Tami Messina, Owner of Inn On The Avenue, a quaint and charming bed & breakfast located on popular Flagler Avenue, has worked as an entrepreneur for the past 30 years. She spent 15 years owning and operating a Boars Head distributorship with her ex-husband. She also owned and operated three days spas in Volusia County before starting an ice cream and coffee shop. Her love of putting together businesses and watching them grow is what drove Messina to start her latest venture.
"When I was 50, I decided I wanted to do another business," she said. "I wasn't exactly sure what, but I knew I didn't want to have to learn anything new. I was leaning towards doing something with cooking, hospitality and meeting new people. The combination of those things is something I really enjoy."
An old residential property, built in 1914, listed for sale, caught Messina's attention. She had her eye on the property for years, but never acted on it. When the house was split, in order to sell the front and back separately, Messina saw it as an opportunity to take action and make an offer. That offer turned into multiple offers and, after a year of persistence, her final bid was accepted.
"When they accepted I thought, 'Uh oh, I guess this is meant to be,'," she laughed. "Halfway through renovating the house, I bought the back lot as well. She came down on price and I needed it for parking. After 13 plan revisions and dealing with an issue related to the requirements of having a sprinkler system, we had our bed & breakfast."
Messina, who loves meeting people from all over the world, is very active in the business. She cooks the breakfast every day and is not afraid to experiment with new recipes. In fact, much of her cooking inspiration comes from her travels abroad and the influence of various cultures. Messina is also active on the operational side of the business. She's constantly learning about how to better market and grow the business.
"Everything is online these days," she said. "I'm learning more and more about advertising and the importance of doing it online. I recently hired an SEO company to help with optimization and to improve my search results. We were growing at a rate of 10-20%, but with the new hotel chains in the area, our growth has slowed down a bit. As a result, much of my advertising will likely shift toward the Millennials. This demographic group has disposable income and they appreciate local businesses."
Looking ahead, Messina is considering opening for brunch and/or having a bake shop onsite. She's also sitting on plans to build four "tree house" type rooms that are 13ft up in the air and wrap around a giant Oak Tree in the back lot. Several factors over the next year or so will determine if that project moves forward.
What advice does Messina have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Make sure you love what you're going to do," she said. "If you don't, you'll never be successful. Also, it's important to understand that having your own business is a 24/7 thing. My phone rings all the time. If I have to take a reservation in the middle of the night, I will. There's a lot of competition out there. You have to be on top of things at all times."
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