Inn Vogue

Running a bed & breakfast is a tough business, but one that can succeed with the right plan

It’s only dawn, but Monique Greenwood and her husband, Glenn Pogue, are already up and at it. In the hours ahead, Greenwood will nurse someone’s sunburn, cook breakfast for 10, and spread out refreshments for the same horde a few hours later. Pogue changes beds, tidies up around the house, and offers up tour advice for the local town. Both will hobnob as much as possible and pamper as many guests as they can. There may be a toilet or two to clean, but they’re loving every minute of it.

A former editor for Essence magazine, Greenwood has been an innkeeper since 1995 and now runs three bed and breakfasts. Her flagship, Akwaaba Mansion, is located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York. A second, Akwaaba by the Sea, welcomes guests to New Jersey’s oceanfront community of Cape May. A third opened its doors in Washington, D.C.’s DuPont Circle last year. With two employees, the couple’s Brooklyn and Cape May inns grossed $185,000 in revenues for 2003 with 2004 projections of $370,000, thanks to the third location.

There’s a lot of work and money involved in getting this type of business off the ground. Pogue says that the job requires all-day effort. “I had no idea it was this much,” he says. “I hardly get to lounge. We’re up at 6 and we go all day … until 10 or 11 for late check-ins.” From time to time, Pogue works in television production, putting in additional time even after an eight-hour day.

Greenwood and Pogue are one of many entrepreneurs reaping the benefits of the economically resilient bed and breakfast sector. Despite a slowdown in tourism in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, bed and breakfasts have managed to hold their own. According to the latest industry figures compiled by the Professional Association of Innkeepers International, these businesses managed to pull in $3.1 billion in revenues in 2002, which was only slightly lower than in 2000. The number of inns in the U.S., meanwhile, has grown to 19,500 from 19,000. The average daily rate for a room has climbed to $136.70 in 2002 from $128.87 in 2000. A few other enterprising African Americans are participating in this growing industry and roughly 20 black innkeepers belong to the African American Association of Innkeepers International (www.africanamericaninns.com).

There’s definitely money to be made in this area, but if you think innkeeping is an easy business to get into, think again. The business can be time-consuming and expensive. Then there are the rigors of keeping house and pacifying guests. In fact, nearly a third of the entrepreneurs that launch these ventures will find the workload too much to handle and cease operations within five to seven years. But those who sweat it out enjoy the security of a sector that’s potentially lucrative and resistant to economic downturns. In this installment of the BLACK ENTERPRISE Dream Business series, we’ll look at some of the pitfalls and rewards of opening a bed and breakfast.

Brooklyn Beginnings
Innkeeping seemed

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