Using Event Niches To Boost Your Hospitality Business

Using Event Niches to Boost Your Hospitality Business

Welcome to Boostly Podcast Episode 585.

In this Boostly Podcast episode, Liam Carolan interviews Helen Christopher, owner of Brookledge in upstate New York.

The property offers cabins, glamping tents, and a lodge that can be rented individually or all together for events such as weddings, family vacations, and corporate events.

The property attracts guests from New York City and New Jersey who are looking to escape the city and disconnect.

In the summertime, the property is more popular, but in the wintertime, snowmobilers come to enjoy the snowmobile trails.

Helen used to be a teacher and attended a friend's wedding at Brookledge.

Fast forward seven years, the property was for sale, and Helen and her husband, who loved the idea of owning the space, bought it within two weeks of seeing it.

Brookledge used to be a girls' summer camp, and the couple loved the unique features that traditional event spaces lacked, such as pavilions.

Helen and her husband moved into the property's nurse's office with their son, two dogs, and had to make some changes to accommodate their new lifestyle.

Here's the video for this episode:

Timestamps (audio)

00:00 – Intro
01:12 – Helen Intro
04:55 – What would you say are the biggest wow moments so far?
06:12 – How do you attract wedding parties
08:40 – What tech do you use?
10:30 – Outro

Whilst you’re here

Follow Boostly on the following channels to get more tips, tactics and knowledge on how you can increase your direct bookings

Visual – YouTube

Audio – Boostly Podcast





Transcript from the Episode


[00:00:00] Liam: Welcome to the new episode of the Boostly Podcast. This is the podcast that gives hosts the tools, the tactics, the trainings, and most importantly, the confidence, so you can go out there and get more direct bookings. My name's Liam Carolan. I'm Mark's co-host, and today we're going behind a host with another successful and interesting host from the short term rental industry.

[00:00:18] What I love about doing these episodes is that we get to meet people with. Different types of business. We're all in the same industry, but everybody's got a slightly different offering. We host all in unique ways, which is why it's so important to listen to a podcast like this. See what tips you can pick up and implement that into your own business.

[00:00:36] And today I'm excited because we've got Helen Christopher from Brook Ledge. Um, Cabins and camping and weddings is all that we're gonna be talking about today. And also she is a soon to be bestselling offer, uh, with hospitable hosts. So it's a real honor to have her here. So welcome along and welcome, uh, welcome along Helen.

[00:00:57] Uh, thanks for being here.

[00:00:58] Helen: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.

[00:01:00] Liam: No worries. So I've given you obviously a brief introduction there, but if you can tell us about, uh, yourself, where the business is as well, and what kind of model that you use.

Helen Intro

[00:01:12] Helen: Yes, so we're located in upstate New York. Um, a lot of times when people think of New York, they think the big city.

[00:01:17] Uh, we are actually in the mountains on 60 acres, so a very, uh, rural area just outside of Sarasota Springs. And we have cabins, glamping tents, and a lodge. And we, um, host either guests individually. You can rent just one cabin or some families or events. They'll rent the entire place. For an event, uh, such as a wedding.

[00:01:42] Uh, we also do, uh, corporate events, uh, where businesses will rent the entire place as a way to celebrate with their, their staff.

[00:01:49] Liam: That's cool. And who do you find you tend to host? Is it, is it more families or is it people, I guess because New York's so close, is that where most of your guests sort of come from?

[00:01:59] Helen: We do get quite a few guests from the city and New Jersey, uh, people who are looking to escape the city and disconnect. And we are getting a lot of younger couples, actually. Um, a lot of couples in their twenties and thirties that are just looking to take a break from, from their busy schedules.

[00:02:17] Liam: That's cool.

[00:02:18] And do you find, is it very seasonal or is it, is it like all year round for, for the cabins and the demand?

[00:02:24] Helen: So it is definitely more popular in summertime, but in the wintertime we are really close to the snowmobile trails. Nice. So we do have snowmobilers that drive their, um, their sleds right up to the cabin.

[00:02:38] They can sleep for a weekend and then hop right back onto the trail. So we do have that, but it's, we're more popular during the summer.

[00:02:44] Liam: That's cool. That's cool. And tell me how did you get into this business? Is this something which is, is new take, take me back before you did hospitality and, and how did this come along?

[00:02:54] Helen: Yes. I was actually a teacher for 17 years. I was a second grade teacher and we had gone to Brookledge. We had actually come here on the property about seven to 10 years ago. A friend of ours was getting married here, and Brookledge prior to that was a girl's summer camp. So, um, children would stay here for weeks at a time.

[00:03:15] Um, kinda like a Girl Scouts, boy scouts kind of a thing. And at that time when we attended, um, a wedding here, it was no longer a summer camp. Two, two women had owned it and it was privately owned. And my husband and I just thought that the camp was gorgeous. It had all these unique features, things that you wouldn't have, you know, at a traditional place such as pavilions and that type of a thing.

[00:03:38] And we just really enjoyed it. Fast forward seven years later and we see that Brookledge is for sale. We had no intentions of moving or buying it, but we just loved it so much. We loved the idea of having the space. Yet you're only 15 minutes from Saratoga. So we put an offer in. It was accepted and within two weeks we moved into, what was the nurse's office at the time?

[00:04:04] It was 400 square feet. It was myself, my son, um, my husband, and our two dogs. And we quickly realized we need to make some modifications. And as soon as we moved in, we started working on the property. Uh, we started moving cabins around, updating the cabins, adding platforms for the glamping tents. Uh, we are currently, uh, finishing up the lodge, which will have its first wedding next, um, next month.

[00:04:27] So we're, we're moving quite along. But, um, the original plan was not to host, uh, I did discover Bruce Lee and other, uh, podcasts that showed me that that was an option for a way to make money on the property. And once we started going, I realized I couldn't teach anymore cuz it was, it was doing very well and it was too challenging to do both at the same time.

[00:04:49] So I left teaching, uh, last June. Uh, it's not, it hasn't even been a year yet. And, uh, I've been doing this full-time now.

What would you say are the biggest wow moment so far?

[00:04:55] Liam: What would you say are the biggest wow moment so far? Things that you're really ever proud of achieving or things which you go, wow, that's, you know, you look back and you go, that was a moment which really helped the business push forward.

[00:05:07] Yeah,

[00:05:07] Helen: I, I'd say actually, um, finding a way to have all of my lodging rent at the same time. So, for example, I had people reach out to me about having weddings. It didn't cross my mind. That, that this would be a perfect venue for weddings. With that, um, having weddings, having the events that has allowed me to book everything at once with, for one fee, it helps me to plan everything out.

[00:05:39] It makes it easier for my cleaning team because they know a start, starting a stop time. So having the events, that has been amazing and I've even partnered with other. There are a lot of, um, in Canada, or I'm sorry, in the United States, there are a lot of barn wedding venues. It's kind of a popular thing to get married in a barn here.

[00:05:58] Mm-hmm. And a lot of 'em don't have lodging. So I've partnered with some of the local places and say, Hey, you know, if we're available, You can send your guests or your bridal party here. So that has been another, uh, nice thing is looking at businesses and seeing how we can partner together.

[00:06:12] Liam: How do you attract, um, wedding parties and what's the sort of places that if I was a host that I would want to advertise on?

[00:06:20] Um, I. Yeah, we'll go with that one first.

[00:06:23] Helen: So it started word, word of mouth. I did begin with social media and start advertising that way. I've also scheduled photo shoots where, um, we have different vendors come. They take pictures here and then they can use the pictures to advertise for their own.

[00:06:41] Purposes, and so then that shows the vendors that I'm available. It also lets couples know that I'm available, and right now is actually a popular time. A lot of couples, um, after Christmas, new Year's and Valentine's Day get engaged. So this is a time to be marketing to that and also going to wedding expos.

[00:07:01] They have big, um, like conferences for people who are looking to get married. And that's one of the other things I've done to put ourselves out there. How

[00:07:10] Liam: do we, uh, reach out? Or sorry, how do you reach out to the places, the wedding venues? What's your pitch?

[00:07:16] Helen: So what I did is I went online and I went right to Google and I typed in local wedding venues.

[00:07:22] And I looked at all the venues that did not have lodging on site. Mm-hmm. And I found a handful of them that were close by because we're in a rural area. If you had, uh, a bride and groom getting married at your facility, you would have to drive about 20 minutes. For the nearest hotel. So having something within five minutes is really appealing and is a nice, um, nice option to sell to couples when they come to their venue, so you're actually providing an upsell for them.

[00:07:51] What I did is I reached out to them and said, Hey, I wanted to let you know that I can sleep anywhere from 20 to 25 guests here. Uh, we do allow couples to get married. If you're looking for extra lodging, can you add us as one of your preferred vendors? Mm-hmm. And that's what they do. A lot of wedding venues have programs they use, kind of like in, um, short-term rentals.

[00:08:13] We have a PMs system. Well, in wedding, the wedding world, they have what's called the C crm and you can add, uh, vendors there. And so what we did is we added. Um, and I even did it for couples that, uh, maybe didn't want people to stay on site, but they wanted them close by. So I reached out to local Airbnbs, uh, or like other short-term rentals and looked around to see what I could add to our c r m as.

[00:08:39] Also,

What tech do you use?

[00:08:40] Liam: what tech do you use in your business and why?

[00:08:43] Helen: Yes. So originally I was using, um, Hostfully, but since my, um, C R M system, um, weaven allows for guests to make payments right directly through there using Stripe. I do everything through there now. Mm-hmm. Um, so my guess when they want to book, I just have them book through there.

[00:09:06] It, it allows me to have one, one spot to keep everything in order. Having, I mean, a lot of our lodging is, is being rented at the same time, so that makes it easier as far as manageability. And this time of the year, because we're not doing weddings cuz it's quite cold, um, our wedding season will start up again in May or June.

[00:09:27] We, we right now are just kind of keeping track of 'em, uh, separately, but we even is the primary system we use, which isn't super helpful unless you're doing weddings and events. But, um, hopefully was, was great for just doing the. The lodging.

[00:09:42] Liam: I like it. And you know, it's the one tip we have for everyone is just to document everything that you're excited about, everything you're doing.

[00:09:48] You mentioned the bath houses next year, you know, all that stuff becomes part of the story, doesn't it? So, yes, yes. That's really cool. So, well, thank you so much. What, one of the last questions we always ask is, is there a mantra or a saying that really resonates with you?

[00:10:02] Helen: Yeah, so actually it's from my mom and the reason is I have a tendency to jump all in and then, and then.

[00:10:11] I wanna do everything at once. So my mom is really great at saying, just take it one day at a time. One thing that you can do today. Um, kind of like that, saying that, um, take a small bite, not a huge one. So that's, that's been a big one for me. I just look at what I can accomplish for the day and all those little days add up to something pretty special.


[00:10:30] Liam: Amazing. Well, thank you so much, Helen. This has been a pleasure having you on the booth leave behind the Host podcast. I'm sure that people are gonna reach out and obviously check out your website, check out your, uh, Instagram and your new TikTok. We'll see some TikTok dancers on there and stuff like that.

[00:10:44] Helen: I dunno about the dancing, but we'll see you. You never

[00:10:46] Liam: know. Awesome. Um, so thank you so much too. If you've listened into this episode of the Boley podcast, I know there's a lot of places you can put your attention and, uh, thank you for putting it with us. Um, so that's it. Was there anything I missed, Helen, or any uh, closing comments?

[00:11:00] Helen: No, just, uh, if you have an idea and you decide to, to do something, go for it. You know, we, we only get one life, so might as well make it interesting if it involves living in a nurse's office and, you know, having summer camp every day, go for

[00:11:14] Liam: it. I love it. I love it. Mm-hmm. Thanks again and uh, let's bye for this episode.

[00:11:19] Thank you so much, Liam. Having a blast. Can I get it on the Bruce Lee podcast? Bruce Lee? Let Bruce Lee cuz it's so hard on the tea, is loose leaf. Lick up those rhymes. Don't write it, just do it loosely.

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