In honour of National B&B Week, today I wanted to share the story of how we came to be the proud owners of a B&B business. It is perhaps a bit of an unusual thing for a couple in their mid-thirties to be doing but we absolutely love it and we know that this is where we were meant to be. We love sharing our home and stories about our local area with our guests and I can’t imagine doing anything else. B&Bs rock!
I believe that when you want something in life, be it an object or an experience, the trick is to simply visualise the thing over and over and over again and, in time, your desire will come true, in some form or other. It’s not just trite hippy ramblings – I know this because I managed to make a dream come true by thinking about it a lot for many years.
Aged thirteen – I was a tycoon. Along with a massive babysitting client list I had a paper round 6 days a week (a bloody hardcore uphill one at that!), and on Saturdays I cleaned holiday cottages, waited tables and washed dishes. I filled my teenage years with various other jobs including working in a bookshop, a petrol station and a grocery shop (Bookthrift, Sandybrook Garage and Kwik Save respectively – all businesses now sadly no more). All these different jobs gave me a good work ethos and the ability to understand early in life that work=money=stuff. Without those jobs I wouldn’t have been able to buy half as many cheap nylon dresses and nail varnish from Derby market.
My ultimate dream at that age was to marry a Scottish folk singer have a wee folk pub somewhere in the Scottish Highlands. A strange goal for a 13 year-old girl living in Derbyshire you say? Yes indeed. I was perhaps a strange 13 year-old. (I was also planning on joining the FBI and becoming a female Fox Mulder, but I figured I could probably do that as well as run the pub). My Inn was going to be called The Harvey Arms, named after the one and only Harvey Andrews (a Brummie folk singer with absolutely no Scottish connection that I know of). I had it all planned out. Logo, menus and layout sorted. Maybe this is when my dream of running my own business in this industry actually began.
Fast forward to my early twenties when I spent time earning enough money for food and a roof over my head by cleaning backpackers hostels in The Netherlands and France. It was worth it for the parties. But I knew I didn’t want to be somebody’s dogsbody forever and sometimes I would imagine how those places I worked in would have looked if they had been my businesses. I certainly wouldn’t have chosen pastel pink to paint all the metal work at one hostel in Nice for instance, but that’s just down to taste I suppose.
When Jay and I met, he was driving forklift trucks in a warehouse and I was working as a mental health Support Worker. Physically exhausting and mentally draining, respectively. Early in our relationship we had the opportunity to look after a friend’s cafe for a couple of weeks so we quit our jobs and seized the opportunity. And we loved it. We realised that we worked well together and we had common goals. He too had always wanted to own his own pub, but with it being not too long after the smoking ban had taken effect in England, it was already clear that keeping a pub business afloat would be hard.
In between the birth of our two children we set up our first proper business running markets, which lead on to opening up a shop. Having slogged it out for years trading my wares at markets, owning a shop was a mini goal that I had to achieve. And it was (and still is, by all accounts) a wonderful success which we were very proud of. But running that type of business in that particular area did not afford us the kind of life that we wanted for ourselves or our children, so we carried on dreaming and looking for a different way to live.
I always assumed that you would need to own your own property in order to be able to run a proper B&B business – I never once considered that anything else was possible so I thought I still had many years to wait until I could make this dream come true. Being the age that we are – Generation Why? at it’s finest – owning our own home will have to stay in the visualising stages for a while longer. But, as it turned out, it is possible to do what we did – rent the property and buy the existing business (after hastily selling your blood, sweat and tears business for a third of what it was worth, but lets not dwell on that). Seek and you will find – there are exciting opportunities out there waiting for you if you really want them.
I think occasionally we have had guests who seem a little surprised (suspicious?) about a young couple living in a big Scottish farmhouse, so we gladly explain that no, we have not inherited this house, and no, we are not rich kids, its just that our ‘old life’ in Manchester was costing us nearly 5 times what we now pay to live and run a business and the stress of daily life was grinding us down there. So we made a big change, and I fulfilled the dream of living in Scotland which I’d had for over 20 years. And here we are. It was a good change to make.
Our story is perhaps not a conventional one but that is what makes B&Bs so special – each one is run by a different person, or couple, or, as in our case, a family. And running a B&B is certainly everything I hoped it would be in terms of giving us a better quality of life for our family. We now have the amazing opportunity to raise our children in a beautiful home and we have lots of time to spend with them, but in turn they also get to witness us working hard every day in order to buy the things we (or rather, they) want. Sometimes they even help, when they’re not just getting in the way.
When you choose to stay in a B&B business, over, say a Travelodge, you are doing so much more than you probably even realise. You are directly helping a person/couple/family to make a living, where most of your money will enter the local economy and be distributed to other surrounding businesses. In our case you are helping to boost our dream of making our B&B the very best it can be – pretty much every penny we make goes straight back into the B&B as we work hard to continually improve it.
Since it is the first ever National B&B Week, why not take this opportunity to book a break in one of the UK’s 20,000 Bed & Breakfasts and find out more about what makes them so special. Visit a place you have never visited before, learn local customs and legends, explore castles and beaches, forests and rivers, or just curl up by the fire with a good book. Make a B&B your base for your adventures and relaxation today!