and that has been eliminated, which is awesome.” -Annette Grant

Another essential feature for the team has been the ability to securely share virtual debit cards. “That’s also something that's super easy with Relay,” says Annette. “That ease of being able to issue a debit card and put the amount you want that team member to have access to is huge. I don't know any other banks where you could do that same-day.” 

Relay’s features even impressed the pair’s hard-to-please bookkeeper. “I don't have to download statements and email them to her," says Sarah. "Instead, she could just go in there and see it in real time. That was game-changing.”

Challenge accepted

“My goal,” says Sarah, “is to buy as much real estate as possible. But to be financially organized is a challenge. When you buy a property with a partner, getting everything organized so you're not commingling funds and you’re keeping everything clean and on track, has been much easier when you can do it yourself online. You don't have to go into a bank. A challenge that we've been able to overcome with Relay is being able to see everything, log into one site, and actually get a really aerial view of what's going on super quickly.”

That bird’s eye view of their accounts has taken money management from a dreaded chore to a daily highlight for Annette, and not just because their balances are growing. “Relay is freaking beautiful,” she says. “It’s aesthetically pleasing. I love logging in just because of the design. That makes me feel better too, when I want to log in and look at the money and it looks beautiful. It makes you feel better in the morning.”

A “no-brainer” for Profit First practitioners

As practitioners of the Profit First method, the Thanks for Visiting Team values the way Relay is set up to support their chosen financial strategy. "The fact that Relay had a relationship with Profit First and had a strong background with real estate investors definitely piqued our interest," says Sarah. "And then once we got to meet the team and we saw the interface, it’s been this really lovely, authentic, organic relationship that's continued to grow.”

Profit First was a natural choice for how the Thanks For Visiting founders wanted to run their business, but their former banks made implementing the method difficult because of the extra work and fees that came with opening and sustaining multiple accounts. 

Thanks For Visiting - Case Study - Profit First

"Those are the two biggest Profit First roadblocks: opening multiple accounts and then getting charged fees for all those accounts," says Annette. "When you're already lean and trying to pay yourself and then you have to pay the bank $15 a month for every single account, it becomes hard to justify that.”

And it’s not just money that’s being saved, but time, too. “It used to be a huge challenge transferring funds to do Profit First and keeping all that organized,” Sarah says. “The challenge of keeping up with that stuff has now been eliminated.”

Next up: more content, a bigger community

Annette and Sarah are honest about the effort it took to close all their other business banking accounts and make the switch to Relay, but the outcome made it more than worthwhile. “I don't regret it at all,” says Sarah, “because the freedom and flexibility that we have now within our business has been worth it, a thousand percent.”

That freedom and flexibility has allowed the pair to do more of what they love best: building their TFV community and creating content that reaches, supports, and inspires their clients. They’re now at the stage where they’re seeing success spread through their community of like-minded short-term rental hosts. 

"We have Tanya, who took the time to sit down and focus on her pricing strategy and tripled a nightly rate that more than paid for an entire month's revenue off of one change,” says Sarah. “And Miranda implemented our pet-friendly strategy and she added about $10,000 to her revenue. We teach our community and they're able to add thousands of dollars to their bottom line.”

“It's a big deal when all of a sudden we see the shift from ‘I'm a host’ to ‘I'm a small business owner,’” adds Annette. “You can just see when someone makes that shift from a hobby host to a professional host. And they get excited about the opportunity there.”

A switch to Relay: preventative medicine for small business owners

If you’re tired of the banking headaches that come with managing your small business’ finances at a traditional bricks and mortar institution, and are looking save both money and time that you could be investing in your business, Relay is here to help. We’re a banking platform designed for small business and focused on the needs of entrepreneurs.

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With Relay, business owners have access to: 

  • Up to 20 free checking accounts, with no account fee or minimum balance requirements 

  • Auto-transfer rules for Profit First allocations

  • Free check payments, mobile check deposits, ACH and wires

  • No hidden banking fees

  • The ability to open an account online in just 10 minutes 

  • Safe and secure banking without having to visit a physical branch 

  • Seamless accounting software integrations with Xero and QuickBooks Online

Got ten minutes? Then you’ve got time to sign up for a free business banking account with Relay, right here. Ready to switch from your old bank to Relay? Take a look at our comprehensive checklist that will help guide you in making the change.