One year ago, I was on the verge of bankruptcy. Years before, I had purchased a large, vacant, and somewhat derelict commercial building in the middle of rural Hardy, Virginia that I could not figure out how to make profitable. I had spent several years building it into a flea market, and the flea market began to fail the very summer that I absolutely needed it to thrive. Rosie’s Casino had moved in just five miles away from me and it had sucked up the entirety of the local economy with over $50,000,000 going through its bank within their first quarter alone. Since my business was dependent upon the local economy, the flea market business began to sink fast.
I had a wife and two small children at the time, that I was trying to support as you can see in the attached picture. Driving them through the pains of bankruptcy because of my poor business decisions was the last thing that I wanted. My marriage was on the rocks at the time too, as we struggled to make things work and fought over how we should be managing our remaining finances. We were forced to sell our home and move into one of the rentals that we owned in order to make ends meet.
This was it, the final hoorah. We were torn with what to do with the little bit of money that we had left from the sale of our home. Should we use it to carry us through bankruptcy and start from scratch? Or should we use it to try to salvage the business? I wanted to salvage the business, and my wife wanted to let it sink and use the money to attempt to bail us out in other ways. So, I built a new business plan of turning the flea market into a hostel. I showed the potential for success, and I began to negotiate moving a portion of the money into this new business idea and holding the rest back to see if it would work.
In a matter of weeks, desperate to make something work, I had kicked all the vendors that I did have out of their booths, and I put beds in each of them. I started with five beds to begin with. Keep in mind, these rooms are tiny. An average of just 6 feet by 10 feet, originally used for vendors to sell their antiques and things in. They are built out of OSB, and many of them have studs still showing in the wall. So, there was a lot of skepticism from those around me that this idea was actually going to work.
I had been running a short-term rental out of the mother in law apartment of my basement in my home for a year and I had been able to maintain super host status. So, I had a foundation of what guests were looking for and how to manage their expectations. But I started small in this new facility, only charging about $20 per night as I built the place and amenities up. Suddenly, a surprising thing happened. People not only liked the quirky and inexpensive nature of the facility, but,
THEY LOVED IT!
Then the Coronavirus Pandemic hit! I thought for sure that this was going to be the end of my business, as I had just opened a hostel with shared living. I was certain we were going to be one of the first businesses to hit the bankruptcy line. But it wasn’t the end. In fact, far from it as business continued to improve. The place quickly gained traction in spite of the pandemic, which pulled us from the brink of bankruptcy to making upwards of $20,000 per month! Providing this incredible comeback story.
It didn’t take long for me to open the rest of the building up to short term rentals to where it is today. We now have a total of 13 small rooms, three suites, and a camper. We then expanded the business across the street to three private apartments and a trailer home. Then I expanded even further in Salem, VA with another six-bedroom home that I owned, that I had previously been unable to rent. I now have over 500 ratings on Airbnb with a 4.8 average star rating, maintaining Super Host status. With a total of 26 listings. I've strategically paired these hostels with more traditional private accommodations for diversification and so that everyone, regardless of their accommodation preferences, can enjoy this unique communal setting. Finally, we are currently working to expand through purchasing other single family homes and other rentals to add to our overall portfolio.
Now, I know that you’re probably thinking that this is an extremely unconventional way to start a multimillion-dollar business. But it taught me valuable lessons of how people think and what they value. Lessons that I would have never learned any other way.
I learned that people will forgive a lot of things so long as they feel like they are getting a deal and you appropriately manage their expectations. Keep in mind, I was charging as little as $20 per night when I started, in an area where you couldn’t find anything less than $60. We've worked our way up to charging $36 per night at this point. But when you’re in that price range, people don’t care about the paint job, or how well the drywall was sanded down and smoothed over. Let me lay out the top three things people care about in order.
They care about the VALUE. They care about getting the biggest bang for their buck.
They care about CLEANLINESS. Nobody wants to sleep in a place that isn’t extra clean, especially when it’s shared living. Therefore, we work to keep everything exceptionally clean.
Finally, the next most important thing that they care about is the EXPERIENCE. They want a story. Because of the nature of the booths and the rustic/antique theme that I had laid out for my flea market, I describe how these little rooms used to be stalls for animals. The metal buildings that I had built outside for more vendors became barns to house real animals. I developed a theme, The Barn Lodge.
People came for the economy and fell in love with the experience along the way. Creating so many return customers to where 50% of my business is now completely organic, through my own traffic and website and is not coming through Airbnb.
I’m here to teach you how to do the same thing and invite you to come and stay with us for two days to check us out. During your stay, we will take you on a guided tour of my hostels as well as the progress on my current project. You'll also be able to take advantage of our presentation and workshop on creating and building your own hostel and short-term-rental empire, with a chance to ask questions about how things are run.
Do you have a vacant commercial building like my first hostel? Or perhaps you have a large home that has six or more bedrooms, that you are under renting because the market will only allow you to rent the whole place for a limited amount, which was the case with my second hostel? Maybe you have some apartments that you could economically rent as short term rentals, like my apartments. Or perhaps you are simply looking at properties to invest in. In any case, the information that you will gain from this tour and workshop will be invaluable to your endeavors and literally save you tens of thousands in trial and error. If I had had this workshop from the beginning, I literally would have likely saved over $100,000 and years of heart ache and stress trying to figure all of this out. Save yourself from the stress that I went through and just come to this workshop. It's definitely more than worth the time and money you'll put into attending.
Once you have registered, we will contact you and set up a time, date, and sleeping accommodations that suit you. If you are on your phone, scroll down to register. If you are on a computer, registration will be on the right side of your screen.
We look forward to hosting you!