I know there are many families who want to homeschool their children but just can't seem to see how they'll make it work financially. I'm hoping that through these interviews with families who run home business, these discouraged families might be encouraged—and maybe even inspired to start their own business.
I'm also hoping that the businesses these families run might be strengthened by being introduced even more to the homeschool community. I know homeschoolers love supporting other homeschoolers, and this is another way we can do just that.
I also plan to launch a Homeschool Family-Run Business directory here on FiveJs.com that will include the business of the families who are interviewed in this series. In future, if you have a need and you'd like to see if there's a homeschool family that can meet that need, I hope you'll visit the business directory.
Today's interview is with Michele Augur who, along with her husband Calvin, runs Hampton Creek Inn which is a bed & breakfast and coffeehouse in Randle, Washington.
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I've spent my whole life living in various areas of the Pacific Northwest, and love it! We have easy access to both the mountains and the coast, plus the delicious seasonal produce of local farms and orchards.
I've always enjoyed hospitality, and that has been a good fit for our business. I am constantly experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen, reading business-related books, and brainstorming other future projects! We put in a big garden each year, raise sweet backyard chickens, and preserve lots of apples from the fruit trees in our yard each fall.
2. Tell us a little about your family.
We have three children, ages 6 years, 3 1/2 years, and a 10-month-old baby. We've always homeschooled. My husband is an EMT, and currently volunteers at our local fire department, while we run our coffeehouse and bed & breakfast business together. We both are active in our local church's ministries as well. Our children enjoy meeting our guests, and especially hearing about other countries and languages!
3. Tell us about your business.
Hampton Creek Inn is a sustainable-living coffeehouse and bed & breakfast that specializes in serving natural and allergy-friendly foods, while providing a simple and restful atmosphere.
We are located between Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens, so we host guests from all around the world as they come to experience the Northwest. Our experience with our own family's unique health needs allows us to knowledgeably serve our customers, such as offering gluten-free meals. Our coffeehouse features organic coffees and teas from local vendors.
4. How did you start this business?
We began planning the business in the summer of 2010, while my husband was in between jobs, after we relocated to be closer to family. Family members had recently acquired a historic home (built in 1906). We moved into the house at the end of 2010, and spent a couple intense months renovating, getting permits, acquiring supplies, etc. before opening the bed & breakfast. During those initial winter months, we started promotional advertising and practicing our recipes by hosting holiday parties and tea gatherings. We added the coffeehouse in July 2011.
5. What led to the creation of your business?
We love to travel, but have found that it is always challenging for people with special dietary needs to find vacation locations that are accommodating. We decided to create our own vacation destination, plus opening up the historic home to be available for our community. It is so fun to see people's face light up with joy when they realize that we have baked a special treat they really can safely enjoy!
6. How did you train for and learn what you needed to learn to do this business?
I had some business management classes in college, plus accounting/administrative experience in previous office work over the years.
I read lots of business books from the library, such as from Dave Ramsey, Seth Godin, Tony Hsieh, and Signal vs. Noise. There are also books available on innkeeping and bakery/coffeehouse operation. (Our business is especially unique, in that we have combined the two operations.)
Our coffee supplier was wonderful at guiding us through the process of opening the coffeehouse, and answering questions. My husband also spent a few months working at a newly-opened local cafe during our early months of business, where he gained a bit of experience as well.
I already had experience in creating a website and other online business techniques, plus testing recipes, through my blog at Frugal Granola.
7. What did you need to start your business?
Obviously, the location was our most crucial element, plus furnishings. We had to complete the state and county requirements for food handling and lodging licensure. The majority of our customers find out about us online, so a website (with reservation software, and additional travel site memberships) has been an important element. We also spent time researching the best sources for our food and supplies in order to offer affordable, quality, seasonal and organic products (food, soaps, paper products, etc).
We are constantly working on indoor and outdoor projects to refurbish this vintage property. Finding targeted advertising to increase our customer base is always a challenge; the best advertising really is word-of-mouth referrals!
8. What does a typical ‘work’ day look like for you? How do you balance your work hours with your homeschool hours?
Much of the food prep for guests is often done early in the morning or the late evening, while some children are sleeping and the coffeehouse is closed. We also make sure to have meals together as a family as much as possible, and that is when we usually have our family Bible devotional times.
Often, we are multitasking, such as verbally reciting the alphabet, the history timeline, or quizzing addition facts while baking cookies or cleaning rooms. We will read lessons in between customers or after a load of laundry has been tossed into the washer. After lunchtime, the children have a "quiet resting time" where they read or listen to CDs. This is often a time when we answer email inquiries, complete paperwork, or do final preparations before check-in time.
Since we live at our work location, it is more of a lifestyle than a division of labor. We can get children started on the day's schoolwork, and are just around the corner if anyone needs help. (Or, one parent will be helping guests, and the other will be homeschooling.) I will occasionally hire a preteen mother's helper during especially busy seasons to help us with our small children. The two older children help with our family chores, such as their laundry, sweeping, picking up toys, entertaining the baby, etc.
9. Do your children help out in the operation of your business at all? If so, what do they do?
At this point, our children are so young they are not allowed (due to our licensing requirements) to help with much. They do love to greet guests and help carry luggage. Our daughter enjoys putting together wildflower bouquets to decorate the dining rooms, and they will occasionally help with laundry. One of the most important ways they have learned to help is by respecting our guests' need for a restful atmosphere (no running and yelling in the house!).
10. What kinds of struggles or obstacles have you had to overcome in building your business?
Misconceptions have probably been our biggest challenge. We have found that it is important for our advertising to be educational to a degree, as we inform our potential customers about our values, atmosphere, and offerings. For example, locals may not be familiar with what a coffeehouse offers, and travelers might be surprised to find each bedroom has a private bathroom, but no TV.
11. Were there any people in your life that were especially instrumental in helping your business to grow? Who were they and how did they help?
My parents have been especially helpful with the constant property maintenance and refurbishing projects. Local friends and family who have loyally visited the coffeehouse and referred us to family and friends have been especially valuable, as well as travelers posting helpful online reviews.
12. What are the advantages your business?
We are so thankful to have this opportunity to spend our days together as a family. We homeschool because we believe that homeschooling is ultimately about discipleship. So having both parents available to invest in our children's lives is amazing. We are also glad to have our business available for community ministry needs, such as church retreats, Bible studies, or planning meetings. (Taste-testing recipes is a nice perk, too.)
13. What are the disadvantages of your business?
We can't all go somewhere together as a family without closing the business for the day. Also, when guests stay overnight, we are often called upon very late at night or early in the morning. There are no lazy-Saturday-mornings-in-our-pajamas-type days for our family. We don't have much freedom to take homeschooling field trips or host gatherings with friends, since we are often working throughout the day/evening. Also, there is the stereotypical misconception which I think most work-from-home (and/or homeschooling) parents face—that people think I am not really working and should be available for other things!
14. Looking back, if you could change something about how you got to this point in your business, what would it be?
Probably waiting longer to open our coffeehouse would have been better, in order to save up for a good-quality espresso machine.
15. What are your future goals in relation to your business?
We would like to expand our capacity to host larger families by adding a family-style "bunk room" (as well as the goal of adding that new espresso machine!).
16. How could other homeschool families help support your business?
Come visit us! Also, tell your friends about us. We are a kid-friendly place. (Side note: one of our favorite local homeschool field trip sites is the 7Wonders Creation Museum at Mt. St. Helens. It has been an incredible benefit to our science studies this year.)
17. Anything else you’d like to add?
We are finding that boundaries are so important, as we guard our family time and needs, while still providing quality customer service. It is still a work-in-progress as we find a good balance.
Here's where you can find out more about Hampton Creek Inn
Hampton Creek Inn, Coffeehouse and Bed & Breakfast
409 Silverbrook Road
Randle, WA 98377
If you homeschool and run a home business—whether it's Mom making money from home or the whole family participating in a business venture—and you'd like to participate in this series of interviews, please send me an email.