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Look Before Leaping Into B & B Businesses
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Many homeowners are considering ways to put their Mississippi homes to work for them in the growing business trend of bed and breakfasts.
"As Mississippi's tourism grows, so does the interest in bed and breakfasts," said Linda Mitchell, coordinator of the Family and Youth Center in Lee County. Mitchell recently arranged a conference in Verona, Jackson and at Mississippi State University held consecutively and joined audiovisually by technology.
"Several people around the state had expressed interest in learning more about the feasibility of opening a bed and breakfast, but it was such a small group in each area. This was an ideal opportunity for MSU's Extension Service to use its distance learning technology," she said.
Participants were given information on the basics of home-based businesses, health regulations, customer service and how to incorporate technology in their businesses. A panel of B&B owners from around the state shared their experiences and answered questions.
"There are many issues people may not have considered about opening a bed and breakfast in their home," Mitchell said. "We wanted to pull as many experts together as possible to help people make informed decisions."
Dr. Beth Duncan, home based and entrepreneurial business specialist with MSU's Extension Service, said adequate planning on the front end is the way to beat the odds against any new small business. A personal inventory of strengths and weaknesses will help homeowners avoid some of the pitfalls. Anticipate the logistics of operating a B&B, the record keeping requirements, market considerations and legal aspects.
Mississippi has about 145 bed and breakfast businesses, with 28 in the north, 40 in the central and 77 in the southern portion of the state, according to information from the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development, Division of Tourism.
"B&B owners have various reasons for getting into the business including wanting extra income, restoring an old home, preserving the family farm or looking for tax benefits," Duncan said. "The goal should be more than wanting to make a lot of money. For the most part, profit comes from value added items such as restaurants, catering, special events and retail products."
Some of the pitfalls to running a bed and breakfast include the unexpected demands on personal and family relationships, the business management challenges, too much/too soon and quality control. Duncan said some businesses market to the wrong customers.
"The people who normally stay in a B&B have different expectations from those staying at hotels or motel," Duncan said. "In most cases, B&B cater to a niche market."
Rob Roberson, co-owner of the Caragen House in Starkville, said B&B services must be above the average hotel's options.
"If you are doing this to make money, you might want to reconsider. This has to be where your heart is," Roberson said.