Do you have out of town guests arriving over the holidays? Too cramped in your own house? Why not consider an alternative to a hotel and suggest a B&B? Often a much more affordable option than staying at a hotel, as well as a more authentic experience with knowledgeable hosts.
WLM recently met up with Maggie Dobson, a local west Londoner, mum and the founder of At Home in London a bed and breakfast site offering many five star and award winning properties in the capital’s best areas.
1. Please tell me a little about yourself and your business…
I have lived in west London for most of my adult life. I just can’t tear myself away what with great walks by the Thames, the tube a short stroll, great houses and shops. Before my children were born I formed an art book company and so got a taste for running my own show before my business in Bed & Breakfast business started to evolve.
2. What inspired you to start At Home in London?
When my youngest was 4 years old I started thinking about getting back to work. But what would fit in with their schedules? I knew it would something I would set up myself as I didn’t want to leave them at 8am and return at 8pm and miss their childhood. I literally sat for weeks with a paper and pencil and wrote down any skills I had and people I knew, until I thought about offering B&B accommodation in London homes. And so At Home in London was born. This was in 1986 when B&B was considered quite a down-market way to stay.
3. What challenges have you faced with your business?
The hardest challenges have been events beyond my control such as Mad Cow Disease, Foot & Mouth Disease, terrorist attacks on London and the recession. The other challenge has been to improve the standing of B&B – to transform it from the Cinderella of accommodation into a preferred, up-market choice for many travelers. Staying in a private home gives guests the opportunity to live like a Londoner, if only for a few days. When staying with a local, my clients have the advantage of local savvy knowledge—like a built-in insiders’ guide to London.
4. What advice would you give to a budding mumpreneur?
My best advice to any budding mumpreneurs is to write an extensive Business Plan before you start. It’s a pain to do (worse than giving birth and much longer!) but it will focus your mind and help you decide whether your idea is actually something others will want.
5. How did you balance motherhood and running a business?
I juggled motherhood with running At Home in London by working some evenings and weekends and got occasional help when things got really busy or I needed to make an overseas trip.
6. Where is your favourite place to relax in west London?
I have several. Mackens, the butcher for really amazing, healthy meat. Trivoli for their stunning art and crafts in a very relaxing atmosphere and As Nature Intended for their unfussy whole food shop.
7. Who has inspired you along the way?
There are so many people along the way who have supported and inspired me but one in particular is Val Austin, International Press Visits Manager for Visit Britain whom I have known in this industry for nearly 20 years. Val has been such a great person to know and her inspirational ideas for marketing At Home in London have been so helpful. She has sent me journalists from all over the world including China, USA and Europe to stay in my B&Bs here in London. The articles they have subsequently written about their visits have been hugely helpful in promoting my business.
For more information on At Home in London, please visit: