We had the good fortune of connecting with Melissa Gidney Daly and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Melissa, we’d love to start by asking you about lessons learned. Is there a lesson you can share with us?
One of my favorite highschool teachers once told me, “do what you love, then tell people why they need to pay you for it”. I’ve essentially kept this in mind my whole life, knowing on a deeper level that happiness will follow when you are living an authentic life doing what you love. Being in alignment with this shifts the frequency so that you can both create and draw into your world the lessons and people necessary to facilitate this. I’ve tried to be aware of what lights me up, what inspires me, and then do more of that. I had a moment a couple years ago when I was selected to photograph and curate the imagery for Oprah Winfrey’s book, The Wisdom of Sundays. I was standing in the middle of her beloved rose garden, and I realized that everything thus far had prepared me for this – from my upbringing which fostered a deep connection to nature, to learning on a film camera that taught me about feeling the stillness in the moment, to photographing weddings which introduced me to the person that ultimately led me to the project, to following my desire to travel and create a large database of images to help curate the book, to shooting interiors and architecture for SURŌ which gave me the experience to photograph Oprah’s Estate. By following my intuition and doing what I loved, it was preparation for an incredible opportunity. This reinforced the idea that we have to trust that everything is happening exactly as it should, when it should. This especially applies to SURŌ, which has been a long time in the making because of what feels like endless obstacles and setbacks, which I can see now are the exact lessons and experiences that I needed for me to gain clarity on exactly what I wanted to create and share.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I was introduced to travel when I was 2, and I haven’t stopped since. Along the way my passion for photography and design manifested as a travel “hobby” blog called The Perfect Hideaway, where I shared all my favorite “hidden gems” from the around the world. Soon, properties began reaching out to me, wanting to be listed, and I gained a dedicated following of travelers who began using my website as their preferred accommodation checklist. Over the years I developed very close relationships with the property owners where I gained a clear understanding of where their needs weren’t being met by the current platforms – they weren’t attracting the right guests that appreciated their vision, the commissions made it difficult to make a living, and overall, they didn’t feel the existing platforms were in alignment with not just their design aesthetic, but also their philosophy of life and travel. Enter SURŌ, Design Properties for the Modern Traveler. SURŌ translates to slow in Japanese, and is more reflective of our brand philosophy centered around slow, conscious and meaningful travel. This has become relevant now more than ever, with many people shifting their perspective on travel, and instead of seeking out large resorts, are preferring more private accommodation to share with family and friends, prioritizing more authentic, meaningful experiences and connections. SURŌ is different from existing booking sites because well, we aren’t a booking site at all, but are more of a promotional and marketing platform. Instead of charging commission, we use a subscription-based model where properties pay a small monthly fee to be included in our collection of approved design properties (properties must fulfill a set of criteria to be included) and have the opportunity for additional promotion via instagram, editorials, and exposure through our design and travel partners, social media channels, influencers and many more. We have a large database of professional photographers around the world that creates original imagery that is more lifestyle driven, helping to set us apart and create a new standard of telling the design and experiential story of a property. We will also launch an ethical marketplace, where we can support sustainable brands and an editorial section that will also help to educate and bring light to important environmental initiatives, sharing stories of the passionate community of property owners, artists, photographers, architects, brands and businesses that we align with. But the road has not been easy – in fact it has been costly in every regard, as I imagine all businesses are – but as I previously mentioned, all the challenges have helped me grow and gain clarity on my vision. After more than 2 years, we are finally launching the new website. The first major challenge that resulted in a delay was the birth of my second son, Rio. I was working with a big branding agency at the time to relaunch the business, but Rio decided he was ready to come 2 months early, which in turn, meant 7 weeks in NICU and another few months of doctors and surgeries. That didn’t fit with the branding agency’s timeline, so they finished the project without consulting me and I was left with a very expensive logo I wasn’t happy with and a website that didn’t make sense for my business model. There was another attempt at building the site with a company in Hong Kong, which also didn’t end well, at which point I decided to take back control of the project and work with a reputable company here in LA. Then my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Then the pandemic. 3 months to complete the site slowly turned into 12, and in that time, my husband passed away, my children endured incredible trauma and isolation, and somehow I had to find a way to keep moving forward. My children and this project are the reasons I get out of bed each day, and they both continue to motivate me to want to heal, to grow, and to continue on the beautiful path myself and my husband dreamed of.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I am the wrong person to ask! We used to live in a big house in Hollywood that also served as our studio, but after having Max 6 years ago, we knew we needed to shift our life to allow for more space, nature and quiet. So now we live adjacent to Malibu and have incredible hikes in our back yard and the beach, where we spend a lot of time, only 20 mins away. We’ve always been deeply connected to the ocean, so most of my recommendations will be based around there – I love the Surfrider Malibu rooftop patio, Nobu of course, and a multitude of beautiful beaches, depending if you prefer a point break or a quiet cove. We used to bring our visiting friends and family to Venice, and spend the day on scooters or bikes enjoying the colorful vibe along the boardwalk. But especially after the pandemic, I feel out of touch with various neighborhoods, with many shops and restaurants now closed, I would be more likely to recommend escaping LA to the desert – Palm Springs or Joshua Tree – or head north to explore Ojai and the various wine areas.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are so many people that have supported me throughout my life, especially my family. Even though they may not have fully understood my vision (admittedly, it was at times quite grande), they never doubted me. My husband played an especially profound role – our relationship fostered a new level of healing, expression, growth and manifestation. Together, we created a beautiful world where we got to live our dream every day, and even in his physical absence, I feel him so strongly, urging me, guiding me, as I continue to walk this path with our two boys.
Instagram: @suro_living / @melissagidneyphoto
Profile : Christie Graham In order: Ana Lui, Ana Lui, Britney Gill, Britney Gill, Emma Jude, Melissa Daly, Rob Daly, Vianca Soleil