Becoming a host with Look After Me
By Monica Louis
What to do, once you’ve withdrawn from the daily duty of putting bread on the table? Have you ever wondered about turning your home into your business?
A wonderful Robert Palmer song sums it up in the opening line; “the fight to make ends meet keep a man on his feet” (click to hear the song)
Despite our moaning about the traffic when we were obliged to travel to the office every day - maybe now we miss it! Without the deadlines and obligations which in turn give the drive to get started in the morning; what to do with all that available time? Sure for some there are family demands, clubs or volunteer commitments that help fill the day but those activities take up time and money and give back – let’s say - a non-material return on investment . For some of us the chance to make a bit of pocket money while doing something we love doesn’t sound so bad.
If you enjoy being with and looking after people and you have one or two spare rooms now the kids have gone, maybe you’ve already thought about turning your home into a B&B or homestay. For a lot of people there are some worries though and this is why it can be attractive to join a group or organization to help you get started with running a business from your home.
Matchmaking Between Host and Traveller
Enter Dr Julia Charity; Julia is an unlikely entrepreneur who understands the need for organisation to help budding hosts who want to get started in tourism.In her own words her business started at a kitchen table and it has turned into a fully-fledged company, based on one very strong idea; matchmaking between travellers and hosts.
Julia was born in Christchurch and knew at an early age that she wanted to be a biology technician. She has a BSc from the Canterbury University and a PhD from the university in Canberra. In 1997 she moved to Rotorua lured by the prospect of a scientific project at the Forest Research Institute (now Scion) to develop genetically modified pines. When some years later Scion went through a phase of job cuts, the scientific road ended unexpectedly.
Look After Me- New Zealand's Homestay Network
When one door closes another one opens and Julia pursued an idea she had been playing with for some time; Look After Me was born; what started with a handful of connections has grown into a nation-wide network of home hosted accommodation.
With scientific dedication Julia built the network starting with a website that lists hosts all over New Zealand. Where other B&B groups focus just on the aspect of providing accommodation, Julia added an element - matching the interests of hosts and visitors.
During her years as a scientist Julia had preferred staying at a B&B rather than at a motel or hotel.
“Being a woman who travelled alone for my work, I often felt unhappy and out of place in a hotel. Dining alone in the anonymity of a hotel restaurant isn’t exactly fun. I found that at a home hosted accommodation people would have time for a chat and they make you feel welcome. When you get chatting you find out that you have common interests and that gave me the idea to link up travellers with the right hosts.
What started with a few friends who had hosted accommodation has grown to 270 hosts looking after travellers and sharing their passion for gardening, the great outdoors, good food or conversing in a foreign language.
Since its humble beginnings Look After Me has grown and grown. We are now preferred partner for some of the NZ Cycle Trails and have been in charge of coordinating the accommodation for some major events.
The biggest thing we’ve handled was finding locations for the filming of a hugely popular Reality TV show in China and in Korea that has been seen by over 1.4 billion viewers. Translated the show is called; ‘Daddy, where are we going?’ Famous male stars – from the big or small screen and from the world of sports were hosted in New Zealand with their kids. The famous daddy and siblings participate in activities and compete with each other – and they stayed with our Look After Me hosts. That kind of exposure is unmeasurable.”
Julia invites anyone who is thinking of starting a B&B and becoming a host to contact her. With her scientific background she has set up an easy standard procedure to get you started with a page on her website; http://www.lookafterme.co.nz/hosting
In the Grown-up travel section this month you can read about a road trip staying at some Look After Me accommodations and you can be in to win a voucher for a night’s accommodation!
To be or not to B&B; that is the question!