Category Archives: Starting a business

What it’s like: Running a B&B from your home

I have been hosting/renting out my extra space online for about 2 years so far. I guess I’m like a cross between and upscale hostel and B&B and a great hotel alternative! (Even though I’m a B&B I don’t actually offer breakfast… LOL)

Business is booming and after a move to a larger location and many more guests, I’ve had a bit of an education on what it’s like to do this sort of thing! I’m planning on teaching a Skillshare class on how to do all of this effectively for yourself, but here’s a little taste anyway.

Here is what I’ve learned.

1. Use multiple services to fill your space

I am signed up on several different sites, but so far the ones to produce the most for me have been Airbnb.com and Wimdu.com. While I get most of my bookings through Airbnb, I’ll get a few good ones through the competitors as well. Full disclosure here: I work for Airbnb. But as a host, I believe in having a diverse portfolio so I use other sites as well. But Airbnb is still the leader in terms of money-making potential for me.

2. Keep your calendars up to date

I sync all of my calendars to my personal Google calendar. Not only do I need to keep track of which guest booked which room for how long, I also need to know when people are arriving and checking out. I need to have enough time to turn over (clean up) the rooms and get the rest of the apartment up to snuff. I also need to be home when new guests arrive, so that means I can’t schedule a yoga class or girl’s night at that time.

I love my Google calendar so much. It’s synced with my iphone and color-coded too to help me stay organized. Here’s what it looked like last month:

What a "calm" month looks like

 

3. Make a cleaning kit & plan

Most of your time will be spent cleaning and getting things ready for new guests. Set up little stations, or have a bucket with all of your supplies handy as you go around tidying up. Remember to “start from the top!” by dusting, etc. first, then finishing with the floors. Keep a stack of extra towels, sheets, pillows, etc. hidden somewhere in case they’re needed.

I have multiple sets of sheets for each bed so that I can just swap out new ones immediately. I don’t always have the time to wash the sheets right away (I have a small machine and also air-dry) so this is helpful for me. I try to do everything I can to make things easy for me, and as quick as possible in case I get last-minute guests.

4. Schedule some time for yourself

This line of work can be exhausting. Because I live in my “B&B” I am always on, always working. I need to be available to my guests for anything because it’s part of why they stay with me instead of at a hotel. Customer service is very important, but living it all the time wears you out.

So every once in a while I will block off a weekend, or week and keep the place just to myself. It gives me a break and helps me refresh myself. I can also get any major work done around the house that I’ve been putting off for a while.

5. Keep track of your finances & set goals

I keep a Google spreadsheet of all the bookings I get. Names, room booked, nights spent, nightly cost and total cost. I have a goal every month on how much I need to make. Pick something reasonable. For me, it’s making enough money to bring my personal rent down to $500 or less. Most months I am able to surpass this and it feels great!

Something I need to work on more is keeping track of expenses. My hydro bill is higher than a regular tenant’s and so are my costs for cleaning supplies, the free coffee & tea I offer and toilet paper. Plus any unforeseen costs such as replacing towels or sheets that may come up.

Once I get the hang of things with this particular set up, I hope to have a separate bank account to keep track of the flow in and out of cash from the business. Eventually I will need to register as a business and run it…well, even more like a business!

Come to my class

I have a ton more tips & tricks to share on this subject. It’s actually my “real job” too! If you’re in the Toronto area and would like to really get some in-depth information and customized recommendations you can sign up for my Skillshare class (I’m only charging to cover the cost of the room rental).

You can also just sound off in here and we’ll get a conversation started :)

If you’re interested in signing up for Airbnb as either a host or a traveler, I’ve got some cool deals for you!

If you want to host, you can get $50 in travel credit for joining up by going here and entering my referral code: 8CTNCM

If you want to travel OR host you can get $25 in travel credit by going here.

 

 

The Big Idea

I haven’t been around much lately, but for good reason this time.

I have been spending my funemployment time working on a business idea that I hope to launch in the next couple of months.

After much soul-searching, I decided to take a break from the corporate world and do something that I really wanted to do. Truthfully, that would be travelling and adventuring but I don’t have the money. So instead I thought I’d finally get my act together and become an entrepreneur.

I was always the persuasive kid selling something — lemonade, cut flowers, anything I could get my hands on to make some money. In high school I ran a web design business with my friend and actually turned a profit. I also ran a Junior Achievement company and also turned a profit there. I was invited to an exclusive business camp for young adults, even though I had never taken any business courses. I excelled in college as well (Faculty of Business, of course!) and graduated with a 4.0 and a bunch of awards and recognitions.

I always knew I would end up working for myself, but somewhere between college and my dreams I got sidetracked, and sucked into the corporate world. I’ll be honest here, it didn’t really suit me. I was always chafing at the restrictions and felt like I was never valued. I didn’t get to be creative or really grow all that much. It just really wasn’t a good fit.

Being laid off/quitting my last job may have been a blessing in disguise. I didn’t “die” like I thought I would, and was given a chance to really think about what I wanted to do with my life. Do I want to be another cog in a machine, or do I want to strike out on my own and make history–if only in my small circle of friends?

I think you know where this is going.

Long story short, I am currently working with the Toronto Business Development Centre (TBDC) to apply to the Ontario Self Employment Benefit Program (OSEB). Essentially OSEB pays your living expenses for 42 weeks while you undergo intense business/entrepreneurship training and get your business off the ground. For the past month I have been hustlin’ and bustlin’ to get all the paperwork filled out, meetings attended, etc. so I can get myself into this program. For this point in my life it would be a real boon to be part of it.

And you know what? I have an absolutely excellent chance to get in. My drive to succeed, marketing and business know-how and interest in all the workings has already set me apart from everyone else I have met at the TBDC who are also applying. I’ve got an edge, and I’m going to make this happen no matter what.

So what is my big idea?

Not so big, really. And not totally unique, either (there is more risk in completely unique ideas vs. an established model with a twist). I’m opening an online store that will cater to folks like you and me who love creative, crafty things, handmade stuff, or just plain cool stuff. Jewellery, housewares, accessories, books, whatever seems right will be sold in the store.

I’ll be curating the collection and working closely with the artisans to bring the best stuff to the front. There will be a blogging/community component and the model will be beneficial to both myself (the business) and the artisans I work with.

There are still a lot of details to work out (including the name!), but going through this program will help me craft a realistic business plan to seek funding if I need it. After this program (or during, since I’m so eager!) I’ll hook up with the Canadian Youth Business Foundation and see if I can get a loan and/or mentor from them. Other avenues will also be explored.

Right now, I am putting together a presentation for my final evaluation on Friday. I have to present some topline research and my business idea. This is where I need your help!

I have created a quick online survey to get some demographic and psychographic information on my potential market… aka YOU. The anonymous data will help me with my case, and will also show me what my customers really want. I’ve even thrown in a few name choices!

PLEASE, help me by filling out the survey and passing it onto your friends and family.

It doesn’t matter what country you’re from since I’ll be online. Any age or gender is ok!

To make things easy for you, the link is here: http://svy.mk/lXxJxr

And if you would like to help out by tweeting/posting as well, here you go:

I’m helping @gingercorsair create an awesome business! U can contribute too with this quick survey! http://svy.mk/lXxJxr

 

As I said, the more people that fill this out, the more it will help me understand you and what you would like to see from my store. The survey includes a brief summary of the idea (which may change!) and is completely anonymous.

As added incentive, when I launch this business, I’ll be doing my big “reveal” as well. You’ll be able to meet the real me, see my face and everything. No more hiding behind anonymity anymore!

…but this only happens if and when I get this puppy off the ground. Let’s do this!