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How 2 Teens' Luxury Retreats Conquered the Travel World

SAN DIEGO ( TheStreet) -- As Jazz Poulin talks about plans to expand by 50 destinations in the coming year and revenues of $100 million, it's hard to believe Luxury Retreats is a company started by a 17-year-old.

Yes, a 17-year-old. Working out of his bedroom. At his dad's house.

And when young Joe Poulin needed a little help running his luxury vacation rental business, he turned to the person in the next bedroom -- his older brother Jazz, who was 19 at the time.


Success came quickly. Within less than a year, the Poulin brothers were moving the business out of their bedrooms and into an office.

That was in 2000. Today Luxury Retreats, based in Montreal, Canada, represents 2,000 villas in 50 countries and employs 150 people worldwide. And these are no ordinary vacation rentals. Luxury Retreats' typical rental property costs between $2,000 and $30,000 a night, and some are as much as $165,000. (For that per-night price Luxury Retreats will put you on a private island in Grenada, in a property that includes 25 bedrooms.)

"It's a long way," recalls Jazz Poulin during a recent discussion about the company's beginnings. "Joe deserves full credit. He did start it by himself."

Luxury Retreats grew from its original four properties -- primarily in what Poulin refers to as sun destinations in the Caribbean -- when happy clients started asking for more options around the world to choose from.

The slate of 2013 expansion plans in what is now the largest villa rental company in the industry includes further moves into new territory, geographically and in terms of concept.

"We've been adding more aggressively in Europe. And for the first time we are adding urban destinations, like New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles," Poulin says. In another change, the urban properties cater to clients doing short trips throughout the year, often for just a weekend.

"The affluent traveler, we know, travels very often. And we know they go to New York or San Francisco or other cities. So this is an opportunity for us to be constantly involved in our guest's travel planning year-round, rather than Luxury Retreats being their go-to business just once a year," he says.

The company's inclusion of destinations such as Morocco and Italy cannot be overlooked, though, as Luxury Retreats takes on Northern African properties that Poulin says are akin to palaces.

"These are almost like living with the Saudi royal family. They are giant homes," Poulin says.

But Poulin doesn't emphasize destination over service.

Unlike other vacation rental companies that simply provide a place to stay, Luxury Retreats provides a staff and much more. Their properties regularly include a dedicated concierge to arrange vacation needs. Some properties will also include organic chefs, private yoga instructors, even language instructors.