After 30 years in the banking industry, Lisa Craig Morton was ready for a change. Then, in the midst of the 2008 economic downturn, she learned that her bank job was being eliminated.
It was time to try something new.
“I’d often thought about doing something like a bed and breakfast or guest house,” says Morton. “My husband and I prefer staying in small, historic homes or inns when we travel.”
The Victorian Village Guest House welcomed its first visitor in July 2008. The luxury lodging is unique, offering only one suite. Morton admits that could be viewed as a disadvantage and knows she could book more rooms.
“But people love being the only guests– it’s one of our biggest selling points,” she says.
A peaceful retreat in an urban setting, the 950-square-foot suite is filled with antiques and modern amenities. It includes a full kitchen, private bath, bedroom with queen-sized bed, and great room with a 17-foot ceiling.
Located in a carriage house at the edge of the lawn behind the Mortons’ 1895 Queen Anne style home, the guest house provides privacy, comfort, and the appeal of being in one of the city’s premier urban neighborhoods and near the Short North Arts District.
Less than a mile from The Ohio State University’s Oval, the Victorian Village Guest House attracts parents visiting students and others going to Ohio State sports events, exhibits at the Wexner Center or seminars and workshops.
Another group attracted to the guest house is what Morton calls “small town Ohio.” These are people from outlying areas who come for a city experience –fine dining, theater, cultural arts– the things they can’t do at home.
Other frequent guests include wedding parties, groups of women (the suite accommodates up to four people) for “girls’ weekends” and couples looking for a romantic getaway.
Morton joined Experience Columbus soon after opening the Victorian Village Guest House.
“I knew that Experience Columbus is the premier go-to place for people visiting our city,” she says. “I knew I would get good exposure, and since I don’t have my own widely-recognized brand, I wanted to tie my business to the Experience Columbus brand.”
Many of Morton’s business referrals come from Experience Columbus. And now, thanks to a recent Experience Columbus member workshop led by Cement Marketing, Pinterest has become one of her most valuable sources of website traffic.
“I don’t have a budget for professional training, like a Hyatt or a Marriott has, so the workshops Experience Columbus offers are very beneficial,” she says.
Another workshop on how to pitch to the media started her professional relationship with Amy Weirick of Weirick Communications.
“I learned that I didn’t have to spend a lot of money or a huge amount of time to get the word out,” Morton says.
Experience Columbus membership also gives Morton opportunities to interface and network with other people in the hospitality industry and to learn from them. After going from a busy corporate environment to running a small business on a laptop from her kitchen, Morton finds she needs to seek out opportunities to engage with other professionals.
“I’m such an extrovert and working from home can be something of a challenge,” she says.
Membership in Experience Columbus helps fill that void for her.
Morton recently became part of a group that provided input into developing the curriculum for a Certified Tourism Ambassador program that soon will be offered by Experience Columbus.
“By getting involved in that process, I felt like I was helping to build something that will benefit Columbus as well as my business,” she says. “And it provided me with additional opportunities to tap into the knowledge and expertise of my colleagues and peers.”
Morton has found gratification in starting something from scratch, being sole owner and being her own boss.
“It has been immensely rewarding to take an idea from concept to reality and watch it take off and grow,” she says. “For me, this has been a wonderful journey from corporate America to Main Street, from banking vice president to small business owner. And I’ve been fortunate to have partners, such as Experience Columbus, along the way.”