• Ann Duchene


I get it. You're busy today. I honestly don't follow very many blogs myself. Sadly, I just don't have the patience to read through five minutes of everything the author attempted before landing on the five-star recipe I'm looking for. Just give me the dang recipe.

So out of respect for what you've got on your plate today, I am going to start this post by getting straight to the point. If you read the bold font below, you'll get the big idea. Then if you're interested and have the time, you can read more about the journey that brought me here.

In working on ways to make the Rabbit & Mitten Hotel guest experience as great as possible, I also got a brain wave about how to possibly open this hotel faster and better.

Some of the systems I'm working on are related to partnering with local Grand Ledge and Lansing businesses, so that visitors can tack "experience" packages on to an overnight stay. We'll make it easy for guests to immerse themselves in something completely unique to our region; and they won't have to do any extra work to uncover hidden gems because we're doing the digging for them.

Other things I'm exploring is how to creatively solve everyday home keeping (or in my case, inn keeping) issues. I've learned that in general, the hotel industry is so massive and traditional that it's fallen a bit behind the times in solving everyday cleaning and maintenance issues. But my hotel is so small that I can implement a lot of new ideas and products right out of the gate.

SO...HERE'S THE QUESTION. Some of these "experience packages" and "home keeping solutions" are simple for me to bundle and sell in kits for people to use now. Would you be interested?

You'd have the chance to try some new, fun, innovative ideas - plus give feedback that shapes what we offer future hotel guests. I'd be able to perfect these ideas, and apply any profits I make toward opening this Grand Ledge hotel as soon as possible.

If you already know your opinion and are losing interest fast, please shoot me your thoughts in some digital format (Facebook, blog or email)!

But if you find yourself still reading and interested, I wrote an entire post to explain where this idea came from. Read on.

I just got home from a lovely vacation, and do you know how you sometimes get unexpected brain waves when you relax? Well, on this vacation I was mulling over the Rabbit & Mitten hotel, trying to figure out if there's any way I can speed up my timeline for financing. (If you read the post from Sept 24, you saw that I have to wait until the end of 2018/beginning of 2019 to qualify for a refinance that allows me to begin the major part of reconstruction.) I would also love to lower total amount of money I need to take out for that remodeling loan.

In short, I want to get started on phase two. Stat. And like most people, I am not crazy about waiting longer or accruing more business debt than necessary. And I think I came up with something that could be a good idea. But first, the details...

During this lull in the remodeling process, I'm using my time to work on other aspects of the business, enhancing ideas that will make this hotel a one-of-a-kind experience for visitors.

I've really honed in on developing parts of the business that boil down into two major categories.

The first category is creating local experiences my guests can opt into. Have you ever been traveling, arrived at your hotel, ordered pizza because you were too tired to find a decent restaurant, and then started flipping through an in-room magazine filled with ads about things to do in the area? I always end up annoyed. Of course I know I can go shopping in Chicago, but I'm not really in the market for fur coats at the moment.

No, when I am on vacation, I want an immersive experience I can't have at home. On top of that, it would be great if an objective party could tell me what the best local experiences are. So I end up scouring websites and event lists. By doing the research, I've found odd museums (Who can resist spending an afternoon learning why the Legend of Big Foot is true?), quirky festivals, and greasy spoons that serve up a world-class pie. But digging up these gems takes some work.

Part of the deal with Rabbit and Mitten is that we're going to offer guests "experience packages" that showcase our local culture. (And, no, I won't be looking for oddball stuff, unless it's truly amazing.) For example, you'll be able to tack an "adventure package" on to your weekend stay. Depending on the season, something like a day of kayaking and repelling, followed by an evening at the local brewery. Or you might prefer something that rejuvenates the soul. How about a calming yoga session, some excellent sushi and a spa treatment? Of course, our packages will be pretty diverse because not everyone wants to climb rocks or zen out. We'll do things along the dinner-and-a-movie lines too, but always with a special twist.

One thing I'm pretty pumped about is that these experiences are going to be something that anyone will find fun - locals and visitors alike. We'll be partnering with area businesses to offer a fun day (or evening) that doesn't cost more than if you'd done the planning yourself, but saves all that behind-the-scenes time and effort.

Okay, so the second track I've zeroed in on is researching creative ways to solve everyday problems I will encounter as an inn keeper. I'm working to find ways that will not only make my little hotel cleaner, but will give my guests a great sensory experience and limit their exposure to chemical products.

Since the Rabbit & Mitten will always be a small hotel, keeping it clean and smelling great is pretty much glorified home keeping. If you could see my home office right now, it is piled with things like baking soda and dried grapefruit and little concoctions I've been experimenting with.

Now, lots of small businesses get start-up capitol through crowd funding. They'll set up an account with Kickstarter or something similar and ask folks in the community to contribute to the vision. Often they get phenomenal results, and that's awesome. But while I enjoy helping someone out as much as the next person, I don't feel comfortable fundraising for myself. Not when I'm starting a for-profit business. I feel weird about asking people to chip their own hard earned money into my business. They've got their own stuff going on.

But here's what struck me while I was taking a break from everyday life. The things I'm working on for the hotel? Everybody would find them either enjoyable or useful.

Next time date night rolls around, wouldn't you love to have an experience that was local, unique and pre-planned?

On top of that, we would all like to streamline our home keeping. As I research, I am implementing new ideas at my own house, and I have to say that our home is actually a little cleaner and a bit more organized than it was six months ago.

So I thought, what if I used my research to create kits that a) either give someone a great local experience, or b) solve annoying, everyday problems in a more natural way? It would be a win-win. They'd get something fun or useful, and I could apply the profits from selling these things to getting my hotel up and running more quickly and efficiently. Additionally, I'd be able to get feedback about these experiences and products in real time.

I honestly don't know if this is a good idea or an awful one. So I'm wondering if you'd take a minute and weigh in. Would consider buying either an experience kit or a natural home keeping kit from me? I'm looking at things that would have a price point from around $24 to $79.

So please shoot me an email, leave a comment on the blog, or connect with me via Facebook. Let me know if any of this interests you, and what you think of this recent brain wave. I will read and respond! Unless you're rude. Then I reserve the right to ignore you.

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