To say Crista Luedtke is a renaissance woman is an understatement. She’s all over the place. She is a successful mortgage broker who runs the successful boon hotel + spa, boon eat + drink and big bottom market. The hotel, restaurant and market are all in the Northern California town of Guerneville. She works her mortgage mojo in San Francisco. She splits her time between the two, in between her travel adventures.
She took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to share the secrets of her success.
What do you do and why?
I always wanted to have my own restaurant. Growing up, my family was in the business so we grew up knowing and doing everything related to it. I couldn’t get it out of my blood. One day, I told my mom that I wanted to open my own. She said, “Are you crazy? Didn’t you learn anything? It’s a 24/7 job. Maybe you should do a BnB or something.”
What did you do before you started your company?
Prior to starting the hotel, I worked first as a regional sales manager in Biotech, then as mortgage broker at a small firm in San Francisco. In fact, I still do mortgages today for friends, past clients and their referrals. It helps keep the other side of my brain happy. I needed to hold on to the day job for the first few years until my businesses were able to cash flow more comfortably. Now, I do it because I have loyal clients I can’t turn down and it’s fun.
What’s the single most important piece of advice you received when first starting your company? What would you tell a young entrepreneur in turn?
When I first started the hotel, I interviewed several hotel owners in the area. There was a couple from England who were so helpful and supportive they said to me “the bread is in the bed.” I took it to heart. I really heard them and decided to do whatever I could to make the beds the most important feature. People are paying for a place to sleep, make it the best night ever and they will be back.
It worked. As for the restaurant scene, it was to keep it simple and use the best quality ingredients.
For young entrepreneurs, I would say talk to people in the business, but not just anyone, talk to the successful ones. Ask a lot of questions. Find out what works and what doesn’t and where to focus first.
What aspect of business ownership came as the biggest surprise to you?
I think the biggest surprise of being a business owner was how much time you dedicate to dealing with employees and employee issues. From hiring to training to firing to other people’s personal problems now becoming your own, this was definitely more than I had planned for. I feel like a therapist at times dealing with it all. It’s both a blessing and a curse to be so involved at such an level. I have about 35 employees right now. They are all like family to me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.
What do you find most rewarding about owning your own business?
I wanted to create a spaces that people just really felt relaxed, really enjoyed being away from wherever they came from, and for them to connect with the food and the place. I see people form friendships over a meal sitting next to each other at tables or sitting around my pool. It’s so fun. It makes me so happy when I hear people “ooh” and “ahh” about the food or rave about the hotel or when locals to say that I changed the town. It feels really good and it makes me want to keep doing it day after day. It’s really rewarding seeing what I dreamed up become such a success on many levels.
Where do you see yourself / your company in five years? Hopes / dreams / plans?
I still have a few concepts of my own that I would love to open, but I actually have begun consulting with other business to help them create brands, open restaurants and hotels, etc. That’s the direction I’m heading. I love the creative start up phase and I want to do more of it.
I am working on a few concepts of my own as well in other parts of California and Mexico. I’m still undecided as to which is next, but i get anxious if I don’t have 50 balls in the air at any given time. I love to be busy.
What resources would you recommend to someone who is contemplating starting her own business?
Do your research. Get as much information as you can. Work in the industry first either as an intern, apprentice or anything. Remember, it’s your dream but it’s still work. You need to love it.
What would you say is the single most important key to sustaining a business long term?
Good employees. You can’t do it alone. Everyone who wants to be a business owner needs a strong team to support them and to keep the vision going. I am blessed with really amazing people who I hand picked or who found me because they loved the vision. It also helps to ensure that the work will continue to be fun when you are surrounded by people you like and who share your goals.
What obstacles did you face in establishing your company and how did you overcome them?
Being over budget. It’s hard to start with less working capital than you plan. I had to really scramble in the beginning. I also hit a bunch of unknowns.
Luedtke is offering Lesbian.com readers a 10 percent discount at her stunning hotel for Sunday through Thursday visits until the end of 2014. Use the code LESB2014 when calling to book.
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