The bed and breakfast industry is quickly becoming a goldmine for experienced innkeepers with a sense for numbers, a flair for business, and a touch for hospitality.
But there are very few owners of color in this niche segment of the travel and hospitality industry. One black-owned B&B owner says out of the 30,000-plus inns operating in the country, only 1% of their owners are black. Another owner pegs that number at a quarter of 1%. She says there are only about 35 inns in the country right now run by African Americans.
In our previous article, we asked various black bed and breakfast owners to share insight on why there were so few innkeepers of color.
Monique Greenwood is co-founder of Akwaaba, arguably the number one black-owned bed and breakfast outfit operating in the country. She and her husband Glenn Pogue own four properties. Monica Edwards is co-owner of Morehead Manor and current treasurer of the African American Association of Innkeepers International.
Now, Blackenterprise.com is asking these captains of their industry for advice for aspiring or potential innkeepers trying to get into the business.
Black Enterprise: How long have you owned your B&B?
Monica Edwards: We are going into our 17th year. I’ve seen lots of changes and I’ve embraced them. I enjoy what I do, it’s a labor of love and I tell everybody if I didn’t enjoy it I wouldn’t be doing it this long.
Monique Greenwood: We will be celebrating our 20th year at our Brooklyn location next year.
So with nearly 40 years of industry experience between both of you, what advice do you have for aspiring innkeepers?
Greenwood: Anyone getting into the business must first consider their personal lifestyle. If you are the kind of person expecting house guests and can’t wait until they leave, then this probably isn’t the industry for you. You’ve got to be a people person, enjoy people in your space and relish the challenge of creating a memorable experience for guests. Even folks who show up stressed out and who appear initially to be difficult. You’ve got to make sure that when they leave they do so in a better mind frame. So if that challenge is one that is appealing to you then, you could be cut out to be an innkeeper.
Edwards: To start out in this business you first have to find a property and then talk to someone on the government level to find out if indeed you can operate a B&B legally in that property. I typically encourage people to go and find an innkeeper and before they put their money into the business, volunteer at an inn and learn the ups and downs of the trade and just as important learn about the area. It’s not a hobby and it’s not a game if you’re going to be out there, you need to be out there.
Greenwood: Think about where you choose to open your B&B. Be mindful of zoning laws. If they exist in your city you’ve got to make sure it’s legal to open or operate a B&B. Also make sure the location you open in has some sort of attraction. Ask yourself if your location is near a major hospital, a major university, an entertainment venue or a place with natural charm and beauty that will appeal to nature lovers. If it is an urban environment it should have lots of office buildings. Just make sure that demographically speaking that there is marketability for your area.