On a quiet, tree-lined street in Boreum Hill, Brooklyn, surrounded by gorgeous brownstone buildings is Escape Guesthouse, a Bed and Breakfast (B&B) operated by mother-daughter duo Liz and Adrienne Kennick.
Adrienne Kennick graduated from BMCC in 2008 with a business degree, and like most BMCC students, she successfully balanced her job with her education; working up to 40 hours a week at the Guesthouse, while taking mostly evening classes BMCC.
Adrienne’s mother, Liz, always wanted to open an inn, and in 2006, she decided to convert the brownstone she had purchased into a B&B. Adrienne helped her start, and launch, the business.
“By early 2007, I was interested in this career path. I wanted to learn more about entrepreneurship and how to keep a small business running,” she says. “I wanted to learn as quickly as possible. BMCC helped me to do that, and was very accommodating with its day and night courses. BMCC was there for me when I needed to go back to school.”
Adrienne, who is the B&B's Day Manager, recalls she had, “a crazy, intense schedule,” while attending BMCC. “My major was Business Management and I did not follow the strict educational track at BMCC—there are different pathways within that major. I picked and chose from the various courses available, including Travel and Tourism. Classes I felt would help me most with the B&B I was running.”
Even though Adrienne was only at BMCC for a year and a half, she graduated with Honors, was a member of Phi Theta Kappa, and received an Excellence in Travel and Tourism Award from the Business Department.
“That was a surprise and out of the blue,” recalls Adrienne, of the recognition. “At that time, I was already in the industry and could talk about the business I was running. I even had a class come and take a tour of the Guesthouse and learn about the entrepreneurship. I was also a tutor in the Learning Resource Center (LRC), which is another reason why the department may have felt I was a good fit for the Excellence in Travel and Tourism Award."
Remembering the professors
Prior to enrolling at BMCC, Adrienne wanted to learn more about marketing, business communication and management. “I had never been a manager before, and suddenly I was in charge of staff,” she says. “There were many times when doing my schoolwork, I’d read a chapter about business and I could see how it applied to my job.”
Adrienne recalls fondly the many professors she had at BMCC. “English Professor Bil Wright got me over my fear of writing papers. Now, in the real world, I’m not afraid of a 10-page paper. Professor Ron Clare, who taught Business Law, took something complicated and broke it down so we could understand why it was important. I got a lot of ‘real world’ prep from him. And Professor Carmen Martinez-Lopez really helped me believe I could go anywhere, professionally.
Adrienne says she and Liz Kennick, the proprietor of Escape Guesthouse, “fell in love” with Brooklyn, and quickly discovered that Boerum Hill had lots of charm. “It’s a very up-and-coming neighborhood, more artists are coming into the area, and there’s no zoning for hotels in the area because it’s residential,” says Adrienne. “There was a need for alternative housing, and since my mom always wanted to open an inn, it became, why not here, why not now?”
Not only did Adrienne fall in love with Brooklyn, but also with the field of hospitality. “I enjoy helping people make the most out of their time in Brooklyn,” she says. “We give guests advice on what to do in the neighborhood.”
According to Adrienne, the motivating factors for guests wanting to stay at a B&B instead of a hotel is “the desire of feeling welcomed in a home that comes with concierge and maid service, having someone to talk to over breakfast or in the afternoon, and being in a fun Brooklyn neighborhood close to the subway.”
On a typical work morning, Adrienne wakes up around 6:30 am, stops at a bakery to pick up fresh fruits and baked goods for the Guesthouses’ continental breakfast, sets up the kitchen table and brews coffee for the guests.
Everyone from artists to student interns to musicians has rented rooms at Escape Guesthouse. “When guests return from a day out, I like to find out what they did, or at breakfast I’ll ask what they want to do,” says Adrienne, who does bookkeeping and inventory as well.
Adrienne advises anyone who is looking to stay at a Bed and Breakfast to make sure it's legitimate.
“Other places may say they’re a B&B, but they don’t serve you breakfast and it’s just a spare bedroom in someone’s apartment, or the top floor of a three-story house that’s not clean. In some cases it’s just, ‘Here’s your key and room, good luck,’” she says.
“Here, we really care about providing service, about getting to know everyone who’s here, and what they’re here for. If we have students here on internships, they’re all alone in this city. We make sure they’re getting support, getting enough sleep and know how to get around. We’re all about making sure that every guest gets the most out of their time in Brooklyn, and in the city, and I think that makes us unique."
Know business acumen
Adrienne has some advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. “Go to school first, and then focus on your business. I did it the other way, so I didn’t have much time for extra-curriculars. Also, make sure you love what you do because [starting a business] is day in and day out.”
She also advises small business owners to know accounting. “It’s so important. You have to know how money works, where it’s going and be able to forecast what your cash flow is going to be.”
Over the years, Adrienne learned the importance of building a team, and how to look beyond someone’s resume and cover letter. “See if the employee follows your values and wants to build what you want to build, because if you’re an entrepreneur, you’re building something that’s never existed before,” she says. “Make sure you hire people who can follow that vision and help you; people who won’t just do the minimum effort, get their paycheck and leave."
Adrienne has established relationships with some hotels in the area, as well as local businesses that regularly need rooms for out-of-town consultants.
“I really encourage small business owners to think less about who the ‘competition’ is and more about who can be a colleague,” she says. “Being collaborative rather than adversarial is probably better for your blood pressure, and definitely better for your business."
The next step
Adrienne continues to balance academics with work. The BMCC alumna is currently pursuing a higher degree in Hospitality Management at New York City College of Technology. But she still has solid memories of her time at BMCC, where she received some of her earliest business advice.
“At BMCC, Business Professor David Lang told me, ‘If you try to make something for everyone, you will wind up pleasing no one’,” she recalls. “By working here, I’ve learned it’s OK to be in charge of other people and to help others learn on the job. I’ve also learned I’m not as shy as I thought I was. I have that level of responsibility and outgoingness, and that’s been real fun for me.”