Tyler Coons discovered in his teens that he had a knack for hospitality, a willingness to go a little further to make sure everything turned out right for the client.
He grew up in Northern California, moving around as his father followed different Army assignments. They eventually settled in the foothills of Sacramento, where his friend's father owned a river rafting company.
"He would bring people up from [Los Angeles] on weekends in a tour bus," Coons said. "When we were 17, all my friends and I became licensed guides."
That experience would come in handy when he first moved to Hawaii and would eventually lead him to start his own vacation rental business, Exotic Estates International.
Coons had family on Maui, and when his grandmother died in 1993, his brother flew out for the funeral and stayed. Not long after, Coons flew out to join him.
"My brother and I drove around the island applying at all of the hotels," he said.
They both got jobs as waiters at the Grand Wailea, and Coons credits his recommendation from the rafting company for getting his resume to the top of the pile.
"I took it seriously and wanted the guests to have a good time," Coons said. "And I never flipped a boat."
The Grand Wailea is "the kind of place where if someone asks you where the restroom is you have to drop everything, no matter how busy you are, and escort them, not point, to the bathroom," he said. "Now my philosophy with Exotic Estates is to lead with service and everything else will take care of itself."
A chance encounter with a Maui timeshare sales rep convinced Coons to get his real estate license. He moved into sales and spent time as a team manager for Starwood Vacation Ownership. Then, in 2004, he heard that someone in his neighborhood was bringing in $25,000 a month renting their home as a vacation property.
"I had a one-acre lot in the area … [so] I immediately started making plans," Coons said.
He had a vacation home up and running in a couple of years, and by 2008, the property was booked 280 days out of the year. One day that year a client called looking to book the home, but it was already reserved. Coons found a friend of his who was willing to rent a home he owned. With the recession impacting many homeowners, he found a pool of willing renters, and he started building his network.
Today, Exotic Estates International counts more than 350 properties in Hawaii. Coons has also expanded his business outside of the Aloha State, with accommodations in Los Cabos, Mexico, and around ski resort areas in Colorado.
Coons emphasizes providing prompt service and in-depth, detailed knowledge to clients, hiring local staff in each of the main locations.
"I think that's what [differentiates] us from the competition," Coons said.
Exotic Estates properties range from $500 to $20,000 per night. Travel agents can register with Exotic Estates and earn commissions on bookings, and the company has plans to create a webpage for agents with exclusive booking calendars. See www.exoticestates.com.