When Lynne Gruskowski and Andy Calnan of Massachusetts began looking for a B&B to run in Vermont, their journey eventually led them across a different border, to New Hampshire’s White Mountains, and to Stewart Gates, an NH SBDC business advisor, whom they now call “our main man.”
All that was about two years ago. The couple just marked their first full year in business at Green Village Cabins in Lincoln, New Hampshire, and they’ve been steadily modernizing the 9 lodgings ever since. Flat screen televisions have been added, while the ugly paneling from the 1970s has been tossed. And children are now welcome! Since the cabins sit directly across from the area’s popular water park, that change was a no-brainer, Lynne says.
Lynne and Andy “jumped ship” from their jobs as a surgical coordinator and a computer repairman, respectively, to pursue running their own business, even though Lynne is the first to admit, “I had no idea what I was doing.”
Lynne always thought running a B & B in the White Mountains of New Hampshire would be something she’d do when she reached retirement age. Instead, at age 31 she learned she had an eye disease that made it very painful to do her job at a computer screen all day. Her doctor told her that her eyes would deteriorate further if she didn’t find something else to do. So, she began thinking about her options, and Andy joined her in attending some seminars about running a business.
“We ended up finding where we are now and, on an SBA website, I found this one guy in the White Mountains area, and he’s been with us ever since,” Lynne explained.
When the couple seriously settled on the Lincoln property, Stewart was the one who helped them determine if it could be a profitable business.
“He helped us identify exactly what we needed to learn from the old owners, and we used projections to see if we could survive on whatever we would be earning,” Lynne said. “He was just wonderful.”
Lynne and Andy still had their day jobs in Massachusetts during this long planning process, so the e-mails and phone calls were constant. “I would email Stewart when I could from work, and at night, and often I could see he had been up during the night because I would get an answer from him by 6 a.m.!” Lynne said.
Stewart helped the couple write a business plan and to become familiar with all the business terminology they didn’t know. “He dumbed it down for us,” Lynne admits. “Any time I had a question about anything he would hold my hand and he’d get us through it.”
Finding financing for the business was no small issue for Lynne and Andy. Because they hadn’t been business owners before and were young, a business loan seemed out of the question. Stewart connected them with as many people as he could, but nothing worked out, Lynne explains. Ultimately, Lynne’s father bought the actual cabin property, while Lynne and Andy became owners of the business. “Stewart helped my dad figure all that out also,” Lynne said. “I can’t say enough about him.”
Lynne and Andy meet once a month with Stewart now, and will seek a business loan on their own after they’ve had enough experience. “Stewart’s sticking with us. We won’t let him go anywhere,” Lynne said.
Even though she had entered many things into her books in the wrong way, Lynne said Stewart was calm. Early on there had been a problem getting QuickBooks set up correctly, and Stewart brought in Sally Holder, another NH SBDC business advisor (who currently serves Grafton County, but at the time also served the Belknap County area) to work it out.
“She was absolutely amazing, coming by here a few times to help me out. My books wouldn’t be as good without her,” Lynne said.
Lynne and Andy took over Green Village Cabins during Bike Week 2015 and, as they faced their second year of that popular kick-off to the New Hampshire's summer season, Lynne described how they’re doing in business: “We’re killing it,” she said.
Oh, and her eyes are doing well with all the fresh mountain air.