Setting Up a B&B – One Landlady’s Story
When I first set up my own B&B nearly 7 years ago I had nothing more to help me than a book and a 2 hour visit from a Tourism Business Advisor. The book told me that if I didn’t like housework to drop the idea of running a B&B straightaway – I ignored that bit of advice.
The Tourism Business Advisor was very good but he hadn’t actually run a B&B. I did ask some local B&B landladies for advice but they weren’t that forthcoming, so I used the internet and set it up all by myself – well not quite all by myself, but with quite a lot of help from my DIY fanatic husband.
After a year or so of running the B&B, very successfully much to everyone’s surprise not least my own, I decided to set up B&B Academy to help others in the process of setting up their own B&B. My aim was to share the how tos, what works well but also the mistakes I made, and there were quite a few of those.
I run the courses about once a month and they are usually over subscribed. I think they are so successful because, although you can get all the information of the internet, they answer the questions you didn’t know you needed to ask. Participants benefit enormously from meeting other people who are planning to go through the B&B process, sharing ideas and discussing their ideas with like minded people.
I think about 5% of people who come on the course decide that running a B&B is not for them. I see that as a positive outcome too. It’s far better that someone comes on a 2 day course and understands the realities and that’s it’s not for them, rather than spending £1000’s and then deciding they’ve made a big mistake.
Fiona Potts came on my course in May 2009. She has since set up her own increasingly successful B&B, Gwaenynog B&B near Welshpool. Fiona has kindly shared her story with us here.
Past course attendee – our story!
Having spent 18 months searching for a suitable house to set-up a B&B, we finally found one in June 2009, and moved-in during October 2009. We carried out all the works to install the en-suites (an essential requirement for guests these days!) and redecorated in all the guest areas – all in the wettest weather Wales had seen in 20+ years, then the snow in Christmas & early 2010, and finally the driest first 6 months since 1929 – which meant we spent a lot of money on things we had not planned: drainage, a new soakaway, re-doing the drive, and even installing a bore-hole! So we’ve been on a very steep learning curve all the way!
However, all the hard work has paid off and we had a great first year, with nearly 300 room nights in our first “season”. This has meant phase 2 has now commenced – converting the very large family bathroom into another room, as well as putting a shower into our room (pretty essential since we removed the one in the utility!). After being so glad to see the builders go, I invited them back!!! Ah well, never again (she says!). Phase 3 is going to be adding camping/caravanning to the field at the back – so the builders will all be outside!!!
We’ve learned a lot about running a B&B – nothing really prepares you, not even Karen’s course – although it came close! We’re constantly tired – but a big contribution is trying to carry out other tasks on the farm: fence repairs, moving stones, other groundworks and helping with the animals. The one thing which has been a joy – our guests; either they’re just like us and enjoy the peace & quiet, are here for the steam train or to visit Lake Vyrnwy, or are keen birders and discovered birds on our land which we didn’t know about – we’re learning every day about what is here… Apparently we’ve even got an otter down in the bog area!
So, would we change anything? Perhaps we would choose to have more savings, as no matter what they say you’re going to need and then to double it – I would double it again, and perhaps again, to come close to what we really needed. I realise that is to do with the house and our location, but we didn’t know that when we fell in love with it… Wisdom is great in hindsight. However, I would still do it again – perhaps with some lessons learned, but the joys have far outweighed all the dramas and crises!
Good luck to anyone else planning the same sort of lifestyle change…