PHONE: 627-4521

DATE: 7-26-00



Small Business Center Steers B&B Owner in Right Direction

Once a rocket engineer, Sandra Wright now begins her day cooking gourmet breakfasts instead of designing cruise missiles. As proprietor of Timberwolf Creek Bed and Breakfast, Sandra’s daily routine is much different than the one she had when employed at Lockheed Martin. Trading computer generated "virtual reality" in for the reality of a cascading creek right outside her front door, the former Orlando, Florida resident says, "I wake up every morning and just can’t believe I’m here. I love what I’m doing now."

In August 1998, Wright opened her bed and breakfast in Maggie Valley. Wright toyed with the idea of opening a B&B for several years before actually making the commitment. With the advent of her forties, she knew the time had come to pursue her dream.

"Forty is a really powerful age. Many people make life-changing decisions at that point,"she says. "Sometimes you have to take a risk to get what you want—that is something I’ve tried to teach my four children."

Wright visited Haywood County on vacation, loved it, and decided this was the ideal location for her business. While still working in Orlando, she began commuting back and forth on weekends searching for the perfect property. She bought the third house she was shown.

However, she found that there is much more to starting a business than just hanging a sign out front. Wright says she didn’t know where to begin. The Small Business Center at Haywood Community College gave her the answers she needed. Sharron Bleyl, HCC’s Small Business Center Director, is available to help individuals such as Wright get a business off the ground and running. From knowing what permits are required, to recommending relevant resource guides, the Small Business Center provides clients with the knowledge they need. "I was impressed that the Center knew about MY BUSINESS—knew exactly what I needed to do to get started," Wright says, "The book, How to Start a B&B, that I bought at the HCC campus bookstore was invaluable." A resource library of print, audio, and video materials is also available for loan. The Small Business Center is located at the Regional High Technology Center.

Wright has continued to take advantage of the Small Business Center’s services by attending some of the free business seminars designed to meet the needs and solve the problems confronting emerging entrepreneurs. "I have picked up some wonderful ideas—such as having a gift shop on the premises featuring locally made gifts and crafts. This has been a big hit with my guests."

She gives the Small Business Center credit for getting her moving in the right direction from the start. Even though, she’s at work most of her waking hours, Wright claims it is worth all of the time she puts into the business. According to Wright, Timberwolf Creek Bed and Breakfast is a success—the inn had a 30% occupancy for the past year.

Situated beside a rushing stream on Johnson Branch, the location and the rustic charm of the inn are its key selling points. Guests must cross the creek on a wooden footbridge to approach the front door. Not your typical stereotype of a Victorian bed and breakfast, Timberwolf Creek offers visitors casual comfort with all the modern amenities. The bed and breakfast currently has two guests rooms and two more will be finished in early fall. Each room has a private bath and its own view of the creek. From the open windows or the deck, guests can relax to the soothing sounds of the rushing creek.

Wright visits other bed and breakfast inns to compare notes and returns home with many useful ideas. She says that owners regularly swap breakfast recipes—Wright is known for the delectable breakfasts she serves each morning. She also pampers her guests with fresh baked cookies when they arrive and offers them the option of breakfast in their room or on the deck beside the creek.

Through her many contacts with other bed and breakfast owners, she started "Night for Night", a program where bed and breakfast owners trade nights with each other. Since Wright began the Internet site, B&B owners from all over the country have signed up, and the group just went international with their first member from Canada.

Wright also maintains Timberwolf Creek’s web site. According to Wright, 100% of her bookings come from the Internet. That is her main source of advertising. Wright posts photos of her guests on the web that they can download once they return home—just another useful way she uses the web to market her business. The web site is www.timberwolfcreek.com She also publishes a yearly newsletter that she sends to past guests.

Wright is also a member of PAII, Professional Association of Innkeepers International. According to PAII, there are over 25,000 B&Bs operating in the United States today. According to Haywood Community College’s Small Business Center, there are 32 B&Bs currently operating in Haywood County.

For more information about Small Business Center services, call (828) 627-4512.

Cutline: Sandra Wright, owner of Timerwolf Creek Bed and Breakfast, overlooks the creek that runs along the side of her yard.