Little English Guesthouse is a local bed and breakfast (B&B) in Tallahassee, Florida. Its owner, Tracey Cochran, works with her husband to make it a comfortable place for people to enjoy the natural beauty that Tallahassee offers. This bed and breakfast offers a pleasant English experience with three themed rooms (London, Staffordshire and Essex) plus a homey breakfast room and comfortable conservatory for guests to enjoy at their leisure. The following is an interview discussing Tracey’s journey with her business, along with advice for anyone hoping to start their own business one day.
Her Campus (HC): How long has the Little English Guesthouse been in business, and how did it start?
Tracey Cochran (TC): 18 years. We built our business from scratch after I was laid off from my position in social services.
HC: Have you always been interested in running and owning your own business?
TC: Yes, my father was self-employed, and I ran a nonprofit in child abuse prevention for 13 years, so it was always a goal of mine.
HC: What was the most challenging part of starting the business?
TC: Capital and lack of mentors! The first few years were difficult.
HC: What’s the best part about owning a B&B?
TC: I meet the most wonderful people, and I love the freedom of being my own boss.
HC: What makes staying at the Little English Guesthouse a more pleasurable experience compared to a hotel?
TC: Personal service! A legal B&B is generally cleaner, safer and quieter than a chain hotel and provides better value for money. We care about each and every individual guest, and it shows!
HC: What advice would you give to others thinking about entering the lodging sector in hospitality?
TC: You have to genuinely love people.
HC: What are some things you wish you knew starting out?
TC: That one day, non-business owners would be allowed to masquerade as professional innkeepers, and there would no longer be a level playing field for real bed and breakfast businesses. I’m referring to the air mattress website that led to confusion about what a B&B really is.
HC: What are some skills essential to running your B&B?
TC: Flexibility, the ability to wear several hats and work alone, marketing skills and administrative skills.
HC: Describe a typical day at the Little English Guesthouse.
TC: I start early to greet guests, organize cleaning, keep up the inn’s daily maintenance and work on risk management. Then, I work on marketing/advertising to attract new guests and stay in touch with previous guests to make them returners. I also take care of errands and ensure that supply levels such as cleaning and laundry supplies are sufficient. Then, I take care of the finances of the business to maintain cash flow, focus on networking with local businesses and national colleagues and of course, stay up late to receive new guests.
HC: How did you handle the height of the pandemic, and how did it impact business?
TC: Business was extremely slow, particularly with the governor’s stay-at-home order. We used the time to do needed repairs and maintenance on the building, our website and our marketing plan.
HC: Last thoughts you would like to share?
TC: It is an unpredictable business and can be feast or famine. One has to be able to roll with the tides and plan for both.