Mongoose Manor guesthouse owner’s hard work ethic, top quality service, make her clients feel at home
When she realised she would soon be left with an empty nest, Rhoda Bryans decided to focus on her lifelong dream of owning a coffee shop. But then she fell in love with the house and gardens of Mongoose Manor, and adjusted to life as a bed-and-breakfast owner.
How did the bed-and-breakfast start?
I grew up in a family of seven children. This meant large family gatherings and many mouths to feed at once – which probably isn’t that different to running a bed-and-breakfast establishment.
Both my husband and I realised that once the children leave home, I will have a huge void to fill and as I love coffee shops so much, we set out to find a suitable venue.
This is when we stumbled across the lovely gem – Mongoose Manor BnB – situated in the busy Circular Drive, but with a stunning garden setting which makes one feel as though you’ve left the city for the countryside.
The previous owners had owned it for more than 10 years and had established the bed-and-breakfast. Although initially seeking a little boutique coffee shop, I decided to first come to terms with the bed-and-breakfast business.
What is your core service?
Creating a comfortable “home away from home” environment for all my guests, whether you’re a corporate staying for one night or several weeks, or visiting family and not wanting to stay with mom-in-law – or a bride wanting a special venue to get ready for her big day.
What makes your business unique?
My immediate reaction would be my extremely competent, loyal and supportive small team plus this beautiful farm-style manor house, with its many irreplaceable and, sometimes, quirky features, but probably most importantly, also location and guest profile mix.
We are situated in an area which gives corporate clients easy access to business and industry, but at the same time lends itself to serving the guests who wish to attend the several wedding and function venues within a short distance from us.
This means that we are not very seasonal, but generally have a steady, regular flow of business.
What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations?
The unpredictability of the industry demands. As a BnB or guesthouse our product is finite both in time and space.
We cannot store time and we cannot suddenly create space Some guests struggle to understand that we are not selling widgets or sweets which can be put back on the shelf at the last minute for resale in the future.
The cost of lost opportunity, if not managed strictly, can be enormous and destroy your business.
It is also a 24/7 job – if you don’t have competent staff to back you up and allow yourself personal space, this business will kill you.
Someone once said having a BnB is like being in a jail without walls – it can be that if you let it. because demand increased.
What is the best advice anyone ever gave you about success?
Love, love, love what you do. Then, everything is easier.
What are some of the best practices that have made your business successful?
As a small team we largely function as one body with each of the body parts having to fulfil its required task to the highest standard, otherwise the whole body is impacted.
What kind of advertising do you do?
A professionally designed website is a must, unless you are exceedingly competent in that area; we also use travel websites, travel agents and tourist boards, and rely on word-ofmouth. As for social media, I’m part of the older generation and this is an area where we personally need to still expand, but I know it is a critical expansion which needs to be nurtured.
What are some of your highlights in running your business?
Guests falling in love with the place as much as we do. Expressing their joy in finding a place filled with peace and tranquillity in the middle of a city.
Do you have any plans for expanding the business, and how would you go about this?
It is always a fine balance between demand and affordability to satisfy the demand, as the decision to expand is long-term financially expensive.
How did you acquire funding for the business?
Bank mortgage and personal finance.
Once you had funding, what was the first step in actually launching the business?
We were literally catapulted into the business and had to be fast learners and sink or swim.
As a pre-existing business, we took over in the afternoon, had to move in pieces of replacement furniture and be ready to serve guests’ dinner that night!
We returned to make breakfast in the morning to find one of the bathrooms had developed a major leak – welcome to the world of hospitality! This was a far cry from the gentile cocktail party introduction I had envisaged.
What has been the greatest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like PE?
We love being part of the Friendly City – it is still the 15-minute village. On average, it takes our guests 15 minutes to get to most of their destinations , sometimes it is a fast 15 minutes and sometimes it is a slow 15 minutes.
Who has been your role model in your approach to the business?
My husband. As a corporate executive and seasoned international traveller, he has guided me as to what is critical for corporate travellers, when it comes to the hospitality industry.
As a businessman, husband and father, he has taught me to have the highest ethical standards and to be fair and just in all you do, but most importantly, to have fun and enjoy what you do.