Big Risk, Bigger Payoff

I entered a contest to win a business grant through Intuit. You can read all submissions through 4/24/09 and respond if you think a story is Useful, Inspiring, and/or Funny. You can rate my story as well as other stories. Thanks for helping me and good luck to all entrants!

Here’s the link for my story:

The full story is below:

I have been the proud owner of a Bed & Breakfast in Asheville, NC since January 2006. How I ended up here is a total fluke. It started out with a short trip from Florida to Asheville with my mother in 2005 to visit the Biltmore Estate. We stayed in a lovely bed & breakfast (my mother picked this one because our room was my favorite color purple and it had separate beds). While conversing with the owner, she mentioned that they were selling the Inn. The rest of our trip, we fantasized about becoming innkeepers and what it would be like.

I took that fantasy back to Florida and began researching it as a possibility. I voraciously read books, articles, attended workshops, anything that would help me figure out if the fantasy could be a reality. Once I had momentum, there was no stopping me, and six months later, I became the owner of the 1847 Blake House Inn Bed & Breakfast and relocated my son and our five pets to North Carolina.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the support (financially and emotionally) of my family. I was not the only one taking a big risk; they all were as well. Some have invested heavily in this old house, but it feels good to know that they believe in me. In addition, I am lucky to be in an area with many B&Bs and belong to an association of innkeepers that is helpful and supportive, even though we are all competitors. Having said that, with so many B&Bs in Asheville, it was imperative to find my niche market. My B&B appeals to travelers bringing children and/or pets and I also rent out the facilities for events. Most B&Bs do not allow young children, pets, or are too small for events. These three markets have allowed me to stay in the game and I plan to grow the pet side of the business this year.

In the three years since I took on this venture, the economy has put a cramp in business. However, while business is slow, my mind is not and I have recently been cutting costs and diversifying more to remain competitive. I wish that I had done all of this before now, but hard times force you to be creative if you want to stay in business, and I really want that.

I am still taking a big risk since this recession has been painful to business and I have spent many nights wondering if I’m going to make it. Still, the payoffs are worth the potential sacrifice. I don’t believe I will be a failure, no matter what happens.

Advice for others:

The biggest tips I can give to someone starting out like I did (single mom, changing careers, giving up security, relocating, etc.) are to make sure you either have or find yourself a strong support foundation, whether it be family, friends, similar business owners, associations, etc. and to find your niche market rather than be like everyone else. Competition is fierce and you have to find a way to set yourself apart from the pack.

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