Part 1: The Start before the Start
My family has a big chalet in Mürren, in the Swiss mountains. We just bought the second part of the chalet one year ago after our lovely neighbours and previous owners had to leave Mürren to go to the nursing home. Now, the whole house belongs to our family – a very old house with about eight apartments. In one part of the house our family and friends have their holiday apartments. And our family planned to earn money with the other part of the house and therefore publish the flat on airbnb. So, last winter, my father and I, we started publishing our vacant apartments on airbnb and as it is a very old house and we put a small price tag on the units, we got quickly a few bookings for the summer season in. Happy us. All good.alone.
Our apartments on airbnb:
Airbnb. After successfully publishing our holiday apartments on airbnb, we had to figure out how to manage this bookings. We live in Basel, about two hours away from Mürren – by car. And if we have to go up to the chalet for every check-in and check-out of our airbnb guests, we would have spent more money and time on travelling than we would have earned through the bookings. That’s why we were looking for a solution for the first few weeks. To get to know the airbnb business better and to settle into this new housing arrangement and hosting business.
Swimming School. Next to this new airbnb project, I own a bigger swimming school in the area of Basel. Our company is very successful, and we are teaching over 400 adults and kids. As the summer season is normally prime time in the swimming industry, our team decided that over this summer‘s holidays we are going to have a summer break at our swimming school – anticyclical. For me, this team decision was not atypical for us. We work all year around at and in the pool and if we do not have a bigger break once a year, we get exhausted and will have a lack of motivation during the year. That’s what our experiences from the last years taught us. Therefore, we did this big bold move and closed our swimming school, office and shop for almost six weeks. My teammates spend their summer in Spain, went to Finland, went swimming by themselves or worked at our office to prepare the new swimming school season. I decided that, unlike the previous year, I do not want to spend the whole summer in an office and work on the desktop all day long – like last year.
Airbnb and swimming school. There it was, the solution to my personal summer challenge and our family airbnb challenge. I had time, I had an opportunity. Lets go to Mürren – and be a great host. PS: This decision was made about two month before the big summer holidays.
Although, it was necessary to spend time in the mountains for our airbnb project, we only published two apartments. Therefore, the management of the two units does not take all day long and as I like to spend my days to the fullest extent, I was thinking about how I can spend my time in the mountains to get a change of scenery, relax and spend all day outdoor.
For a longer time now, my father and I are brainstorming about how we could use our properties in the mountains – one big house, two barns and a little bit of land – to bring more life to the village and to earn good money with it. We always have a lot of ideas, but we do not have a lot of time and a ton of money to test or implement them. One of those ideas was to open a bar or fondue kitchen in the winter time – in one of our barns. However, if you are familiar with the gastro business, you will know that it takes a lot of measurements to open up a restaurant, bar or anything similar. To get to know the business a little bit better, I researched what you need to open a small gastro company. And I tried to find the must haves for a “minimum viable gastro service” (MVP) in the mountains. The result:
- Own property -> no permission and problems with a landlord
- Outdoor -> no need for construction permits like fire requirements etc.
- Mobile service and take away offers -> no toilets for guests needed
- No alcohol offerings -> no permits or exams by the state needed
- Opening time not longer than 6 month per year -> no permits or exams by the state needed
- Hygienic conditions for shop, kitchen, storage needed
My thoughts about the MVP requirements:
- Own property: Our chalet in Mürren is situated in the middle of the village at the main street. The village is car free. There are a lot of tourist passing through the village every day – by foot. Furthermore, our property has a small terrace facing the main street. Check.
- Outdoor: It is summertime. Let’s have something outdoor. Check.
- Mobile service and take away offers: The tourists passing through Mürren are hikers or sightseeing tourists. There are already a lot of restaurants in the village and at the sightseeing spots. But there are not a lot of take away shops. Additionally, my swimming school business owns a mobile coffee wagon which is used every Saturday outside the swimming pool. Check.
- No alcohol offerings: No problem. Good coffee trumps alcohol. And as I already own a mobile coffee wagon and have all the equipment, why not start a mobile coffee business or anything similar in Mürren? Competitor: There are already one and a half good coffee shops in the village. But they do not have the best solutions for take-away or walk-in customers. Check.
- Opening time not longer than 6 month: I only have 6 weeks (summer holidays). Check.
- Hygienic conditions: This was the biggest challenge. I needed more information about the meaning of the regulations and had to go through a lot of iterations until I found the best solution.
The logical conclusion for an MVP and a proof of concept for a possible future gastro business:
A mobile coffee shop in the Swiss mountains in front of our chalet in Mürren.
To be continued…