“I think inclusivity is something that Greenville is starting to really champion, and I'm hopeful that that will only continue to grow.”
Joe Hindman founded the award-winning Modal Hostel in 2020. First launched through a promotional campaign in 2016, Modal started out as just an idea—and has since debuted as the first hostel in the Upstate of South Carolina. A truly unique lodging experience for travelers from across the globe, complete with local art and stellar Southern hospitality, this one-of-a-kind hostel will keep you coming back to Greenville year after year.
A WORD FROM A WORLD-CHANGER
Joe Hindman, Founder & Co-Owner of Modal Hostel
1. What makes an entrepreneur different from most humans?
I think it would be a level-headedness, a balance. For me, I tended initially to be very emotional about my business because it’s very personal. Also, you've got to be willing in that same breath to allow things to happen or try things without necessarily knowing what the results are going to be—[it's a lot of] trial and error.
2. How was launching a hospitality-based business in the middle of a pandemic?
When things started to shut down in March, we were literally in the bank's office signing a loan—basically just to have in our back pocket, if things went South.
But by July, there really wasn't a whole lot of change, and we didn't know how much longer it would be, right? So we questioned whether we keep waiting [to open], or do we bite the bullet and go with it? And finally, by October, we saw the first signs that things were going back to normal... but then [COVID rates] spiked again and we hit pause. In January, I had to [totally rethink my] strategy. Who I thought was my target audience, what I thought would work.
I had to pivot, and it forced me to give more attention to things that otherwise I don't think I would have if we'd opened during normal conditions. That gave me almost a full year of figuring out how this ship should run before it's full—and we just had a weekend of 100% occupancy. I wasn't even here for two of those nights. That [wouldn't have been possible] if I hadn't had so much time to educate and train my staff, and get my operations to the point where I can truly run this ship without being physically here.
And that is the most important thing for me, because that's my end goal: to have a life where I can travel, have freedom and be an entrepreneur who's not strapped to a physical location.
3. What was it like to open the first Hostel in the Upstate?
Hostels are so boutique, so different. They're such a unique category. There's very little oversight, which really allows the owner to be creative. Renovations lasted nearly 24 months because [our vision] was completely different. Building codes didn't know where to put us. We did a lot of education. Explaining what a hostel was, how we function—and Visit Greenville even ended up adding a new category for us on their website.
The hardest thing about launching this business was changing peoples' perceptions of what a hostel is. Many individuals have never stayed in a hostel before and have only negative reference points. In reality, hostels are beautiful, bright and cultural places that add a lot of uniqueness and character to a city.
4. How was support from the City?
We have had significant support from City Council members, from the mayor, from staff members, and I feel like we are fairly represented. I also feel like we are truly heard and believed in. The blessing and curse of being a trailblazer is knowing that I have set the stage for a similar, possibly more well-funded concept to come to Greenville—and I think the market is strong enough to support us both. Based on my experience with other small business owners here, I truly believe that we are supportive of each other.
5. How would you describe the ecosystem here?
I'm going to say inclusive. With the development of the new LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce and other initiatives for minority-owned businesses, I think inclusivity is something that Greenville is starting to really champion, and I'm hopeful that that will only continue to grow.
The Greenville small business community is truly proud of our city, especially those of us who are natives, like my business partner and myself. If and when we left, we didn't leave long-term for a reason. We may have left to scratch the itch to travel or to get inspired, and we still do at times—but Greenville always brings us back.