David Beckham is a household name. Using his precocious talent on the football field, he has built a global fashion and lifestyle empire around his name.
Now, his sister wants to follow in his footsteps.
Joanne Beckham, 35, and former footballer Jay Smith, also 35, are the founders of luxury concierge company WeAreYourCity.
Its mission is simple: Plan the social lives of the rich and famous.
Beckham, who was previously a hairdresser for 16 years, told Business Insider she always wanted to do “something for herself.”
It started with a conundrum. “When I’m in London I’m always struggling for cool places to go,” she said. Luckily, this was something Smith had direct experience in. He used to help former teammates get access to the best places in the world through a concierge service he set up after quitting football.
“In the dressing room, you would say, ‘Where do you shop? Where do you buy cars from?’ Especially in a new city,” he said. “Giving people access to these places saves people time and money.”
“People don’t have time to sit a book a flight, go to a hotel website, a restaurant website, or wait 20 minutes on the phone to Hong Kong paying £2 a minute.”
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They launched WeAreYourCity in 2015. Beckham and Smith started out approaching brands to become part of their “black book” of preferred partners. This would give members access to the best and most exclusive places on the planet, including hotels, restaurants, and bars.
Beckham said they were doing up to 14 meetings a day with potential partners in the early days of the service, with their first sit-down being with May Fair Hotel. The five-star hotel gives you some idea of their ambitions.
The other challenge was building WeAreYourCity’s membership. Its exclusive list of 20 clients includes sports personalities, celebrities, and entrepreneurs. Here, Beckham and Smith tapped into their own black books.
“Because of Joanne’s background, she had contacts with celebrities, then I had contacts with sports personalities, then individuals within our circles just approached us,” Smith said. “Some of them referred us to other brands, then other brands approached us – it grew pretty quickly.”
A personal lifestyle manager
Beckham and Smith are pretty coy about how Beckham WeAreYourCity works. “We have to be careful if there are other competitors trying to look up what we’re doing,” she said.
But this is what they will share. The company operates on a single membership tier (£400 a month or £4,000 a year) for 24 hours access by phone, email, or the lifestyle platform (online or via their app.) The phones are answered be a “live person” all the time, anywhere in the world.
When a request comes in – whether it’s a phone call, an email or through the app – they will build recommendations around it.
“It can be as simple as ‘I need a flight to Miami, I need a hotel for a week and some restaurants,'” Smith said. “Or sometimes people don’t know what they want to do. They might be going to Dubai for two weeks, and they might say: ‘I don’t know what I want to do.’ Then the concierge can give them an itinerary for two weeks.”
Each member is also given a dedicated “lifestyle manager” to “build a relationship with,” according to Smith. The manager knows everything from their favourite restaurants to the dates of their children’s’ birthdays.
“The lifestyle manager will work how the member wants to work,” he added. “Some members proactively research and tell you exactly where they want you to go, and some have no idea.”
Beckham said WeAreYourCity also offers exclusivity. For example, it has a “hot tables” feature, where prime time tables at popular restaurants at 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. on a Saturday night are available to members.
“You normally can’t get those tables, but the website flashes up with what’s available,” she explained. “We have to keep on top of that to make sure we have all the ‘in’ places people want to go.”
Smith believes £4,000-a-year is a “reasonable price” for the service. “We’re growing the business, but in the future it might change,” he said. “Looking at some concierge companies, they aren’t truly 24 hours or worldwide – that’s why there’s only a few big ones in the marketplace,” he said.
25 staff currently look after the company’s members full time. However, Smith said they now have access to a total of 120 staff in London through a partnership with concierge company Ten Lifestyle Management which WeAreYourCity formed earlier this year to expand its services around the world. “They believed in us, wanted the best for us, and they’ve been a great support,” Beckham said.
On the company’s growth, Smith said: “From a conversation and idea to the launch was six months, and we went from a London-based company to a global company in just under two years.”
“If you’re used to having the right contacts in London and you travel to New Work and LA, you want to feel like you have the same access around the world as you have in your own place,” he added. “That’s what we provide for them.”
Smith added that Instagram and social media has changed the industry. “When you go on Instagram, you think ‘Where is that place? How do I get there?’ By calling us, you can say, ‘I”ve seen this place on Instagram – a hotel in Bali, a restaurant – and we can give you whatever you need. It saves people time, and with our upgrades, it saves people money as well.”
Private and personal
If you’ve never heard of the company before reading this, then Smith and Beckham believe they’re doing their job right.
“We wanted to keep it quite private and personal to any members who did join, hence why there isn’t a lot of advertising about us,” Beckham said. “We like to work on word of mouth and people referring us to other members, so we keep it quite niche. That, to me, was important obviously, with my background.”
There are currently around 20 members of WeAreYourCity – exactly the number the company wants, according to Smith. But now that they’ve gone global, they expect this to change.
“When we launched as a London company we tapped it because we weren’t ready to grow any more than that, as the team was small,” Smith said. “Now, we’re a worldwide company, and we’re ready to open membership up. We’re ready to take on members from around the world.”
However, he added: “Members will feel more valued from being in a closed membership base. We don’t want to lose that, as big as we get.”
The same attitude applies to the partners they take on board. Smith said WeAreYourCity has over 1,000 partners including “some of the best brands in the world” – from hotels and high-end retailers, to spas and restaurants.
The supportive big brother
It’s undeniable that Beckham benefited from her relationship with David.
“We were always out and about in London, and we’d built up very good relationships,” she said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to do a couple of events where there have been high net worth individuals there. We get introduced to them, they found out about us, we become friends, then that’s it. They want to be part of what we’re doing, which is lovely.”
While David came to the company’s launch (“He put a post out there for us,” she said) Joanne made it clear this is very much her own venture.
“We’ve built this up ourselves,” she said. “He’s just supported me the whole way through – he’s the big brother. That’s what we wanted anyway – we wanted to do it ourselves.”
Becoming a lifestyle brand
Smith is now spending much of his time travelling to meet with new potential global partners in three target areas: Dubai, the “far east,” and the US. The company is also readying the release of a new website.
Quite how fees from 20 members (which totals around £80,000 if they’re each paying £4,000 a year) fund 25 – or even 120 – staff is not clear. Smith and Beckham declined to discuss the company’s earnings, and said they “never add on to costs or charge commission from our brand partners.”
Smith said: “We’re happy with the numbers and the membership at the moment.” Beckham added: “You can always improve the numbers.”
Smith said they’re looking to do this through events and product collaborations. The company recently held an event for potential members at Harvey Nichols in collaboration with ESPA Life Spa at The Corinthia, two of Beckham’s favourite places in the city.
Smith also said they’re exploring other collaborations, including a potential tie-up with Bang & Olufsen. “We want to be more than a concierge company – we want to make it a lifestyle,” Smith said.
He explained: “If you look at Nobu, they can do pretty much anything they want now. They’ve got restaurants, hotels – they’ve established the brand. Hakkassan could do a hotel if they wanted to. With us, product would be something we go down the route of to become a lifestyle brand.”
“It’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s enjoyable,” he added. “Every day there’s new partners and new opportunities. The harder you work, the more things happen.”