Wendi and Bruce Davison are owners and proprietors of the Arnold Black Bear Inn, located at 4,000 feet elevation in the Sierra Foothills of Northern California, in the town of Arnold. Arnold is home to Calaveras Big Trees State Park, where you can find lakes, streams, rivers, hiking/biking trails, golf and even giant sequoias. They have owned the inn, built in 2002, since 2009.
“We stayed at a bed and breakfast, and thought we might like to run our own. For 10 years, we talked about it and visited many B&B’s. We would discuss the qualities of each business we liked and what we thought could be done differently.” They found the inn they ended up purchasing listed on a B&B for sale website and relocated from the Sacramento area to Arnold.
When it came time to obtain funding for the business, they turned to Benetrends Financial, utilizing the Rainmaker Plan® and an SBA loan. “Benetrends was the only company we considered,” says Wendi. “The process took about four months, as it was a complicated loan and purchase, but Leo Verani (Retirement Plan Analyst) helped us through it. He even got on conference calls with our CPA to ensure all the steps were being taken correctly.”
The Arnold Black Bear Inn has five guest rooms with private bathrooms, a large commercial kitchen, and beautiful grounds for events and onsite living quarters. Wendi and Bruce run the entire business together. Bruce is a professional chef (graduate of Le Cordon Bleu), so he handles the guest and meal events. Additionally, he maintains the 1.5 acres of property. Wendi does the housekeeping, reservations, marketing and accounting. Wendi says, “Our skill sets really work well together, and the financial background has been a tremendous benefit.”
They have received TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence Award in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. In 2013, Wendi and Bruce were awarded Most Innovative Business by the Calaveras County Visitor’s Bureau. For four consecutive years, the Inn has been named number one lodging in the county. They have received many wonderful reviews, but are especially proud of the high volume of reviews on TripAdvisor. Out of 385 reviews, 375 received an excellent rating and 10 very good. That doesn’t come without hard work.
Although all their customers are VIPs, one of their favorite guests is Rita Moreno, who’s stayed at the Inn multiple times. “Last year she stayed over the Christmas holiday, and we got to enjoy some holiday movies with her, and other guests, in our gathering room,” says Wendi. “It was pretty special.”
Wendi and Bruce’s advice for those looking to start their own business? “Do it first! Business ownership is complete dedication.” Wendi continues, “We have been very fortunate, but also were very prepared, which has led to year-over-year increases in revenue.”
Seven years into their successful venture, Wendi says they are now considering their exit strategy. Wendi shares, “Probably in five years, and we’ll be looking to Benetrends to guide us through the process.”