Brenda Roddy, co-owner of Jessie Mac’s B&B and hostel in Birnam talks about her business journey.
Q. How and why did you start in business?
Eleven years ago my partner and I got a dog.
We were both keen mountaineers and regularly stayed at hostels throughout Scotland but suddenly found that most hostels and B&Bs wouldn’t take dogs.
We decided to set up our own dog friendly hostel and make it really ‘green’.
We sold what we could, searched for the perfect site and jumped in.
How did you get where you are today?
We learned quickly.
We were lucky enough to hire the previous manager of the business to show us the ropes as this was completely new to us. We had a three-month transition period where we planned to change the business from a traditional B&B to a modern hostel, during which we discussed our ideas with our guests.
They asked if we’d consider creating a hybrid instead – so we did.
We created more beds, targeted the active outdoors market and worked closely with other local businesses.
Who has helped you along the way?
Perth and Kinross Council helped us with an enterprise grant initially, which was a great help financially.
Community-based enterprise support organisation GrowBiz was really helpful for networking and providing mentoring and training courses.
Scottish Independent Hostels helped us with marketing and our local community has sent customers our way from the outset.
What was your biggest mistake?
We got tricked into a crippling energy contract in the first few weeks – nobody had told us that a verbal contract is binding in business and we were hoodwinked.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
Getting our five stars from VisitScotland took a lot of work and the same for getting our gold award from Green Business. Winning the national VIBES award for environmental management was great. We’ve been steady at about 98% on TripAdvisor for seven years and nearly 40% of our guests are return customers so we must be doing something right.
Hopes for the future?
To keep getting better.
After eight years, there’s a temptation to rest on your laurels but we’re looking at what can we do to increase satisfaction for us, our staff and our guests over the next 12 months.
Q. Do you want to recruit in the future?
Last year we had a live-in member of staff over the summer which worked out really well.
What is the hardest thing about running your own business?
It’s hard to switch off and to get away. We’ve learned ways to get around this over the years and we’re lucky to have excellent staff that we can hand everything over to – surrounding yourself with a good team is essential.
Any advice to wannabe entrepreneurs?
Do your research and speak frankly at an early stage with potential customers and friends about what they would buy, like or hate.