Thursday, 30 July 2015

April 2015 What I've Learned in One Year about What NOT to do.

April 2015 

As you have heard many times, the government paid me money this last year to take their entrepreneurial course and fulfill my lifelong dream to own my own bed and breakfast.  I just received my last payment yesterday.  OMG! It's do or die now.  I humbly bow down to the many who have had their own dreams and succeeded on their own dime.

This has been an eventful year for me; actually more of a roller coaster.  I was one of the keeners who jumped in blindly, sure I knew what I was doing and rented out my space before I should have, long before I was ever ready.  I cringe when I think about all the mistakes I made and the state of the house and rooms I rented out.  Those poor first guinea pigs.

 Once the course started, I had to jump thru their hoops and stop booking my rooms.   I make it sound like there were hundreds of bookings- there weren't; just one or two.  Then I started in earnest to renovate and redecorate.  This alone would make family and friends cringe as my past interior design skills have always been frightening.  I'm not saying they have advanced but I've had so much fun.

My preference run to the eclectic.  Years ago, I stayed in a B&B in Quebec called Le Foin Fou and everything there was bizarre and fun.  I vowed, over time, to mimic their atmosphere.  Very shortly, I hope to have a tree in my living room, I have the falling bookshelves, a clock wall, (nope, not a wall clock), mine covers the whole wall and the time pieces are books and finally an upside down beach room that is great for photo opportunities.  I'd say that's a little eccentric.  My guy truly cringes when I suggest my next idea but eventually he comes on board, knowing full well that it will happen with or without his support... he might as well gracefully cave.  While we’ve discussed some behavior modification, he has stopped rolling his eyes and nods his head a lot, his way of telling me I’m certifiable, and then a short time later, adds some further insanity to my crazy idea. We are such a team!

Recently, I saw a flat cage on the side of the road so I knew I had to take it, if not for me, then some other needy soul.  I decided it needed to be in my garden when it was erected and a large dog cage.  My guy was not too impressed but we planted zucchini all thru it and now they are climbing the dog cage.  He even suggested putting in a large tree branch beside it and it has become the Squash Tree; so cool to see yellow spaghetti squash hanging all over it.  I finally got my upside down room in the basement.  When it’s done, I can take a picture from a very specific angle with a person touching the ceiling or lying on the floor and once developed, it looks like they are hanging from the ceiling or standing on one hand upside down.  It’s a conversation piece, much like the backyard 5 in 1 apple tree.  That’s five kinds of apple grafted on one tree.  It’s weighed heavily down with different coloured apples yet again this year.  Now I have two apple corers and they work like a charm.  I will not have to buy apple sauce ever again.    
I set up The Oasis in the backyard too.  There are now three hammocks of various kinds to sit on, hang in or lay on.  One day, Christmas lights will surround the trunks, much like the tree limb will have “growing” in the living room.  So many projects to do and so little talent from my humble little hands.  J 

My man has been a great source of emotional support from the push to start the B&B to where I am today.  His mind and ideas never stop and as a result, my mind never stops with what I must accomplish.  It's exhausting and exhilarating.  It will either fulfill me completely and make me rich or kill me (or him) until I find the balance.  Come on, I can't be the only one struggling with this.  I think about business on vacation, at family meals, at the spa, EVERYWHERE and in everything I do; yes, even there.  The monster has been unleashed and I don't know how to put her back in the cage or if I even want to.

What I started out to do was have a typical B&B with people staying over and having great breakfasts and wonderful memories, rainbows and unicorns. I imagined all of us sitting around discussing life and me fulfilling their every B&B need.  Imagine my surprise when I realized my dream of 30 years was flawed.  Guest don't actually need the host.  They want down time and quiet and for me to bugger off.  Actually, that is not exactly true.  They alternate from sitting in the kitchen for breakfast, even though I have set a beautiful table in the dining room for them so they can talk to me for hours to speaking their own language and I gracefully exit. 

Also, I now have to keep my house pristine, every freaking day.  I have to make specialty breakfasts daily and they must rock your world.  I am a great cook but not so wild about the most important meal of the day 'cause it's boring or maybe it’s just too early in the day to be inspired.  Actually, I am great at it for a few days but then, I've run out of ideas because I'm not cooking for a huge houseful.  Cooking for two is difficult to wow them after a few days.  So I realized I liked shorter term guests.  There are so many innkeepers out there who love the long stays but I'm not one of them.  What if the people don't agree with you and you are now stuck with someone in your home indefinitely.    So, I still love company but not long stays, and I still love to cook, but I'm too worried about wowing the guest to relax completely and say, this is what we are having, like it or lump it.  Just not me.

So I investigated lending out my house to a Vendor Blender with a large number of female entrepreneurs hawking their wares.  I was taken in by the, "it's great exposure" lure.  It never is.  The next time, I rented out my space to another speaker who did her own workshop and it went well.  I did not have to be the sole performer.

I also learned that I DID love to have my own workshops.  The first ones were an ungodly mess of too much stimulation, too many attendees, speakers and I only earned a nominal profit.  A newborn baby would have just started screaming at the chaos, and probably that is what I should have done.  Instead, I was sequestered in the corner, doing my healing work, somewhat oblivious to the chaos around me.  Imagine my horror when I realized that I am taxed on the overall gross amount I brought in, not the paltry leftovers after expenses.  New lesson- less is more.  So much to take into consideration.    Things then seemed to crash and burn from 18 attendees down to      2-3.   At that number, do you judge your workshop as a failure?  Finally, there was a happy balance.  At 5 people, I decided to have it anyway, thinking that it was a bust.  What I found was that I was calmer, more in control, I only paid one speaker, the attendees were blissfully happy and spoiled, and I actually made money.  It still boggles my mind.

I love the workshops because they are mostly topics I enjoy or want to explore.  The Men's Health Event was amazing in the works until the numbers went down.  I experimented with many ways of advertising but getting men to come to spend 7 hours with a fun doctor is next to impossible.   Ok, I exaggerate.  IT'S IMPOSSIBLE.   Women would have no problem with that but men are skittish animals- think deer in headlights.  The ones who attended enjoyed the event.  I think the next one will be an evening only labelled, "What Men Want, What Women Want" and I'll have two experts in the field.  I've even had to wrap my head around the idea that it's ok to break even if the numbers are low if I'm there to have fun.  I turn it into an intimate party and those are some of the best of times.  By booking the topic myself, at least I saved money on the speaker whereas if I attended an outside class, it would have cost more and I couldn't work at home in my jammies until the workshop started.    

Oh let me tell you my biggest mistake ever.  The first workshop, was a huge draw with the gifted speaker/psychic.  I had a coach tell me about how the pay structure could pan out.  From that point forward, I booked many workshops with that exact structure, sometimes thinking two speakers would be even better and paying them the same and then one day, a stranger looked at me in disbelief and said, "you provide the place, the food, and get the attendees and then pay the speakers to talk for 40 minutes each and they get to privately make their own money afterwards which you don't get a cut of????"  My heart stopped.  WTH was I doing?  Could she be right?  Could I back paddle with the booked ones or just cancel the event?  Probably not.  What if I didn't bring in enough guests?  Would I be paying out of pocket?  Man I have so much to learn.

Going forward, I will try a new format and book only one speaker, at a reduced rate, charge at the door a nominal fee, stop cooking feasts for the masses, go with potluck when possible and advertise the heck out of the event.  Invite unlimited attendees- what could possibly go wrong with that?  :)

1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to hearing about your latest (mis) adventures!