MONEY

Suite Dreams: Opening a Bed and Breakfast

When she got the “corporate boot” in late 2007, Selena Einwechter had no questions about what to do next: Of course, she’d open a B&B.

Einwechter first dreamed of owning a bed and breakfast more than three decades earlier while backpacking through Europe, but it wasn’t until the late 1990s that she began getting serious about the idea.

Then a deputy director in the North Carolina office of Gtech, which supplies systems for state lotteries, she began spending her spare time attending trade conferences, writing a business plan, even filling in as an inn sitter.

And about a month before her number came up at Gtech, Einwechter had enlisted a real estate agent to help her find a location.

“I thought I’d have more security if I built the inn while employed,” she says. When her company handed her a seven-month severance package, however, the search took on new urgency.

In February 2008 Einwechter found an ideal six-acre spot in Mills River, N.C., just outside Asheville.

Three banks turned down her $800,000 loan application before a fourth — a local institution with an innkeeper on its board — gave her the green light. Building the 5,000-square-foot house took a year; the Bed & Breakfast on Tiffany Hill finally opened for business in June 2009.

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Einwechter’s first customers were friends who had invested with her; 30% of subsequent bookings have come via word of mouth. She’s also listed the business in B&B directories and keeps local tourism centers stocked with brochures.

Last year, with an occupancy rate of 60% — well above the 44% industry average — the inn grossed $195,000, netting almost $90,000.

Einwechter used the profits to add two suites, bringing the total to seven. This year she expects revenue of $265,000. “I am working harder than ever,” says Einwechter. “But I have met the best people, and I’m having the time of my life.”

BY THE NUMBERS

Percentage of salary she was saving before being laid off: 50%.

With the goal of opening a B&B, she began saving 3% in 1999, steadily increasing so that she was stashing half her income as of 2005. By 2008 she’d amassed $350,000 — $200,000 of which went to a down payment.

Additional amount she raised from friends: $10,000.

Borrowing an idea she saw in a documentary, she began selling $100 reservation deposits worth one night’s stay. Her first “investors” bought in a decade before the B&B opened. “I have a great collection of friends,” she says.

Fraction of her old salary she expects to earn in 2012: 3/4.

Because most of her living costs are covered by the business — she lives on the property and draws meagerly from savings — Einwechter has so far chosen to reinvest profits. But this year she plans to take a salary of $75,000, not far from the $102,000 she earned in corporate America.

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