Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Julio Sanchez, and together with my wife Alison we are the proud owners at Cardiff Vacations. We own three beautiful vacation rentals in Cardiff by-the-Sea, California. The Penthouse, the Parkhouse, and the Seacottage have been in the family for quite some time. Alison’s parents have built the duplex, what is now the Parkhouse and Penthouse when they moved here as a young family back in 1978 and this is the home where Alison grew up.
We have remodeled Alison’s childhood home together with the Seacottage and are now renting it to groups, families, surfers, or professional travelers like the military or corporate. We are proud that we can share our homes with people from all over the world and know that Alison’s parents would have been equally astonished by this as we are.
Each year we welcome around 3k people. Only 2020 has been a bit slower on business due to the pandemic restrictions. Hopefully, next year will bring us some good news and business will be closer to normal.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I was born in Guatemala, moved to the USA in the ‘80s, and went to school at Harvard Westlake. I managed to get US citizenship after serving for 4 years in the marine.
After marrying my wife, Alison in 2001 we’ve lived with her mom for 10 years to take care of her.
Once she passed away we were left with the question of what to do with the properties she and her husband have worked so hard to build.
That’s when together with Alison and our friend Kitchy Crouse of KC Interior Design, we came with the idea to remodel everything and rent the properties. We had no previous experience in the business but the idea really appealed to us. It was the three of us that planned and supervised everything. I can tell you every little detail when it comes to the design of these places.
We chose the vacation rental model over the long term rentals because we liked the idea of meeting different people and offering the beauty of our beach homes to as many people as we possibly can. In terms of business, we thought it to be better this way because we can maintain the properties ourselves and make sure they are well taken care of. We thought there are lesser risks involved than with long term rentals.
When we started this we thought we’ll have guests from Arizona, Texas, and other states from the US. What we would never have imagined was that we’d meet people from as far as Turkey. I think that’s when we knew we were onto something that had the potential to work just fine.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
At first, it was just me and my wife and our friend Kitchy Crouse, who was a big help in the process. We slowly started to remodel the properties room by room, how we had the time and budget, it was a pretty challenging project, since we were new to all of this but it was a very rewarding one. Seeing how your work paid off at the end of the day is a truly satisfying feeling.
Sitting now and looking at the properties and remembering all the sweat and work we put into making them what they are today I can say it was all totally worth it. I would encourage anyone with a similar dream to go ahead and do it and not be scared of what might go wrong because you will figure it all out eventually.
Describe the process of launching the business.
In about a year we were done with all the remodeling and faced with the big question - now what? We were also done with the savings that we invested in the remodeling and the logistics of launching the business. So we did what everybody seemed to be doing back in 2011 and focused more on classifieds and word-to-mouth. Remember we were expecting only guests from AZ and other nearby states.
The big change came in 2018 when we started our website and worked on increasing our online presence. We achieved this through listings on all the major booking platforms like Airbnb, VRBO, VACASA, and white hat SEO strategies.
Honestly, being new to this line of work, we didn’t realize the importance of a strong online presence at first, especially since we were mostly focusing on local people. When we finally decided to go online we immediately saw the difference in our bookings.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
2020 has taught us that now, more than ever an online presence is needed if you want your business to stand even a chance of surviving. For us, it’s an ongoing process and the learning curve is far from over. We are working hard to maintain an online presence through SEO, Social Media, Strategic Partnerships with businesses that share our view.
We want to build everything organic and reap the benefits of a focused, targeted audience tailored to our business goals. We do not shoot wide and see what drops with ads or other “guaranteed success” strategies, instead, we aim to target only the audiences that we know will love our rentals and all they have to offer.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Right now we are averaging a revenue of around 50k per year and property. Of course, the aim is to increase our occupancy from around 62% to at least 70% for next year.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I have learned that no matter how well you plan things, the unexpected will surely come, one way or another and you must always be prepared and face whatever obstacles you may encounter in achieving your goals.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We are firm believers in organic traffic as we believe it to be the most accurate. Therefore we do it the old-fashioned way, meaning blogging and you can see our beautiful content here. We also have a Youtube channel, Instagram, and a Facebook page.
Our insights were also appreciated by other businesses and we had the opportunity to guest post valuable information on their websites. Here are some examples of our work: Must Visit Horse Racing Tracks in California, Fun Things To Do in San Diego With Kids, What to Do in Encinitas After a Fishing Trip.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Remodel: Without Going Bonkers or Broke is one of the books that helped us most in this whole process. It offers very useful information and tips on how to remodel in a budget-friendly but still stylish manner.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
The biggest mistake people make when just starting in any type of business is giving up too soon. Also, not going in full-heartedly! Find your motivation and you will know which steps to follow. For us, it was keeping Alison’s family legacy alive and sharing this beautiful part of the world with travelers and explorers.
The biggest satisfaction we get is when our homes are appreciated by people from all over the world. We offer a homey feeling which separates us from the big-name hotels in the area. All businesses have that small little nuance that makes them distinct. That is what you will need to figure out and exploit so that your business skyrockets.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
As of right now, we are happy with the small team we’ve built. We are still operating in “pandemic-mode” and believe it’s not the right time for us to be expanding our team right now.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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