Tom Kapp, co-owner and operator of Kapp and Kappy B&B, always possessed the entrepreneurial spirit. As a kid growing up in Massachusetts, Kapp worked as a paperboy. He also became very mechanical and, with easy access to a junkyard across the street from his house, worked on fixing up old cars at a young age. After high school, Kapp attended trade school to become a design draftsman. To make some extra money, he sold donuts to hungry students on campus. After graduating in 1978, he moved to the Sunshine State and never looked back. Following a career in environmental engineering and construction, Kapp was ready for a new challenge.
"My love of fixing up old cars turned into a love of motorcycles," Kapp said. "When I met Christi 15 years ago, she also loved to ride bikes. After we got married, we opened our first business together, Art In Motion. We build custom motorcycle creations and accessories. We also started investing in rental real-estate."
That certainly wasn't the end of Kapp's entrepreneurial journey.
"While looking for additional rental homes to purchase, we ran across the B&B house," Kapp said. "From the moment Christi saw the house, she wanted it. We went and looked at it the second day it was on the market. From the pictures, it didn't look like we'd have to do much except move in and live there. Once we got in there, it was a different story. There was basically a waterfall from the upstairs dining room with a big hole in the ceiling. Regardless, we still wanted it. But we didn’t know what to do with all the space, so I researched zoning and found that we could open a Bed & Breakfast. We had never stayed in one until we made that decision.”
After visiting Austin, Texas, for Christi's high school reunion, they stayed in four different bed and breakfast inns to learn something about them. They also took a prospective Innkeeper class to learn more about the financials.
“The house has a lot of history," Kapp said. "Members of the Autrey family lived in it for 80 years. The family member that lived there the longest was Katherine. Her nickname to her nieces and nephews was Kappy, hence the name 'Kappy' in Kapp & Kappy."
From the time the Kapp's purchased the property until they opened for business was about two and a half years. As you can imagine, converting a 1913 home into a new bed and breakfast with modern amenities was no easy task. They had to build a parking lot, gut the entire upstairs, add three bathrooms, upgrade electrical and plumbing, add sprinklers and fire alarms, redo floors and knock down ceilings and furnish the entire space. They even built a carriage house that matched the original one that got torn down before they owned the house. Even though much of the work was completed by Kapp, renovations still totaled over $100,000.
"In addition to our bedrooms, we have a 12-seat table in the dining room, a large living room for guests, the patio and a commercial kitchen," Kapp said. "We're also in the process of building an addition with a three-car garage, five bedrooms, a small 'party' kitchen, a multi-purpose training/conference room and two restrooms that will both be accessible from common areas. We will use this new space to accommodate small companies wanting to have a corporate retreat and leadership training events."
Customers can book directly through the website. Rooms are also available through online travel agencies (OTA’s) like Expedia or Sabre. Kapp shared that, because of additional booking fees, it's cheaper for locals and tourists to book directly through their website. In fact, for locals and the friends or family they refer, it's 40% less expensive than list price.
Looking ahead, the Kapp's are realistic in their expectations regarding return on investment. They understand that the bed and breakfast is more of a long-term play and see their investment as a "retirement plan".
What advice does Kapp have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Make sure you have plenty of money," he said. "You can't do it on a shoestring budget. That's a recipe for failure. Also, if at all possible, try not to start a business with a loan that your cash flow won’t cover."