The Build Cycle Podcast #007 – Mulberry Gap’s Kate & Andrew Gates

Kate and Andrew Gates and their families were looking for a retreat for themselves in the mountains of Georgia. They ended up at Mulberry Gap, located deep in the Chattahoochee National Forest in Elijay, GA. It’s a big property, and it already had cabins, a barn and more, and it quickly became clear they’d need to do something to generate revenue to support the property. Fortunately, they were smack in the middle of some of the best trails in the state, and it didn’t take long for mountain bikers to start asking if they could camp there. A business was born, and now it was time to figure out things like permits, shuttling, food service, maintenance and sooooo much more. Welcome to the world of hospitality…

DISCUSSION TIMELINE

  • 01:45 – How two high school sweethearts ended up owning Georgia’s most popular mountain bike retreat.
  • 06:30 – Time to expand, and constantly improve.
  • 08:00 – It needed to become a business to support it, and mountain bikers conveniently showed up.
  • 15:00 – Activities offered, and how they cater to them.
  • 19:00 – Expansion plans, and how different corporate structures allow fall under different rules.
  • 24:10 – Bike rentals, partnerships and other revenue growth opportunities.
  • 27:10 – Merchandise planning and staffing.
  • 33:25 – What are some of the challenges in running a hospitality business?
  • 38:10 – How can they grow capacity? Do they want to? What about special events?
  • 42:00 – Costs of doing business.
  • 47:55 – Getting local support, and how they spread the word.
Kate & Andrew Gates are the face of Mulberry Gap.

POSTGAME ANALYSIS

Mulberry Gap has become one of the most popular destinations for mountain bikers in the southeast. They’re at capacity most weekends, both in terms of the number of people they can handle and the number of hours they can put in. This is one of the challenges of a hospitality business – you’re “on” 24/7 – because all of your guests are on a different schedule. You need to love what you do, but it also helps to set boundaries, create time off, and hire enough help. That’s one of their largest challenges – finding (or rather structuring) time to themselves.

From a planning perspective, they’ve had to create a reservations system to help them manage availability, food supply, etc. The more structure you can add, and ensure your customers understand it in advance, the smoother your operation can run.

Perhaps their biggest secret to success is just being open to change. They adapted to the clients that showed up rather than trying to force a business model. And by continuing to listen to their customers, they make improvements or add features, events and more that keeps them coming back.

The small cabins sleep four, two per side. There’s a larger family style cabin on site, too.

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