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In this podcast, Liam discusses the synergy between charity work and short-term rentals with guest Debbie Todd, co-owner of The Woodlands at Hocking Hills in Ohio. Initially entering the rental business for family getaways, Debbie shares their unexpected success and family-friendly approach, emphasizing spacious designs and game rooms for large groups.

The conversation shifts to Debbie's passion for giving back, with 5% of each rental contributing to a charity chosen by her children. Beyond financial contributions, this commitment influences various aspects of their business, fostering a deeper connection with guests and the local community. Networking with other hosts and businesses has expanded, creating a collective effort toward a common purpose.

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[00:00:00] Liam: So today we're talking all about giving back, charity work with short-term rental, networking, standing out in your community, and ultimately helping you to stand out as a host. And here to do that I've got a very special guest. We're going to go behind the host on the Boostly podcast with Debbie Todd.

[00:00:18] She's got The Woodlands at Hocking Hills, which is in Ohio. Uh, an hour away from Columbus in the USA. She's got two units there and she's very, very passionate about giving back. So today I'm excited to dive into this and you as a host are going to learn how that is going to help your hospitality business.

[00:00:37] So let's welcome along our guest, Debbie. Thank you for joining me today. So much for having me. So, uh, first question, can, can you introduce your business? Give us the elevator pitch, who helps you run it and, uh, anything else you'd like to share.

[00:00:51] Debbie: Sounds good. My name is Debbie. I am the co-owner of the Woodlands at Hocking Hills.

[00:00:56] My husband and I both own it. We got into the short-term rental business by accident, and the more people I talked to, I figured that sometimes is this a common theme. But we wanted a place to get away for our family. Um, we found a place about an hour away from Columbus, Ohio. Um, it's, I call it our little hidden gem, Hocking Hills.

[00:01:18] And you bought a place, you know, didn't think in a million years we could afford this. We got another couple, we're like, let's do this together. And it was during COVID and then all of a sudden it boomed. So we were like, wow, what is this? You know? Um, so from there it became, we just got excited. We started looking for new places.

[00:01:38] Uh, the other couple was good with the one. So my husband and I were like, let's do this. So we've renovated, uh, two other places. And then in the meantime, this was a total surprise. The first place, uh, we just sold, um, with the other couple. So now we're like, what are we going to do next? Are we going to build?

[00:01:57] Are we, you know, so we've got a lot of fun stuff ahead. I am my husband is more of a hands-on designer, just knows all the things I've learned a lot from him. Um, I am the more the management behind-the-scenes hospitality. I know nothing about this but I've learned a lot, and I love it. I'm a physical therapist by trade that's what I've been doing for 20 years.

[00:02:22] And I have, it's been really fun listening to podcasts. Just, it's like, I feel like it's opened up a whole new world for me of something that I'm passionate about that I didn't realize I was passionate about. So here I am. We have short-term rentals. We still have our jobs. We've got three busy kids. So it's, um, it's a lot of fun.

About the rentals

[00:02:42] Liam: Tell me about your, uh, the, the rentals. You just said that you sold one, you've got two, and tell me what guests can expect. What do they feel like what can a typical stay be like when people come and stay with you? And who would you say is your ideal guest? So

[00:02:57] Debbie: we come from a big family. So we love gatherings.

[00:03:00] We love, you know, having people over. So when we went into these places, so, the second place we bought was a one. So one bed, one bedroom, two baths. It had the, it was, it, the space was unreal. So we ended up making it a five-bedroom, three-bath. So it sleeps 20. So we are more family-friendly. Um, group, more groups of people.

[00:03:24] We've had reunions there. Um, we were very functional. We think about the functionality of, you know, small kids, um, both of our places have game rooms because we feel like, you know, that's so fun. That's when families get together and make memories and laugh. And so a lot of we've done. We've kind of put ourselves into it first and kind of built around that.

[00:03:44] So we designed it around kind of what we would love, which, you know, is just being with family and friends.

What can people expect? 

[00:03:50] Liam: What can people expect from, uh, Hocking Hills? You know, what, what is it that you love to do in the area and, what are the reasons, uh, people visit?

[00:03:59] Debbie: It is such a hidden little gem. It is so like, I lived in Ohio, in Columbus, probably 10 to 15 years before I even knew where it was.

[00:04:09] And it's an hour away, you know, so, you know when we bought our place there, I had not known about it much more before then. And it has a little bit, it's all year. It's got a lake nearby, lots of caves, parks, and trails to walk on. Um, there's, water activities of canoeing, ziplining. There's a lot of indoor stuff, glass blowing.

[00:04:31] Um, it's just, it's a little bit of everything. It's really, it's a cool place and it's pretty small. So not, I mean, you can very easily shop, really cool shopping, um, antique malls. So it's really neat.

What is giving back?

[00:04:43] Liam: Take us through what is, what is giving back? What does it mean to you? And, uh, dive into that part of your business.

[00:04:49] Yeah.

[00:04:49] Debbie: So what I was We were talking a little bit earlier, being a physical therapist and working in the healthcare profession. I've always, you know, been hands-on helping, um, as a child, my parents always what we went to nursing homes, I was always volunteering with my mom and dad at church or this and that.

[00:05:06] So I feel like I've kind of, you know, we do that with our family. Well, when we bought the short-term rentals, um, I love the aspect of giving back for families to be able to come and enjoy. Um, but I just felt like something was missing. I was like, I just, want to make a bigger impact, but I don't know how to do that.

[00:05:21] And I remember telling my husband, I'm like, these places are bigger than us. And he's like, well, what is what do you mean? It's like, I don't know. I'm like, I just have a feeling it's bigger than us. So, um, we ended up deciding we talked to our kids. Our kids are 15, 14 and 11 now. But when we started this, it was about three years ago.

[00:05:40] We have kept them involved in all the decision-making, um, asking them questions. So they've been a part of the whole process, which is fun to do as kind of a family. Um, even the renovation part of it, which they weren't. Yeah. Super thrilled about, but, um, but so what we started is, you know, I wanted to give back, um, part of our, you know, each rental.

[00:06:03] So we were trying to figure out, we kind of worked the numbers to see what would work for us, cause it's different. And we, we evaluated every year because each year is different. So we decided on 5 per cent and we started this last year. So we would give 5 per cent back of each rental. We had each of our kids choose what charity they wanted to support.

[00:06:22] And then we have our guest. Pick one of those three that they want their money to go to, and it started there, which was amazing. And then I just get the itch. And sometimes I just, my brain doesn't stop, but I'm like, I want to do more. So we have incorporated everything we make a decision on with our Between our amenities, what giveaways we do, it all goes back to how can we make a bigger impact.

[00:06:47] And lots of times it's including others in the process. So our guests, we include the community, we've included the products we use. And I just have such a passion. It just, it's been. Such a joyful giving experience, um, in so many ways,

How has this impacted your business?

[00:07:03] Liam: how has this impacted, your business? What changes have, you know, since you've started reaching out to the community and doing this sort of work, how has it helped you?

[00:07:14] Debbie: I would say, I don't, you know, I feel like immediately I think of more bookings. How are your numbers? And it's, you know, I don't have answers for that, but what I do know is the experiences we've had with guests. have been, you know, I've always loved the hospitality part of it anyway, but we've gone on a kind of like a little bit of a deeper level with, with guests of, you know, personal experiences that they've had with charities we're supporting.

[00:07:40] Um, and I network, not in a, um, In networking for me, but just networking of learning businesses around us coming together for a common purpose, because lots of times there's lots of competitiveness. You know, do you have this amenity? Do you do that? You know, and it's just bringing a different realm of working together, making a bigger impact.

[00:08:03] Again, together, and it's more fun that way. Um, so I've met more hosts. I've learned about different people in the community. Um, another cool thing is bringing exposure to charitable organizations that people didn't know about, you know, we've worked with our food bank and our local area that some of the people that have, um, rentals there didn't even know about the food bank.

[00:08:25] So it's just, I mean, like how neat, you know, that just bringing people together. And I think it's unique. What has probably been the most fun for me is just how to bring people together,

[00:08:35] Liam: having a blast. Gonna get it on the Boostly podcast. Bruce Lee. Let Bruce Lee 'cause it's so hard on the teas.

[00:08:41] Loosely making up those rhymes. Don't write it, just do it loosely.