I had the chance to connect with Leslie Mooney, owner of a bed and breakfast in Ithaca, NY. She share with us her bootstrapping know-how and knowledge about starting her B&B in the hospitality industry. Below is our Q&A session, conducted over email.
KO: What do you do?
LM: Owner of Besemer Station Bed & Breakfast.
KO: How did you get your start/decide to go for it?
LM: About 4 years before I retired, and that is when I started to make definite plans. I started buying furniture and other furnishings I’d need for my B&B. I was going to go for it as soon as I retired.
KO: What made you gravitate to starting a B&B?
LM: I have always wanted to be in and around the home cooking and such. Early on, I had to get a job that took me away from my family, but I had to do it to support and raise my three sons. I hated leaving them for that job. I love taking care of my family and friends—that’s what really makes me happy! I love to see others happy, so I try to make my guests feel at home, and I work hard to do that.
KO: Were you daunted about the competition or saturation in this field?
LM: Yes, the competition is fierce (hotels, motels and Airbnb) but I hoped I could give someone more. I show that I am there to take care of them and make them feel as if they were at home. I’m building up a clientele. The hotels here are multiplying every year. I just hope that people want what I offer, and that the competition doesn’t give them that.
KO: What were the early days, months, years like?
LM: The early years went smoothly, family and friends helped me. I cooked for them and they helped me get things done. My boyfriend and I went after it together. I have been slowly building up my client base (I had friends in the business. In the beginning they helped me with referrals).
KO: Biggest obstacles in the early stages?
LM: Getting the house and getting it ready for the business.
KO: How did you stay motivated?
LM: My motivation was to realize my DREAM! It is important to never lose sight of your goal.
KO: What was your service and how did you sell it without having quintessential corporate experience?
LM: My service was a bed, a breakfast and a welcoming smile and genuine interest in doing the best I could do. I didn’t need corporate experience to be myself!
KO: Advise for those taking on the risk of being a bootstrapper? Advantages?
LM: Don’t lose sight of your dream. Keep plugging along. My advantage was having wonderful family and friends that wanted to see my dream come true. My ability to know what makes people happy is also an advantage. Make sure you have the resources and a good support group.
KO: Anything you would do differently in the beginning?
LM: I don’t think so. I have a fabulous son (Mark) who helped me learn the business side and built my website for me, which was huge because he saved me lots of money!
KO: Is there a common theme you see with your clients that people need the most help with?
LM: The only common theme with my clients is that they want a clean place to stay, information on things to do while in the area and information on good places to go eat.
KO: Anything I missed that you would like to add?
LM: Many people have helped me fulfill my dream and I’m forever grateful to them.