Starting and Running a Bed and Breakfast – Interview with Mary White

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Running%20a%20Bed%20&%20Breakfast%20For%20DummiesA interview with Mary White of about her new book “Running a Bed & Breakfast For Dummies (For Dummies (Business & Personal Finance))

“. Mary took her 11 years in the bed and breakfast business and wrote a guide for those who dream of starting their own bed and breakfast. If you wonder how to start a bed and breakfast or inn then Mary’s book is a resource that you should check out. Starting a bed and breakfast does not only involve being a good host but also involves doing the books, marketing, complying with zoning regulations and cleaning toilets.

Mary has been with for 11 years which is a site which helps you find the best bed and breakfast or inn.


CC: I’d like to welcome to the show Mary White, who’s come from and you’re the author of the Dummies series, Running a Bed and Breakfast. Why did you write a book about running a bed and breakfast, what’s the attraction for you?

MW: Well, I run BNBFinder as you mentioned, and BNBFinder is an online directory of bed and breakfast’s and inns, which means that we’re a combination of a search engine and guidebook. We list thousands of inns, so for more than eleven years I’ve worked with thousands of innkeepers across the world actually. Primarily in the United States, and knowing how many different shapes, sizes and forms that a bed and breakfast comes in, the challenges that innkeepers face, as well as the fact that we receive so many phone calls from people: “Hi, I’ve been cutting out recipes for five years” or “I’ve visited hundreds of inns”, or “I just love staying at bed and breakfasts”, or “I have a beautiful home and it would just be the perfect bed and breakfast and what do I do, where do I go”? So when the opportunity came up to write this book, I thought that it would be a great opportunity to really put all that information together to not only answer a lot of those questions, but more importantly to give people things that they should think about before they should invest in so much into a business which is what you do when you start any business. But when you start a bed and breakfast you’re not only maybe moving your home, but also your business. So you’re putting your family, your money, your resources and your heart into it and I wanted them to have good information

CC: I suspect that a few people, you mention people cutting recipes, or visiting bed and breakfasts. So with my wife and I it’s when we’re staying at our favorite bed and breakfast or inn actually in Pacific Grove that we say, “Oh, we should do this.” And with just no understanding of what’s involved, what kind of surprises are going to be ahead of me if I didn’t read the book first? What am I going to run into that’s going to surprise me?

MW: Well I think that you didn’t read the book, because of course you should. I think new innkeepers often underestimate. They know how good they are at a particular area. And maybe it would be entertaining, and cooking, and even housekeeping, keeping a beautiful home. So they’ve got that part down. But they might not know so much about bookkeeping and marketing and managing a staff. And that’s ok but you do need to have a basic, you do need to have a background. So that you can know, you need to know a little bit about everything so that you know which jobs you can do and which jobs are better for you to outsource. And the ones that you do outsource, where you can get help. And the book talks a lot about that. Because the bed and breakfast industry is an extremely organized industry. There is a number of industry professionals who are either current innkeepers or retired innkeepers who act as consultants. There are also associations across the country as well as the national association for innkeepers. And the book takes you through all of the different times where these resources would really come in handy so that either before you get to those surprises or when you do face those surprises where you can get help and support. The other thing is that people often times think that this is a beautiful home or it’s a beautiful place, and this would be a nice thing and it would be a great thing for the community to have a bed and breakfast here and there’s not enough lodging in this town. Or something like that and because it’s a beautiful home, usually it is just that. It’s a home, so it’s in a residential area and you’re talking about running a business. So you need to make sure that you have your zoning, your permits, your codes, and that the town agrees with you and the book also talks about that because places with unfriendly zoning laws you may or may not be able to change that. But there’s some tips and things to think about if you are in that case, and even if you’re not what you should do to hopefully pre-empt having problems with the zoning board. But I’ve noted that too many times innkeepers haven’t even drawn out a plan. And that’s another thing, failure to plan is probably number one. And the book obviously takes you through writing a business plan. But even those that have done a plan, if part of your plan doesn’t include the license and permits because they might have everything in mind but a part of your plan includes hosting weddings and you can’t get the zoning variance in order to do that, then you’re obviously not going to meet your targets. So those would be the surprises. Failure to research, failure to plan, and failure to make sure that you have the resources, both time and money in terms of what you’re going to put into the business.

CC: And I’m curious was there a moment at which it hit you, that having done this for 11 years, and been in this industry that you knew enough to write a book? It wasn’t I hope when you were in some poorly run bed and breakfast?

MW: No, there wasn’t any one moment. Well the moment was when I was approached by a publisher actually, to submit a proposal for the book or to help them to find someone to write the book. And I knew that having never run a bed and breakfast myself, that I would be a good person to do it because it wouldn’t be the world according to me. Because there’s nothing about a bed and breakfast that is the world according to anybody. The wonderful thing about a bed and breakfast if you’ve never stayed at one and if you have you already know this is that no two bed and breakfast’s are the same. In most cases no two rooms at the bed and breakfast are the same. So I not only knew a lot of what needed to go in there because of the success stories as well as the failures that I’d heard. I read guest comments constantly, so I know what guests like and what they don’t like. And then I was able to assemble a team of five very dedicated innkeepers who were very different and very diverse, who actually read every chapter to be sure that I had enough examples and covered enough of the different variables that would come up. And often times they didn’t agree. So that was my job in writing the book is to put it and present it to the reader that you might want to do this, or you might want to do that but these are the things you need to think about.

CC: Mary, thank you very much for your time & your patience, as we’re doing this for the first time. There have been a few technical glitches along the way. The book again is the Dummies Series Running a Bed and Breakfast and the website where you can find Mary is and I’ll put links to both of those in the show notes. Mary thanks for coming on.

MW: Thanks Chris.

Thanks to Hazel for transcribing this interview

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Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.

6 Responses to “Starting and Running a Bed and Breakfast – Interview with Mary White”

Jessie Voigts


thanks – interesting!


I know some people who wanted to own a bed and breakfast. Of course, I think a lot of it had to do with the character that Lauren Graham played on Gilmore Girls aka Lorelai Gilmore. Lorelei and her friend Suki owned the The Dragonfly Inn. It would be kind of romantic to own a B&B. A lot of work…

B&B Blackpool


You should have published the ISBN number with the article. I would be interested in tracking a copy of this down.



There is a link to the book on Amazon which has the ISBN number on the page



Thanks Chris, and Mary. The interview is great. I think many people will jump on this idea of running a BB business. I know the …For Dummies books are always very helpful.

Happy Hotelier


Chris and Mary
Great interview!
As usual: “Why didn’t somebody think of this before: Writing on the very subject in the for Dummies series?”
Have to have it, as occasionally guests of my luxury B&B claim they want to start one and then my usual answer is : You’re welcome to volunteer a couple of months with us;-)

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