Morgan Pettigrew is the Queen of Memphis Airbnbs. She has cornered the market on a style that most people only wish they could find the courage to implement in their own homes. Pink kitchens, wallpaper with herons or polka dots or cheetahs, and bathrooms bathed in black beckon travelers to step outside of the ordinary and try something bold — something adventuresome! Today, Morgan talks to StyleBlueprint about her journey from law to design and back again.
How did you find your way to becoming an Airbnb host?
I always knew I wanted to go to law school. While I was in college, I had a roommate and close friend named Brooxie Davis. Through the years, she encouraged me to think outside the box and to not stick to the status quo. In 2015, Brooxie was diagnosed with cancer, so in 2016, I quit my law practice to spend time with her working our way through a bucket list.
My grandfather, a former homebuilder and investor, approached me during this time and said, “Now that you’ve quit your job, let’s come up with a way for you to generate income.” He took me to the street where he had purchased his first investment home. There was a house that looked terrible for sale on that street. I bought my first house as well as the two houses next door to it, so my first purchase was actually three houses in a row!
Brooxie encouraged me in this by saying, “Morgan, you’re going to be the person to change Memphis.” Two weeks later, my dear friend passed away. That was a really dark period for me. I lost my purpose, but I remembered the truth that Brooxie had spoken over my life. Some of my granddad’s friends suggested that I consider turning those three homes into Airbnbs. Since they knew the industry, they taught me how to make that happen. I have always had a passion for interior design, so this was a way for me to use my creative side. The first house I purchased was the one named “Brooxie’s House,” and I have custom wallpaper in “Brooxie’s House” with excerpts from her journal. It was a labor of love and took me a long time.
I missed law, so in the time after Brooxie died, I opened my own law firm. I wanted to be in control of my own schedule so that I could move back and forth between the Airbnb business and the law firm. Owning both enabled me to do that.
Five years in now, we like to do special events through Pettigrew Adventures to highlight good things about Memphis. We just finished our Press Trip, which is where we invite people from other cities who may consider visiting Memphis to visit and we aim to show them the best of the best.
How many properties do you have, and where are they located?
I currently own nine properties, and they are all in Midtown.
How have your Airbnb management methods evolved from the first house you purchased to the ninth?
These days, I take a little more risk. At first, I spent less money on decor and had less on the walls. I was told people are rough on decor — don’t do rugs, don’t do curtains. So my first house wasn’t what it could have been. I learned over time that I was able to charge a higher price and was also able to express myself more through design if I put in the houses what I wanted. I also figured out how to cater to people and how to have better customer service. We have a lot of St. Jude families who come to stay, and I want my homes to be warm and inviting for them and for all of my guests. I would say I have grown with each house I’ve done.
Where are most of your visitors from?
Some are international but mostly our guests are American right now. They are often from New York, California, Chicago, and other major cities and are passing through Memphis. Sometimes they are from surrounding areas like Little Rock, St. Louis, and Birmingham.
I have found an interesting niche. In my law practice, I specialize in contract drafting and breach of contract litigation, estate planning, landlord/tenant-related things, and business consulting. I am the lawyer for most major names in the Memphis wedding business including venues, photographers, videographers, florists, wedding planners, and so on. Because of those law relationships, my clients point their wedding parties to Pettigrew Adventures. Our decor provides a fantastic backdrop for photos and getting ready for the wedding pics.
Do you enjoy your law practice or your Airbnb business the same or one more than the other?
I am able to enjoy both because I don’t get bogged down with either. This is my seventh year practicing law. I have other friends who started when I did and they are already burned out. I only take cases I am passionate about and believe in. I love that for all sorts of lawyer-nerd reasons, but I also love my clients and go above and beyond for them. Pettigrew Firm prides itself on being proven, passionate, and personal. I want to show people that lawyers aren’t all bad people. We have a commitment to talk to everyone who calls us within 24 hours of the first inquiry. I believe that integrity gets you the big things in life.
At the same time, interior design doesn’t feel like work for me. I’m glad to have that creative outlet, and I’m always picking up ideas and asking my team how we can bring that to Memphis. I truly think I wouldn’t want law without my Airbnb business or vice versa.
How are you looking to grow Pettigrew Adventures?
Right now, I’m thinking in some new directions. I have recently taught some friends who moved away from Memphis but didn’t want to sell their home how to design it and get it started as an Airbnb. I’m considering hosting a master class on this very thing. In addition, I’m considering featuring other people’s homes under my brand. This would be for people who don’t want the headache of getting it all ready, but they just want the passive income. I would help them design and furnish their house and they would get the Pettigrew Adventures reputation with more than 1,000 five-star reviews. We are always thinking about expanding beyond Memphis, but at this point, that’s still in the works.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Concrete plans are garbage. When you have them, you miss opportunities simply because they weren’t part of your plan. You become successful when you remain open to new ideas. You can’t just be smart. That isn’t enough. Smartness gets you a cubicle in the corner and good performance reviews. Personality, creativity and integrity get you the big things in life.
Aside from faith, family, and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Colorful wallpaper, traveling to new places, and my dogs. Runner-ups: Coconut La Croix, pizza, and good music!
Thank you, Morgan! To book one of her Airbnbs, click HERE.
All photos by Kelly Ginn Photography.