I’m Yvonne Halling and I run a bed and breakfast business in the heart of the Champagne region of France. I’ve been working for myself ever since I left my corporate job with an international drinks company in 1990 and went to live the USA for a year, then Japan for 4 years, before coming to France. I loved my job, but I always kept coming up with new ideas that no-one took any notice of, and I found it frustrating. When I left and moved to the USA, I wondered how I’d ever found time to go to work!
How did your current business come about and how is it evolving?
I opened my B&B business in 2000 because I was bored and alone at home with two small children, while my husband was travelling a lot with his job. I met a couple of ladies who were doing B&B and I thought to myself “I can do that”, so in 2000 we bought an old French house, renovated and opened it up to guests. I loved it, we all loved it, but it was just a hobby for me. At that time I was making less than €10k a year, but that was OK because my husband’s job paid for everything.
In 2009 everything changed. We were living in the UK for various reasons, and we had lost our business in the crash of 2008. We found ourselves with no income, no job, no business, and eventually no home, when the tumble dryer caught fire one night and destroyed part of our UK home. We were living in a caravan. Me, husband, two teenage daughters and the dog. It was grim. We still owned our home in France, which we had rented out while we were in the UK, and the tenants had left. It was empty and waiting for us. So we came back “home”.
I had learned a lot about business and marketing during our brief time in the UK and I put it all to work in my re-opened B&B business. During the first year, I didn’t make much money, but in the second year, something changed inside of me, and I realised that if we were going to survive, I would have to do something. So I got really busy. I made a decision to make €40k that year. I had no clue how I was going to do that. No-one I knew was making that kind of money from a B&B business. There were no mentors or coaches to call upon. I just trusted that something would happen. In that year, I didn’t make €40k, I made 50k! And the following year I made just over €100k with only 4 rooms. It was incredible!
I love this business. It allows me to be at home, indulging in my soft furnishings and interior designs skills which I picked up along the way. It allows me to meet new people and help them. I have a small team around me to help with the daily chores, so I can focus on being with the guests and marketing. That is my job.
I love it because it brings more wealth to my community. The more guests I attract, the more bread I buy from the local baker, the more champagne I buy from local producers, the more people I can send to the local restaurant, etc. etc. I see my B&B business as my contribution to the local economy, and that in itself brings me more guests.
My philosophy is that my business benefits others too. It’s not just about me and what I make. It’s about the whole community.
Since becoming successful, I’ve realised that other B&B owners would benefit from my knowledge and experience, and so last year, I launched Bed and Breakfast Coach which helps B&B owners worldwide to make more money and have more fun. I serve them via 1:1 coaching and mentoring, and my newly launched Bed and Breakfast Magic Online Mentoring Programme. I’m really proud of this programme, which takes B&B owners on the journey of setting up and running a successful and profitable B&B business that serves their ideal guests. It’s modular and it’s monthly, and at this moment, there are B&B owners from South Africa, Australia, UK, France and the USA who have decided that they too want to dramatically increase their income and have more fun.
I speak regularly at industry events, and I’ve written a book called “Bed and Breakfast Magic: How to Transform Your B&B Into A Booming 6 Figure Business”.
This series of interviews is designed to inspire other solopreneurs, mainly women, on the same path. What tips would you share with them which would short-cut their journey to happiness being their own boss?
You must believe in yourself and your talents. You must believe that you can do it. You must develop that feeling in yourself, that whatever happens, you’ll be OK, and you will. There is no short-cut to business success, it’s all a process, and as soon as you start the process or journey, the sooner you’ll learn what you need to learn to make it successful. And don’t give up on yourself or your dreams. You deserve to have a great life.
It’s scary sometimes, there’s no doubt about it. You’ll have to make some tough decisions. You’ll have to grow. You’ll have to learn. If it was easy, then everyone would be successful.
What did you struggle with most in your start-up phase, and how did you crack that?
At first, I struggled with my self belief. I didn’t know I could do it. No-one I knew had done what I had set out to do, so I had no reference point, but I knew I had to try, or lose everything. In my heart I knew that I was capable of anything, and that if I just “stayed in the queue” and kept going, even when I felt like giving up, then I would be successful – whatever that means! I worked a lot on my inner game.
And what have you learned about yourself while working solo?
No-one else is going to come and do it for you. You’ve got to take responsibility and go for it yourself. Working alone can be lonely. Know yourself and what your needs are, and then get those needs met for yourself. I have learned that I love being alone, and so when the guests leave, I like to be alone, walk my dog, sit in the garden. I have rules around when I am available, and when I’m not, because I’d go mad if I had to be with people all the time. I didn’t know this in the beginning, but I learned it along the way.
Did you choose self-employment or did it choose you? Any regrets?
I think I’ve always been an entrepreneur, and I was pretending while working in corporate. Being in business for yourself is a great platform for self growth and self awareness. Some people cannot do it, and that’s OK. You will find out as you go along. For me, it is perfect, and I express myself through my businesses. No regrets at all.
What one encouraging thought sums it all up?
If you have a yearning, follow your heart, it won’t let you down, ever.
Do you feel lonely or isolated when working for yourself?
Personally, I love working for myself. I have a small team around me to help with the daily chores, but I am an introvert who likes being extrovert and entertaining at times! I don’t have a social life per se, my business meets that need. Know yourself and what you need.
Thanks so much, Yvonne, for participating so speedily and cheerily, as ever. Do you have something you can recommend to people thinking of starting or improving the profits in a B&B?
Yes. I have a free e-course called The Ultimate B&B Money-Making Programme and it’s available at my website BedandBreakfastCoach.com
And how can readers find out more about you and become your fans and followers?
- Bed and Breakfast in Champagne
- Trip Advisor Reviews
- Yvonne on Facebook:
- Yvonne on Twitter: @Yvonne3030
- Yvonne on Linked In France