From Bravery to Business: A Hospitality Success Story From An Ex-Firefighter

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Liam introduces Ryan Duffy from Duffy Homes Realty and Ozark Mountain Vacations.

Ryan owns multiple vacation rentals in the Branson area, offering unique guest experiences focused on privacy, nature, and outdoor activities. They cater to both family groups and couples, providing amenities like private hot tubs and fire pits.

Ryan shares their journey, starting with one rental and expanding gradually. The podcast emphasizes the significance of hospitality, attention to detail, and dynamic pricing.

Ryan's story showcases the potential and rewards of the short-term rental industry. You can learn more about Duffy Homes Realty atΒ and explore the vacation rentals offered by Ozark Mountain Vacations at

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Timestamps (audio)



[00:00:00] Liam: Hey everybody. Welcome to the Boostly Podcast. This is the podcast that gives hosts the tools, the tactics, the training, and most importantly, the confidence on how you can go out there and get some more direct bookings. My name's Liam Carolan and today we are diving behind the host with another successful and interesting short-term rental host.

[00:00:17] Uh, today we've got Ryan Duffy from Duffy Homes Realty and Ozark Mountain Vacations. I'm excited to dive in, first of all, because he's got an awesome. Book direct sticker in his background. So I know he is, uh, he's on board with the direct book and movement, but also he's an ex-firefighter and he's got a really exciting project to tell us about as well, um, as some awesome short-term rental homes.

[00:00:41] So, Ryan, welcome along. Thank you for joining me today. Thanks for taking

[00:00:45] Ryan: the time, Liam. Appreciate it.

Ryan’s Introduction

[00:00:47] Liam: So, Introduce yourself, uh, your business, where you are in the world, and what sort of model that you use and how many units. There are quite a few there.

[00:00:56] Ryan: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Cool. No, I'll, I'll, I'll dive into that.

[00:00:59] So, I'm, uh, I'm a licensed broker in the state of Arkansas, Missouri. Um, my wife and I own Duffy Homes Realty here in Branson, Missouri. Um, we also own Ozark Mountain Vacations, which is kind of our branding for our vacation rentals. And we're starting to branch off into, uh, a little bit of project or property management, um, for some of our clients down in the area that we live in.

[00:01:19] So we live actually in, uh, Omaha, Arkansas. It's about 20 minutes south of Branson. Um, and at the moment we have two active rentals. We've got, um, five under construction, um, in various stages also. And then we've got, um, we've got some plans to do some other kind of cool, interesting developments. So, I guess,

[00:01:36] Liam: what do you prefer to do?

[00:01:37] You've got developments like you say, you've got two sort sides to the business. What excites you the most?

[00:01:43] Ryan: Um, doing something different in, in the short-term rental sphere. So here in the Branson area, I. It's heavily restricted, you know if you're on the Missouri side, there are county restrictions, there are city restrictions, and, um, and with that, the, the type of rentals that we have predominantly in our inventory, they, they're all pretty similar.

[00:02:01] You know, you've got a lot of condominiums, you've got a lot of the larger lodge complexes and um, and since they're restricted to certain zoning requirements, you know, they're kind of crammed on top of each other. So, um, what I like to do down where we're at, just on the other side of the border in Arkansas, is to, um, really embrace the fact that we're not in resort settings.

[00:02:22] We're not crammed on top of each other. And, um, and provide a, a guest experience that is, um, You know, just, just very different in that regard, you know? So you can have a larger yard, you can go out and look at the stars, not have a bunch of light pollution. You know, I grew up in Chicago and you know, I, I didn't see a shooting star for the first time until I was like 18, you know, in basic training looking up in, in Oklahoma, like, wow, there's so many stars up there.

[00:02:44] So when I, when we first moved down here, um, You know, that was, that was one of the things that blew me away. You know, down in, in Arkansas it's, and there's no light pollution. You just look up and you see endless stars and um, you know, and so when, when we would go on vacation, that'd be something that would resonate with us.

[00:02:59] And that's one of the, one of the small things that we're trying to integrate into our guest experience. You know, we're hammering the fact that we're close to, and, you know, international dark sky site. And we've got all these, these outdoor activities that you can enjoy between Table Rock Lake and the various creeks and rivers and caves and all this stuff in our area.

[00:03:15] But we're also 20 minutes from Branson, which is a, uh, a major tourist attraction that brings in 10.5 million visitors per year. So we can kind of have the best of both worlds.

What’s your guest avatar

[00:03:24] Liam: What aspects internally of the properties attract you? Perfect guest avatar and who is your perfect guest

[00:03:31] Ryan: avatar? So, um, predominantly we're, uh, we're hosting family groups and, um, and it's, it's just a couple, couple different avatars.

[00:03:39] So we've got a four-bedroom rental at the moment that, uh, sleeps 14. So typically it's, you know, like, Double family units that'll stay there. We've got like, a large dedicated bunk room space and then a couple of different master suites. So, um, that's what we're seeing there is, is kind of the, the family dynamic.

[00:03:55] You know, there's a private hot tub. There's a big private fire pit area. Um, and then, uh, our other rental we've got at the moment, um, it's just a two-bedroom, uh, couples retreat. Um, so, you know, two very different avatars. But, um, you know, that's. That's kind of, kind of what we're gearing after is, you know, there's, there's, uh, these two different main demographics that are coming here and we feel like they're, they're couples and there are larger families and, um, and within that, you know, just trying to identify, you know, what people would need in that space.

[00:04:24] So, um, and again, for us, going back to privacy and separation and nature, you know, um, trying to create spaces where you can, you can lay out in the yard and you don't have to, you know, have cars driving by in front of you, you know? Um, so that sort of thing.

How do you get started in the business?

[00:04:38] Liam: I definitely wanna dive into more about you and how you got started in the business, but I'm gonna segue slightly into, um, Am I right in thinking you had sort of the real estate before the short-term rentals?

[00:04:51] Uh,

[00:04:51] Ryan: not really. No. No. Um, my, my wife got into real estate before I did. So, um, you know, I, before we moved here, I was a, I was a Chicago fireman and I did that for, uh, I had nine years on the job. Um, I had a series of back injuries, uh, that led to. A bunch of surgeries. And um, and that's what prompted us to, to change our, our life and uproot and, and come here.

[00:05:11] And, um, and so when we did that, you know, my wife Shay and I have always had this, this dream and this passion too, uh, get involved in real estate and become developers in some capacity. Uh, but we just didn't know how to manifest that. So she had a background as an interior designer. And, um, and as a firefighter I had no real practical, you know, real estate experience.

[00:05:30] Um, but, uh, you know, we moved here and, um, you know, I recovered enough to be able to get back to work and, um, you know, the, the logical thing to do after recovering from back surgery, I guess would be to get into construction, which is what I did. Um, made no sense. But, um, you know, I had an opportunity at the time to, uh, to mentor under somebody who had a lot of construction experience and um, basically was able to just.

[00:05:51] Get taken under his wing, and we built two houses from the ground up, just me and him. So I got, uh, a feel of every aspect of the construction world, uh, the processes that go into it. And in the meantime, Shay got her real estate license immediately and started trucking away at that. And, you know, with real estate in particular, it's, it's really about who you know and your connections to the community.

[00:06:11] And we had just moved 550 miles away and started a new life. So we knew nobody here and we had no real connections to the community. So it took, it took quite a while for, for that business to get up and going and, um, but she was persistent and she, you know, um, you know, she was. Pregnant at one point, uh, you know, eight months pregnant in, in, in August, going door knocking, you know, trying to drum up business, you know, and so really bootstrapped, you know, that for her, for her brand and, and learned a lot in the process.

[00:06:39] And, um, and throughout that process, um, you know, she started working with short-term rental investors. And she started seeing p and l, she started seeing booking reports and um, and we reached a point in our lives where at, at this time now, three years after we moved here, two years, two and a half years approximately, um, we'd started outgrowing our house and we had a three bedroom, three bath house that, uh, we kept telling ourselves over and over again as we had, as our family grew, like this is a great place.

[00:07:06] It's a vacation, but I wouldn't, you know, it's not comfortable to raise our kids here. You see, we, uh, you know, the kids' bedrooms were on the second floor. We were in the basement, you know, so it was, you know, three times a night run up two flights of stairs to change a diaper, you know, and there's no garage, no storage.

[00:07:20] But we kept having this conversation over and over, and it's like, oh, do we build an addition? Do we build a garage? And she comes home from work one day and goes, you know, I think if we put this place on Airbnb, we'd make 30 grand a year. And I said, bs. There's no way. Do you know? And, and she's like, no, I'm serious.

[00:07:35] I'm like, well, we're in Omaha, Arkansas. No one's ever heard of Omaha, Arkansas. She's like, yeah, but we're 20 minutes outside of Branson. We're five minutes to Table Rock Lake. We've got a full-service Marina at the end of our road. And best of all, there are no restrictions where we live. She's like, if you go 10 minutes north, you can't do that.

[00:07:51] Like, you just can't. So she, uh, she convinced me, um, and, uh, and a good friend of ours, uh, we had a business partner at the time that I was doing construction with, um, convinced us to, uh, to, to purchase another property up the road from where we were living. And it was a metal shop house, um, just a big metal barn.

[00:08:09] With a two-bedroom apartment built in half of it. And the agreement was that we'd purchased this through our construction business and we'd use basically, the open dirt floor shop spot to store construction materials and his tractor and all this. And then our family would rent back the two-bedroom apartment so it, it would cashflow the thing, you know, so that we could convert our home into a full-time short-term rental to do that kind of experiment.

[00:08:32] And, um, that was, um, mid-20, 20-19. So, uh, we got up and running live, um, right around Labor Day 2019, expecting to do about 30 grand a year in revenue. And the first year just blew it outta the water. I mean, it was like 52, 50 $3,000. The second year it was like $82,000. You know, I mean, just, I. Blew us away, you know?

[00:08:53] And, it was kind of like a watershed moment for us, like where we're like, wow, like this isn't, this isn't like a little, you know, hobby. Like this is a real industry. Do you know? I mean, within six weeks of going live on, the short-term rental platforms, I stopped taking bids. Uh, remodel jobs and I started real estate school and, um, and I just dedicated, you know, full time to taking care of and managing our one short-term rental.

[00:09:18] And then within, um, within six months, we were under contract for our second one. Um, and then it just, it just snowballed from there, you know, as it does. So. Um, but yeah, it was. An interesting progression,


[00:09:30] Liam: Ryan, I've enjoyed, uh, this podcast. There's, uh, there's sometimes, uh, we are, we are, we are sometimes struggling for, you know, sort of the, the questions and the flow, but this has flowed naturally.

[00:09:40] What I've taken away, and hopefully the people listening have taken away from this, is that, um, first of all, hospitality does give back, um, all the things that people can do. To ensure they have success from the start, which is things like the better quality worktops, labelling stuff up, making sure they've got touch day guides, making sure they're using dynamic pricing.

[00:10:00] I think that was a really important point, just backtracking to that, that you were worried that you had to use this outside company. Whereas as hosts, we've got all the power. Our fingertips use some of awesome technology. And of course, a lot of that is discussed in the book Direct Blueprint, um, uh, by Mark Simpson as well.

[00:10:18] There's a lot of the kind of, um, tech that people could use in there. If you dunno what that is, go and check that out on Amazon. Um, but yeah, thank you so much for spending your time with us, uh, this afternoon. Um, That's it, from us here at Boostly for this podcast. Thank you so much for listening.

[00:10:35] Uh, we know there's a lot of places you can put your attention. We appreciate you putting it with us. So, um, yeah, thank you very much. That's, uh, bye from me and uh, that's Bye from Ryan.

[00:10:43] Ryan: Thanks, Liam.

[00:10:44] Liam: Have a good one. Having a blast.

[00:10:46] Ryan: Can I get it on the Boostly podcast? Bruce Lee, like Bruce Lee, cuz it's so hard on the tee is loose leaf making up those rhymes.

[00:10:53] Don't write it, just do it loosely.