Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Planning, planning, planning

Well although it seems, according to the blog at least or in fact if you look around the house (you'll have to take my word for that one), that not much has been happening in terms of development of the Money Pit there has been a whole lot going on behind the scenes.

It has always been the plan in order to get The Money Pit to pay for itself, rather than us just throwing our hard earned cash at it, to turn it into a Bed and Breakfast. As this meant a significant injection of cash, it was rather a long term plan which involved selling our other property and then using that money to invest in getting one room ready as a guest room and the dining room floored and decorated for the aforementioned guests use. And then using any money earned to carry on with finishing other rooms. This was fine until we realised getting that the simple phrase 'getting a room ready for B&B guests' involved a new roof complete with improved insulation, a fire alarm system, new wiring, a complete bathroom refit, soundproofing, change of use to guesthouse/residential, new flooring, decorating, kitchen extraction and all manner of other things. Our budget simply didn't stretch that far....so we were a bit stuck and wondered if the B&B would ever become reality.  Then, miraculously, a while back we heard about a funding pot that was being made available via  the Rural Northwest Tourism Connect project, funded through Defra for independent, small hotels and B&Bs in rural areas to apply for grant funding to support renovation projects.

It sounded perfect so I contacted them to enquire if, being in Ramsbottom, we qualified. We did and within a week or so of our initial enquiry, we had had a visit from the Tourism Connect Project Manager (hi Sarah) and had been left with a pile of paperwork/guidelines to go through. The application process was quite stringent and required us writing a business plan complete with the first 3 years financial projections, a detailed budget and project plan for the build including getting hold of no less than 3 quotes from different builders for which we required a complete building spec and an application which asked for milestones, risk analysis, forecasted targets, details of the entire project and a document signed by an accountant to say that our business plan and financial projections stood up!  All well and good you might say and only what most people would do when looking to start a business. The initial deadline for the funding project to end was April 2013. This was perfect timing as, just to make life a little more complicated, we had also found out we were expecting our second child in June 2012. It meant that we could work on the application in the Spring of 2012, have the baby, get used to the baby, if we got the funding we could start the build in late Summer 2012 and be ready to open the B&B in Spring 2013.

But things don't turn out like that. We got a phone call early March to say that the funding project was closing early, a year early! If we wanted to apply we need to get the application complete and submitted for review by mid March in order it could be assessed / approved before the end of the month! We had a week...

Although we had made a start on a number of elements the next 7 days were a blur of researching, writing business plans and building specs, meeting builders, going through figures, meeting with our funding project manager (who is a star) and accountants, checking quotes, refining specs, chasing builders for further quotes as well as still trying to do our day jobs, look after the kid and find time to eat and sleep (the sleeping tended to be the thing that got squeezed!)

After rather too many late nights, a considerable amount of coffee and 'discussion', some tears and a lot of time at the computer, we finally pressed the send button on Monday 5 March. We had done the best we could and if we didn't get it then at least we gave it a go. We got a call on Thursday to say that the internal review had gone well but there were a few refinements we had to make to the application before the panel meeting the following week. Another late night beckoned as the paperwork had to be with the panel  on Friday. On Weds 14 Mar we go the call to say that not only had our application been approved, but it was one of the best business plans they had received! The B&B project was underway....

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