The Entrepreneurial Hostess
Check out the SecondHouse website, and you’ll be aching for a vacation. A man in a hat gazes into a gorgeous orange sunset near a white barn. An attractive group practices yoga. A guy in a cozy-looking sweater looks out over a perfectly snowy lawn from a cool wood balcony. Thanks to entrepreneur Janera Soerel, these experiences are possible. Join SecondHouse (or schedule a trial to test it out first) and gain access to two homes not far from the city—one in North Fork and one in the Catskills—along with a variety of other intriguing members / potential new friends. Soerel also manages Departure, a creative agency, with her husband, filmmaker Jack Stallings. She answered a few of our questions about her ventures.
New Yorkers have many options for weekend getaways: time shares, Airbnb, hotels… For whom is SecondHouse the best choice and why?
SecondHouse is for individuals, couples, and families who are looking to regularly escape the city and be in the company of new friends. We’re the shared economy’s solution to having regular access to a second home, hassle free.
We are for people who want to own a second home but don’t want the big expense, maintenance headaches, or pressure of having to go all the time.
The inspiration for SecondHouse came from the time I lived in Milan, Italy, when my friends and I would skip town every weekend. We’d go to one of their houses and also be in the company of children and grandparents. Everyone would relax and we’d cook, share meals, talk, read, go for walks, ski, swim, or do nothing.
We know from research that escaping the city feeds our happiness and wellbeing. My mission is to make that bygone lifestyle accessible to more people.
LivingRooms and other special events aim to connect members in the city. Any stories about members who have developed relationships or begun collaborating through the program?
Community is key for us. We live in an atomized society where people are busy all the time but end up feeling lonely and disconnected.
SecondHouse is a member community of like minds. Our members are curious and aware entrepreneurs, executives, wellness practitioners, creatives, and other professionals.
One of our first members, Anna Konstantinova (who is also our Brand Ambassador) was hired for a freelance gig by one of our other members, who runs a big advertising agency. SecondHouse itself met its new Creative Director—Camillia BenBassat the principal of Avec, a branding agency—through the community. Additionally, one of our LivingRoom speakers won a new corporate client at the event.
Members are inviting each other out to drinks, parties, and dinners. I know that things are thriving when I hear about connections that have happened on their own, without my intervention.
You’re also a managing partner of the creative agency, Departure. How has your work on SecondHouse overlapped with your work here? What has your experience with Departure brought to your approach to SecondHouse?
Departure is the creative storytelling agency I run with my husband, Jack Stallings. He’s a filmmaker. Departure and SecondHouse meet where content creation, real estate, and wellbeing intersect. At one of our recent LivingRooms, I reconnected with a Business School friend. Her company hired Departure to execute a wellness real estate TV show. The combined experience of my two companies makes us the perfect partners to help this idea move from concept to reality. And who knows? Maybe down the line, one of the SecondHouse properties could be featured in an episode.
The SecondHouse homes are located in the Catskills and North Fork. What makes these two locations (and, specifically, the areas where your homes are) ideal for weekend getaways from New York?
We are building a network of country, beach, and mountain homes that are relatively close to the city, and easy to reach. We also select locations that are near interesting activities (vineyards, farm stands), restaurants, or other amenities (hiking trails, creative communities).
Our house on the North Fork is close to the train station and the Jitney stop. Getting to the Catskills house is easiest with a car. For members who don’t have a car, we recently launched a partnership with ReachNow, the BMW/MINI ride-sharing company.
Once we’ve settled on an area, we select the homes based on comfort, spaciousness, airiness, light, and character. Our North Fork house, for example, is right on the Peconic Bay and has its own beach.
Our houses must have ample common spaces so that there is enough room for everyone to feel at home. We love large kitchens, great views, and fireplaces.
We are purchasing our first house this year, and will select a property with great bones that we will renovate with our architect Gregory Tuck. Our guiding principle is that spaces can make people happier, and our properties will provide comfort, support, and intimacy.