Ted and JoAnn Dawson run Fairwinds, a hunter/jumper facility offering beginner through advanced lessons and boarding. But that’s not all. Fairwinds Farm also offers birthday parties, schooling shows, summer camp, hay rides, bed & breakfast, pony rides, trail rides, tea parties, fresh produce and horse-drawn carriages. Not only do the Dawsons offer variety, they offer quality—on March 30, 2012, Fairwinds was named the Tourism Business of the Year by the Cecil County Office of Tourism. Website: www.fairwindsstables.com Stalls: 26 Horses: 25 Students:?87 students per week in 27 lessons. Events: 10 per year.
1. What is your biggest profit center?
While our riding lessons are our biggest grossing part of the business, the B&B is actually the biggest profit center.
2. What percentage is that profit center of overall profits?
3. What is your biggest expense?
Labor is our biggest expense.
4. Do you have any good business tips you’ve learned over the years?
We actually present a speech called “Thinking Outside the Box Stall: Top Ten Ways to Avoid Getting a Real Job” in which we explain the following:
• Never Turn Down Business:?Do everything you can to book and follow through on jobs, and never cancel unless of emergency or death.
• Do It Yourself: We bale our own hay, do our own maintenance, we do most of our own veterinary work, keep our own books, etc.
• Diversify and Delegate:?We know our strengths and weaknesses, and each of us handles what we are best at in the business. We are very diversified.
• Be Involved in the Community: Volunteer time on boards, chambers of commerce, community events, and so on because it provides great networking opportunities.
• Market Yourself: Have a good website, distribute brochures everywhere, be on Facebook, call news outlets when you are doing something cool.
• Git ‘er Done: Have excellent time management skills and plan in advance. Additionally, write everything down and schedule accordingly.
• Make Money Every Day: Have some activity or at least part of your business happening each day. We are open seven days/week, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
• Bargain Hunt:?Look for deals and try not to buy anything new or full price—auctions are a great place to buy things.
• Be Customer Friendly:?Return all e-mails and calls promptly, go the extra mile, smile, go out of your way to make customers happy.
• Choose Your Partner(s) Carefully:? Trust, compatibility and like-mindedness are very important.
5. If you could do it all over again, what would you change, if anything?
We would not do any boarding at all.
6. What creative ways have you found to be profitable in this industry?
Aside from our points in answer #4, we try to come up with a new business each year if we can. For example:?A horse-drawn Caisson for use at funerals. We also do a play called HorsePlay, and a Live Nativity each year. Ted and I are wranglers, so we provide animals/carriages, etc… for movies and TV shows. I also write the “Lucky Foot Stable” series and visit schools and libraries with my pony Butterscotch.