Small Business Highlight: 12 South Carriage House

Wondering how to make your short-term rental feel like home, sweet, home? Meet Bethany Bordeaux, co-owner of Tennessee’s popular stays The Sweet Retreat at Pigeon Forge and 12 South Carriage House. She’s graciously given us (and you!) her tips on how to create a cozy niche for yourself in an ever-growing industry. 

Getting Started in the Rental Space

Like a lot of businesses, Bethany’s path to success started right at home. Seven years ago, she and her husband Keith Bordeaux were looking for long-term investments for their family. Their shared interest in real estate led them to consult with a realtor friend about a possible rental property. This friend pointed out an even better opportunity waiting in their own backyard: space for a guesthouse. 

In 2015, popular apps like Airbnb made it possible to create a vacation spot right on your own property. Together, Keith, a marketing director, and Bethany, a violinist and tour manager, used their extensive travel experience to dream up their guesthouse, with all the hospitality bells and whistles they appreciate as guests. In 2016, they hosted their first guests at the newly-completed 12 South Carriage House, gaining over 700 positive reviews since.  

By March of 2022, they were able to purchase a cabin in Pigeon Forge to create The Sweat Retreat. While the properties offer unique experiences, the couple’s hosting principle remains the same: “We treat all our guests with kindness, so they feel important and taken care of.” 

5 Tips for Creating a Successful Short-Term Rental Property

Tip #1: Know Your Audience

I leave a handwritten welcome note for every single guest along with some sort of small welcome gift.

I always let guests know that we are available if they need us, but invisible if they don’t. I leave a handwritten welcome note for every single guest along with some sort of small welcome gift amenity. Our cabin attracts lots of couples celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or honeymoon so I leave an occasion-specific card for those guests.   

Our Nashville guesthouse has a slightly different clientele that includes lots of parents of university students, so for them I try to just be an extra helpful neighborhood resource as they are often looking for non-touristy places and services (like where to donate items from their kids’ dorm rooms on move-out day that are too big to haul back home, etc.) 

Tip #2: Curate Special Touches (like Giveaways!)

Sometimes the simplest things can turn out to be a big deal!

I am a super detail-oriented person, so I really love small, token-type gifts like branded pens.  Having those items in our properties shows our guests that we’ve really thought of everything.  We leave lots of them in our place so that guests can take them home as a souvenir to remember their time staying with us.  

Sometimes the simplest things can turn out to be a big deal! I chose a [unique pen] color for each of our properties to give them each their own aesthetic and am so pleased with how they look, feel and write. 

Tip #3: Get Your Name Out There

Honestly, word-of-mouth by friends and past guests is probably our best marketing!

Two years ago, we were so honored to be featured in an article that Airbnb put out naming us as the “most hospitable hosts” in the state of Tennessee. Many news outlets picked that story up, which was amazing for us, and we’ve also placed in the top 3 in our category in the “Best of Nashville” poll from our local magazine.   

Honestly, word-of-mouth by friends and past guests is probably our best marketing!  We provide the best experience we can and love it when people enjoy their experience and want to recommend our place to others! 

Tip #4: Trust Your Instincts

The great philosopher Kenny Rogers once said, “Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,” and as hilarious as it might seem to base business advice off a country song lyric, it really is true.  Know when to dig your heels in and fight for your dream, but also be wise enough to discern when it just isn’t making sense and you need to cut your losses and find a new approach/product/service/idea/whatever the case may be.   

We have certainly hit snags in our hosting journey, from random home repairs to the pandemic, but have persevered through it all, and are so blessed to get to keep doing what we love.  At the end of the day, doing what you love is more fulfilling than any paycheck or award you can earn. 

Tip #5: Be the Host You’d Want to Have

We have a pretty large number of repeat customers and I really do attribute that to the fact that I have taken the time to get to know them as people and meet their specific travel preferences.   

I remember one time booking a trip to New Orleans for a milestone birthday for my husband and when we arrived, they had left a nice box of chocolates and a birthday card that was handwritten by their hospitality director.  It made a huge impression on me because I felt like of all the thousands of guests the hotel serves, she cared about us and our experience. I try to do the same for all the guests we host. 

Looking to travel in Tennessee? Check out The Sweet Retreat at Pigeon Forge or 12 South Carriage House on Airbnb.

Jessica Carreiro

From marketing tips to product recommendations, I’m here to help small businesses be their best.

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