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When Mozelle Spencer told her friends she wanted to become a muralist, many of them laughed. So she put her dreams aside and continued working at her day job.
Then one day, she came to a realization.
"With a change of life I decided, you know what, you only live one time, so I'm going to follow my dreams," said Spencer. "I wanted to bring art to underprivileged kids, and I wanted to bring art in spaces that made people feel comfortable."
It wasn't long before she was commissioned to work on big projects across the region, including working with the Gates Foundation to create a mural at an area clinic for children.
Her business started doing well in Bellevue. She had office space. She hired employees. Then in 2008, the recession came, and the bottom fell out. She found herself starting over and ever since she's been working hard to get back to financial security.
Then Airbnb came in. For nearly the last year and a half, Spencer has opened her two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in Seattle to strangers. Last year she hosted almost 200 guests and claims she had only good experiences.
Airbnb says more women are hosting rooms in their homes to help fund their entrepreneurial dreams. Since 2008, women renting out their homes with Airbnb brought in more than $10 billion. The company reports women make up 55-percent of the host community nationwide, but Seattle sees an even higher number at 57-percent.
Airbnb spokesperson Laura Rillos says the ordinary annual income for a woman host in Seattle is $9,660. An estimated 390 women in the city say they use it to support themselves while working part-time. About 90 women in Seattle say they use the income to support a new business.
Overall, 50,000 women around the world have used Airbnb income to support entrepreneurship for themselves, says Rillos.
"Airbnb actually affords me the ability to be in this apartment," says Spencer. If she had to share an apartment with someone, she would have to pay more than half of the rent because her art studio is also part of the space. "This actually allows me to continue to be an entrepreneur and do what I love and bring art out there in the community."
Spencer says she doesn't make a lot of money considering the rental market is expensive. She also spends a lot of money on things like toiletries, linens, and coffee. As a non-coffee drinker, that is a purchase she would not normally make. Plus, she buys all organic products for her guests. It may not make her a lot of extra money, but it continues to fund her dreams of being an artist and make friends along the way.
"My Airbnb guests, granted they were strangers, but they were just friends that I had not met yet," said Spencer. "It really creates community, and there's people that I keep in touch with, they keep in touch with me, and they follow me in my art business. The really great high-fives and kudos on Instagram is really wonderful."