Starting a B&B

I inherited a house located in a popular tourist area. I think it would be ideal for a bed-and-breakfast. The house needs lots of repairs. How do I pursue a low-cost business loan and information on starting a bed-and-breakfast?
-E. Chandler, Hartford, Connecticut

Creamola Wilkins, who started the Anacortes, Washington-based Blue Rose Bed & Breakfast 11 years ago, says one of the first steps is to find out what the zoning requirements are. “Go to the local planning commission to find out about zoning and building or fire codes,” says Wilkins. “Also, if you haven’t stayed at a B&B, stay at one. You’re paying for the stay and you can talk with the owners as consultants to get information.” Wilkins also recommends contacting the Small Business Administration (800-8ASK-SBA; www.sba.gov), which offers a variety of loans to minorities.

Other resources include the African American Association of Innkeepers International, 877-422-5777 or www.africanamericaninns.com, and the Professional Association of Innkeepers International, P.O. Box 90710, Santa Barbara, CA 93190 (805-569-1853, www.paii.org). PAII offers a free kit for aspiring B&B owners, which includes a catalog of books, research reports, workshops, consultants and realtors, and it publishes a newsletter. Also see “Opening Your Doors,” December 1998.

“You can build a good, quality business,” says Wilkins. “But it’s not a piece of cake.”

Mail your small business questions to What’s Your Problem?, black enterprise, 130 Fifth Ave., 10th Floor, New York, New York 10011, or send an e-mail to gallopg@blackenterprise.com.

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