The tale of Mr & Mrs Smith’s Tamara Lohan



She grew up in Ibiza and moved to London at the age of 12 where she has gone on to become one of Britain’s most inspirational female entrepreneurs. We meet Mr & Mrs Smith co-founder Tamara Lohan and her daughter Alexandra in London…

“I grew up in Ibiza so I had a very hippy, beachy outdoor childhood. After school every day and all day at the weekend, we would spend time on the beach. I don’t remember wearing shoes much. When I was nine, we moved to a farmhouse in the centre of the island. I would go off on my bike in the morning and only come back home for lunch, so I remember being very independent and free. I hated moving to the UK when I was 12,” recalls Tamara Lohan, the co-founder of boutique hotel travel specialists Mr & Mrs Smith.

The business started back in 2003, when Lohan and her now husband James published a travel guidebook. “While I was dating James, we realised there wasn’t a guidebook out there for people like us – we were looking for stylish weekends away in unique hotels and no one was telling us where to find them. So we thought, why not just do it ourselves? We scraped together the financing and took the plunge,” she says. They sold 10,000 copies within six weeks. In 2005, they created the Mr & Mrs Smith website and they now have over 120 staff in their offices around the world (London, Los Angeles, Singapore and New York). Celebrities such as Stella McCartney and Cate Blanchett have even written for their website.

After they became parents to Tom and Alexandra (now 9 and 6), they were inspired to launch a different arm of the business: Smith & Family. The family-friendly collection of hotels is ideal for those looking for somewhere glamorous to stay that will also welcome children. We caught up with Lohan to quiz her on her packing tips, travelling with kids and tips for building a successful business…

Photography: Lauren Michelle. Shot on location at The Laslett hotel in London


The best advice I’ve been given about motherhood is…

‘Your best is all you can do. When you are not at your best, don’t beat yourself up about it – that’s wasted energy. Just try harder next time.’


I think I’ve always loved travel...

My parents split up when I was 10 and my father moved back to the UK, so my sister and I would fly on our own to see him, with tags around our necks, being looked after by the air stewardesses. I thought it was wonderful. I started travelling on my own around Europe at the age of 16.


The life of an entrepreneur is…

Busy, fun, frequently stressful and ultimately fulfilling.


My tips for building a business are…

Be aware of what you’re taking on. If your business is to be successful, you have to care about it more than anything else in your life. Your five-year plan is likely to end up more like seven or 10. Don’t rush it. Make sure the model works at home before you try to roll it out around the world. Before you launch anything, take a long, hard look at the margins.


In March, Mr & Mrs Smith launched a new collection of 100 luxury villas in Ibiza and Mallorca…

For customers looking for holidays that offer a little more privacy than a hotel, but still with all the character and sky-high standards they’d expect from a Smith stay. We’ve tried to ensure there’s something for all tastes and holiday styles – from serene restored countryside farmhouses such as Finca Basso to sleek, chic, minimalist retreats, such as Casa Atlantis. And, of course, there are plenty of beautifully beachy family options – Marysol, for example. As with our hotels, the team has personally visited each one – so it has been quite an undertaking. We also have the fourth edition of the Mr & Mrs Smith Awards coming up – where we celebrate the world’s most incredible and innovative boutique hotels – so we’re already working hard towards that.


For me, my biggest career challenge has been overcoming that internal voice that occasionally pipes up to tell me that I don’t know really what I am doing…

No one trained me to run a travel company; no one trained me to run a team of 19 developers, designers and QA testers. I love it of course, but every so often I feel like I’m unqualified and winging it. It was hugely reassuring that I’m not alone in this, and that ‘Imposter Syndrome’ is more common than I thought!


My time management tips are…

Don’t let other people take control of your time – make sure it stays your own to manage! It’s very easy to let your inbox become your to-do list, but if you jump on every email as it comes in, you can end up achieving nothing. Take time away from email – focus on the most important things, and don’t try to do everything.


I hate being apart from the kids…

So if I’m going away for three days or more, I bring them along. That means I probably travel a bit less than I should for the business, but the compromise works for the moment.


Travelling with children is one area of life where you really have to live in the moment…

Don’t just focus on getting them to the destination – that’s a sure-fire path to frustration for everyone. Make every element of the journey part of the experience. I try to make sure the kids involved in the planning stages, getting them excited about the place we’re going. Even passing through the airport can be part of the fun, rather than a stressful obstacle you have to rush through. You just have to remember that everything takes longer with children, so if you can do that, and build in the necessary extra time, you’ll all enjoy it more.


I get asked what the most memorable destination I’ve ever been to is all the time…

I always struggle to answer because it’s like having to pick a favourite child. Smith hotels are all unique, and they really linger in the memory. So I’ll limit my answer to three special places we visited recently – all of which I’d love to return to again and again. Uxua Casa in Brazil offers the perfect balance of luxury and laid-back, is right by a beautiful beach, ideal for families, and the town – Trancoso – is brimming with character. On the other side of the world, Wolgan Valley in the Blue Mountains of Australia is surrounded by scenery that is simply good for the soul. Finally, closer to home, Crillon le Brave in France is a wonderful weekend retreat for its views, vineyards and river-gorge walks.


There are two things that really shape the sort of experience you have in a hotel…

The people and the details. Those things tell you straight away whether there’s an owner or a manager who really cares about how their guests feel, and who thinks about all the touch points.


I will never forget the time I stayed at The Upper House in Hong Kong...

On our way to the room, the concierge asked me what I was planning on doing while I was in the city. I told him that I wouldn’t have time for more than the work meetings I had planned, but I wished I had time for a yoga class. When I returned to the room that evening, there was a list of yoga classes in the area and a list of three yoga instructors who would come to the hotel at short notice for a private class. That kind of thoughtful personal attention really makes a place stand out.


My carry-on standbys include…

An Olivia von Halle eye mask; De Mamiel Altitude Oil for long-haul flights; Dr Lipp Lip Balm; Face Matters 24/7 Balm for tired eyes; and a cosy wrap or cardigan I can snuggle into on the plane – The Travelwrap Company are great for these.


When I’m packing, I have a pouch for pretty much everything…

They allow me to compartmentalise my suitcase, which is especially useful as I rarely stay in a hotel long enough to unpack. I try to pack lightly and efficiently, with as much versatile or multi-purpose clothing as possible: shirt-dresses that can be worn up or down, items that work in various combinations, etc.


Instagram is my favourite social media platform…

Mainly because my best friend and my mum are both on there so it helps me feel more connected to them.


When it comes to health and wellbeing…

I’m a bit like a dog or a three-year-old boy: if I don’t get some physical activity every day I go a bit nuts. Rain or shine, I run into work every morning – and back again in the evening whenever I can. Running is also my thinking time, so it’s effectively a blend of fitness regime and mindfulness exercise.


I don’t have an especially complex beauty regime…

Face Matters daily face cream and a tube of Dr Lipp are my only real essentials, but I do love the smell of Bamford products in the shower. Because I only have running gear to put on, I can be ready in five minutes. The children are a different matter; getting them out of the door can be a struggle. This morning we left home with three changes of clothing, a cricket bat, a guitar, and several bags of other kids’ uniform that had somehow ended up in our house.


I treat myself by…

Spending time with my best friend Kate. It’s always a treat and something I don’t do often enough.


I start my morning with coffee…

A double-shot cappuccino every morning.


My role model is…

My mother. She’s loving, independent and entrepreneurial with an amazing live-and-let-live attitude; the kind of person who lights up a room and draws people to her.


My definition of success is…

Happiness.


My own mother taught me…

Patience – she is a very patient person and I hope that rubs off on me occasionally. She also taught me not to panic, to put things into perspective. That’s probably the secret of her patience, come to think of it.


I love the variety of raising children in London…

I’m lucky enough to live near the river and within walking distance of three huge parks including the wonderful Kew Gardens. There’s never a shortage of things to do, but I also love leaving London; I think that my children and I enjoy and appreciate the open countryside a little more because we don’t have it in our everyday life.


The three questions I get asked the most are…

‘What’s your favourite hotel?’
‘How do I get to be a Mr & Mrs Smith reviewer?’
‘How did you and your husband start Mr & Mrs Smith?’


Tamara’s little list of loves:

Running – it’s my ‘me’ time. I live close to the river and the towpaths are perfect.
Stitcher – the podcast radio app.
Korean chilli flakes – a brilliant addition to any salad or dish.
Clement and Claude White Wood candles – such a beautiful smell.
My stand-up desk at work – no more backache!
My new wireless headphones – no more flapping wires while I’m running.
Amber by Laboratory Perfumes – a really fresh scent that’s nothing like any of those mass-produced luxury perfumes. Who wants to smell like everybody else anyway?


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