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Gratitude!

July 31, 2017

 

Yesterday I got an alert from Facebook congratulating Asheville Glamping for rolling over 20k followers. 20,000! At the same time our Instagram account is up to 27,000 good folks who follow along with our adventures!   I am filled with gratitude for all of the wonderful people who have supported my little business venture through the years on Facebook/instagram and as guests--you guys are the reason Asheville Glamping exists! Thank you so much!! 

 

That milestone made me reflect on the journey of Asheville Glamping and inspired me to share a little bit of Asheville Glamping's story. If you've been here before you might know some of it, but I'm going to get personal here and share even a little bit more than I usually do. 

 

The original idea for Asheville Glamping was born in 2007 when I was an enthusiastic 24 year old. At first I thought it would be made up of tiny houses and other alternative dwellings which I was completely obsessed with at the time (tumbleweed houses had just been born back then). I can't tell you how many notebooks I have that are filled with sketches and layouts! Over the years the idea eventually evolved into the alternative camping we offer today. 

 

When asked how much money it took to start Asheville Glamping I always answer :

 

"$100"  

 

Unlike many business ventures, Asheville Glamping grew slowly over time with no nest egg of start up money or investment capital. When I was 25 I started a residential and commercial cleaning business, Clean Green Asheville,  in order to save money towards my "real dream". I started that cleaning business with $100 and eventually grew it from just myself to multiple office contracts and 5 employees to help me with residential and commercial jobs. It wasn't my dream...but I did enjoy it and all the while I was diligently saving every penny I made over those years to put towards Asheville Glamping.  

 

I found my first property when I was 25, where the red yurt is located, and offered the bank selling it all the money I had saved up- it was much much MUCH less than what they were asking, but to my amazement (and everyone else's) my offer was accepted! I had read about yurts online and after saving all my money for a few years I was able to build one on that property. I lived in it during this process of finishing the interior and in 2011 it finally reached my vision with a full kitchen, bath house, and loft. I loved living there! If you've visited the yurt you've probably noticed all the personal touches: a picture of my mother when she was 18 before she immigrated to the United States, a tiny photo of my seven year old self dressed in my ballerina outfit (wish I still had that tutu!) a handmade shelf from bike parts, a collection of all my favorite books etc!  

 

At the time I was living in the yurt  I had a lot of clients through the cleaning business who had vacation rental homes that my business prepared for new guests. Working for them helped me learn about the vacation rental industry in Asheville and gain the confidence to add my yurt to a vacation rental website. That was 2012 and that's when I started building www.ashevilleglamping.com  ... with only one lonely offering on the book now page: the red yurt. 

 

Here's the funny part: When I started renting the yurt, my dog and I didn't have another place to live!  Since I figured the yurt might only rent out a few weekends I thought I'd just camp out with my dog whenever the yurt was booked and continue living in it when it was unoccupied. I never expected the yurt to be so popular and soon "just the weekends" turned into an average of 20 nights a month! My dog and I were essentially homeless and living in my nylon 2 person backpacking tent with no power or running water. I showered at the gym and took my dog to work with me during the day. I'd be cleaning houses and offices and poor Acadia would be tied up in a yard or crated inside someone's mud room. I'm not going to lie....it was miserable!  Still... I had the goal of saving towards Asheville Glamping and I kept that in mind whenever a friend asked if I was crazy or someone offered to rent me a room in their home. 

 

I had been living in that backpacking tent for around five months but winter was coming and I realized that living in a tent through the cold months was something even I was unwilling to do!  I started to scour craigslist for an rv or something else more permanent to live in that I could afford. That's when I became obsessed with vintage trailers and airstreams. I found an airstream for sale that needed some serious work and bought it. If I only knew then what I know now....that airstream was a complete piece of junk! I ended up gutting the interior and I lived in that empty shell for another year with my dog....slightly better than the tent, but not much! 

 

When I realized how successful the yurt rental was I started really flushing out  the concept for Asheville Glamping. There was nothing like it in the south and I was excited at the thought of offering whimsical rentals as an alternative to the abundant hotel rooms offered in Asheville. 

 

The yurt property was not conducive to building anything else on it so I started looking into other properties for sale. I quickly realized that most zoned open use multi acre properties within a reasonable distance of downtown asheville were virtually non existent at any price range...never mind my small budget! Big developers had bought up any multi acre tracts that were available and the ones left were all well over 200k. The county told me that I needed to purchase an "open use" zoned property in order to build the alternative dwellings I was intending to rent out (open use means just what it sounds like- you are not limited to zoning restrictions like building a stick built home that's a certain square footage etc like "residential zoning" usually requires).

 

 I went to my bank and explained what my plans were. They loved my idea but told me that getting the kind of loan $$$ I wanted for raw land when I didn't have plans to build a traditional house was going to be virtually impossible. I was disappointed, but determined to find another way. I continued saving my money from clean green and the yurt rental, but started to give up on my dream as it seemed like finding land I could purchase with cash was going to be impossible. That's when I found the 3 acre urban property. It was still expensive considering I couldn't get a loan - but much much less than every other property I had come across. I purchased that property and realized that I was now back at square one as I had depleted my savings once again. 

 

Though I couldn't afford to build right away,  I rented equipment to clear the land and started off by offering rustic campsites to folks looking for a budget place to stay close to town-- we provided already set up coleman tents that folks could rent for less than the cost of renting a campsite in a campground that you had to bring your own tent to. Our first rustic campsite was so popular that we added three more while we were working on clearing the property for our first "glampsite". The money raised from renting out these rustic sites also helped us continue to develop the land and soon we were able to put in our well and add electricity.

 

 In order to save more money to put into Asheville Glamping I continued to live in one of our unfinished vintage trailers for three years. Again, it was pretty much miserable in terms of living conditions (an unfinished trailer with no indoor plumbing/no kitchen/no AC/no heat...pretty much just an outlet and a bed- nothing like the trailers we rent out to guests now!)- but I knew that the money we saved by not renting a house would help develop the property faster. Everyone thought I was crazy...but the sacrifice was always worth it to continue creating Asheville Glamping. 

 

The first completed rental on that second property was the Silver Bettie, a huge 1955 Spartan Mansion trailer. Spartans were manufactured by the Spartan aircraft company who originally made fighter planes during world war II. After the war the Spartan company used it's leftover aircraft grade aluminum to build  these beautiful luxury trailers. In 1955 a Spartan sold for around $5,000 which at the time was the same cost as the average house! Spartans are still my favorite trailers and we now own three of them...two of which are rented to guests.

 

The Silver Bettie was a great success and was soon rented out just as much as the yurt. Our guests loved what we were doing and their encouragement drove us forward! It makes me very happy seeing the two filled guest books sitting on the little retro boomerang table inside, both filled with enthusiastic notes from guests who have stayed there over the years. Some of our more creative guests have drawn cartoon illustrations describing their stay, a few have even left us cute polaroids! 

 

Just as I had done with the yurt, all of the money from renting out the Bettie was saved  and put towards building the next two sites: the deluxe bell tent site and the tent cabin. I was also still working at my cleaning business full time to support the growth of Asheville Glamping, but in 2015  it became impossible to run both business's. Rather than selling Clean Green Asheville, I gifted the cleaning business to Mary Orrand. Mary had been working with me the longest and I passed on Clean Green in the hopes that the business would help launch her own dreams in the way that it had helped me! 

 

In 2015 Asheville Glamping had 5 rentals but we were running out of land to expand on. I had always dreamed of owning a bigger property, but as I mentioned earlier in the beginning that just wasn't possible financially when I started. Asheville Glamping's 15 acre property was found one day while I was browsing Zillow (which I had no business doing!!!).  

 

This time there was no way I was going to be able to purchase this property with money I had saved so once again I made the pilgrimage to my bank.  Again, they told me that it was still not going to be possible to get the six digit loan needed to buy this raw piece of property. I had come armed with my business plan, but they still didn't really get the whole vintage trailer and glamping tent rental idea and since they didn't consider the non permeant structures to be "tangible assets"- in their eyes it was a bad investment. Again I left that bank discouraged... but refused to give up. That's when I approached the owner of the property directly. It was hard to track him down as the property was listed under a realtor, but by searching for the address I was able to find his phone number. I sent him the link to our website with our 5 rentals on it and explained our plans for Asheville Glamping. I explained our situation with procuring a bank loan and asked him if there was any way he would be willing to owner finance the property to us with a shorter term mortgage with a balloon payment. He said YES!

 

We immediately got to work to complete the eight sites that are now located on the 15 acre property. 

 

Construction was incredibly intimidating to me when I started out...I didn't think there was any way that I'd be able to build decks, furniture, or any of the other many projects on the property. I didn't know any female carpenters and I had certainly never been taught the difference between a skill saw and a jig saw! How did I learn? Youtube my friends. If you want to learn how to do something, nearly anything, there is surely a youtube tutorial out there waiting for you! I highly encourage women to invest in some power tools- it's incredibly empowering (and really damned fun) to be able to build yourself something kickass that you fall in love with on pinterest....ladies you know what I'm talking about!  

 

The story of Asheville Glamping is far from finished...that just brings you up to date! We are always working on improving and adding to Asheville Glamping. I mentioned that we have no loans aside from the mortgage loan on our newest property. Every once in awhile someone will say to me "Wow! You must be rich!" Let me be real with you...Since the beginning...every single extra penny of profit earned from the business has gone right back into the business to make it better for our guests. Asheville Glamping is like my child. I'm constantly feeding it, changing it's diapers, and buying it new clothes as it grows out of it's old ones (am I bad at analogies?) 😋

 

Ok- maybe it's not a baby, but I invest back everything I have into it because nothing makes me happier than seeing it thrive and creating a great experience for our guests.  

 

I may not live in a tent anymore, but I do still keep life simple by living in a 350sq ft tiny house....with running water and a full kitchen...I'm so fancy now! ... ;-) 

 

This is my story. I'm sharing my story in the hopes that someone needing encouragement reads it. I'm going to control myself from pasting  an inspirational Eleanor Roosevelt quote here, but what I want to say is this : You can rise above your current circumstances to achieve your dreams! It might not happen over night...and you might have to make a few sacrifices in order to get where you want to be, but to get there: you just have to start and keep pushing forward. 

 

Here's to making your own dreams come true! 

xoxo

 

Joanna Cahill

 

P.S.

 

In the spirit of thanks we are offering 10% off all bookings made for dates from now until December 2017.

 

Just use the coupon code : THANKYOU at check out.

 

*Note: you can not apply this to reservations that have already been made.