Welcome to the second installment of Livin’ the Dream! Yesterday I schooled you on my event planning biz. Now, I’m pretty sure you all know this guy. And if you don’t, what rock have you been living under? This is my friend Michael, who blogs at Inspired by Charm.
He is one of the most talented people I’ve ever come across. For real. He cooks, he creates, he takes beautiful pictures. And he’s also the reigning king of Pinterest with um, over 350,000 followers (at last count). Isn’t that crazy? Oh and he also owns his own bed and breakfast in central Pennsylvania called Old Charm. How fun is that? Plus inside of the inn is a little gift shop that he runs. It’s like 10-year old me died and went to heaven. I wanted to be a gift shop owner for the longest time. Of course, instead of all sorts of pretty American-made things like Michael sells, I wanted to sell troll dolls and scrunchies. But that’s neither here nor there. Let’s chat with Michael about running his own bed and breakfast…
S: Tell us a little about your business…
M: I own a five-room bed and breakfast in St. Marys, PA, a small town located in the center of the state. Inside my little inn is a small gift shop open year round. I also make custom gift baskets called ‘A Basket of St. Marys’. The signature basket features goods made in the area.
S: How did you know you were ready to go out on your own? Was it always your plan or did you have a light bulb go off in your head?
M: I had always dreamed of owning a bed and breakfast, but thought it would be something that would happen much later in life. After college, I worked at a hotel in Philadelphia. After three years with the company, I just wasn’t happy anymore. I was successful within the company, but I just dreaded going to work every day. I made a decision to quit with no plans for the future. I just knew I needed out. After quitting, I started the job hunt. During this time I found out that the only bed and breakfast in my hometown was for sale. So I went home to St. Mary’s, toured the home and knew instantly this is what I was supposed to do. I spent six months developing a business plan. With very, very little money in my pocket, I applied for a home loan and other small business loans. Somehow everything worked out and I bought my own business and my first home.
S: Do/Did you have a mentor or someone in the biz to give you guidance? How did you learn the ropes?
M: Other than the support of friends and family, I was pretty much on my own. Thankfully the internet provided a lot of guidance and support. I also spent a couple weeks with the previous owner learning how she did things. Over the years I’ve realized that I learn best by doing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve screwed up, made mistakes and ran out of money. I somehow bounced back from these things and I’m all the better for it.
Every year I learn more and things seem to get a little bit easier. And I’m so thankful to have my family near me. My dad is one of the handiest people I know and my mom listens to my gripes every day. She’s also an amazing cook!
S: What has been your most effective form of promotion? How about something that didn’t produce the results you thought it would?
M: Being in a small town, the best form of promotion for me has been word of mouth. I asked the original owner of the bed and breakfast this same question when I was interested in buying. She told me the same thing. I found it hard to believe, but she was right. I tried the newspaper, radio, etc. and none of them, for me, was as powerful as word of mouth. I think it’s really important to figure out your target clientele. This will help you determine the best method to promote your product or service. It’s going to be different for everyone.
S: What has been your biggest challenge so far in running your own business?
M: Can I have two? Stress and time commitment are my biggest challenges at the moment. Being the sole employee of essentially three businesses leaves me very little downtime.The phone always rings. Emails always come. Someone will always need something. With guests sharing my home I always have to be ‘on.’ Some days it’s a piece of cake. I’m a people person. I could carry on a conversation with anyone. But we all have our days when we want to just sit on the couch and watch tv in our pajamas. These days are the hardest. don’t get two days of a week. Sometimes I don’t get two days off a month.There are no sick days or vacations days. I’m not going to lie; it sucks. But…I never have to ‘go to work’ and I don’t have a boss, so that’s kind of awesome.
Also, when you are your own business you carry all the stress of that business is a success. Everything is on your shoulders. When things are going well, it’s the best feeling in the world, but when things aren’t, well, it feels like you can’t breathe.
Thank you so much, Michael, for your completely honest take on running your own business. I told him that being an innkeeper sounds sort of like being a mom, with the whole no sick day thing. Sure, you know the job isn’t all fun and games but you have no idea until you’re wearing your innkeeper/mom/boss hat, ya know?
Do you have any other questions for Michael? Like, did you ever dream of running a troll doll empire of your own?