We’ve been learning an awful lot about starting a brick and mortar business in the past few weeks. It’s not what we’d hoped for, but we’re not ready to give up on our dream.
We’ve been pretty quiet about what’s going on with the plan to start our hostel here in Pueblo because so much has been going on both with that and with life in general (graduations, birthdays, job events), and of course, when you’re buying a property, one doesn’t want to jinx anything. Here’s a summary!
We are under contract for a house that we hope to be able to use for the hostel. Ongoing is the usual inspection stuff and all the deadlines and tasks that follow along with it.
The house is not perfect, but it’s about as turnkey as we’ve seen and also a great price. It’s in the neighborhood where we think we can best serve our guests (almost smack-bang on the bike route). By turnkey, I mean that we actually wouldn’t HAVE to do as much to the structure in order to configure it for a hostel. We want to put up one wall for our private space, remodel one bathroom (minimally) and hopefully add another bathroom where a closet now sits. Sadly, there is no garage and it’s such a small lot there’s nowhere to put one. Bike storage/workshop space will likely be in the basement (new steps will be needed for safety there).
However, we are quickly learning that what will suit our needs isn’t the same as what will suit the needs of the numerous bureaucratic entities that have to be satisfied (and paid, but not bribed) along the way to the granting of a business license to run a hostel. As my brilliant wife noted when we were talking earlier, at least we don’t have to bribe anybody to jump through these hoops, just pay a lot of fees and follow the rules. And if you know Angie and I, you know we’re pretty much ok with following the rules as long as they’re not capricious, and we can find out what they are going into the process.
We downloaded a document that shows all the approvals required for the issuance of a business license for a brick and mortar undertaking (a lot). It soon became clear to us that we didn’t know much (and could not learn that much online) about what is involved in each of those approvals. We can’t get guarantees for anything until we own the property and start the licensing process, but we’ve at least started working on information gathering, and feel fairly confident that we’re not going to get blindsided by anyone we’ve talked to so far who has control over some of the approvals concerned.
It’s kind of one of those things where there’s no way we can learn it all at once, so we’ve focused our attention for now on the first few steps of the approval process, which we hope against hope, is the hardest part. This includes the city zoning department, which also doubles as the connection point for the historic landmark commission (the house is a city landmark); the fire inspector; and the regional planning department. I’ve had conversations with people in all these places in the past week, either by phone, or face-to-face onsite or at government offices, and we think we know what we can or have to do. One big revelation to me was that the zoning we’ve been talking about all along, R-5, which means a property is zoned ok for hostel use (well actually it has to be called an INN), has nothing to do with the usage permit. For that, we will need to get approval for a change of usage since the property is currently a single family home and it doesn’t matter what it’s been in the past. This means adherence to the latest versions of the regulations pertaining to the usage we have in mind. This is not going to be easy (by which I mean cheap). In Pueblo, (and to be clear, we’re not averse to keeping our guests safe) this means some big expenses, including a residential sprinkler system and a second staircase for egress from the second (and likely third) floors. In addition, our occupancy is constrained by the usable square footage, so we may have to convert the attic into usable space too. It looks like a really good space, so we’re down with that.
My biggest fear is that all the pieces will not move us in one direction, and that the tectonic plate of the city zoning department will create friction against the plate of the regional planning department. We can only do so much about any of this when we don’t actually own the property, but of course, we don’t want to buy the property and then find that it won’t work for our needs, especially as, lovely as it is, the house is bigger than we’d need for a residence and not perfect for that in some ways. This is a bit of a stressor for us, but we figure if we move slowly and deliberately we can make it work, even if we won’t be open for guests as soon as we’d like.
The upside of things going so slowly is that we have so much to learn. Hopefully we can learn all that, get the services business moving at the same time, and develop some funding sources that won’t have us in debt till our dying day. As Angie said, some of the moving parts for getting the services side of the business going will help us when we are moving the hostel piece forward. So we are going to plug forward and continue the juggling act of trying to earn money while working on this property, and also hopefully getting a website and some services and merchandise into the market before the end of the summer!
Wish us luck (and feel free to send money!) 😉