Renee Coppin is the General Manager of Infinity on the Beach, a boutique hotel, which she has operated since it was officially opened on February 15, 2014. The forty-two year old is a wife and a mother of two sons and is no stranger to the hotel industry as she has been managing Pirates Inn for the past twelve years. She has also worked in the industry as the first Executive Director of The Intimate Hotels of Barbados, a secretariat which markets small hotels. Driven by the idea of finding a career that would give her a flexible work schedule after her first child was born, she opted to work for herself when the idea of leasing Pirates Inn was proffered by the previous owner.
With more than a decade of experience as a hotelier, a Bachelor of Science degree in Management Studies from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus and an MBA from Surrey University in the United Kingdom, she is adequately and confidently prepared to manage all aspects of these hotels and is ably assisted at Infinity on the Beach by her husband. Throughout her journey, the hotelier has always sought a financial partner that would provide more than funding. She also wanted sound advice and expert guidance which would contribute to achieving her goals.
Enterprise Growth Fund Limited (EGFL) was a compelling choice as the owner of Pirates Inn worked with the institution while Ms. Coppin managed the operations of that hotel. In that role she frequently collaborated with the finance company on all operational matters and gained a degree of familiarity and comfort with the institution. Hence, when it was time to finance the start-up of Infinity on the Beach, she had already created a strong relationship with EGFL through her relationship officer, who still works closely with her as her businesses develop. The critical role EGFL has played in developing the local small hotel sector through the provision of concessionary financing, inclusive of competitive interest rates, meant that the relationship continues to be a natural fit for both entities.
Renee was proud to state that the 66 room hotel now employs close to 60 staff members when occupancy levels are high. She stressed that her industry competes not only locally but globally for market share and hence delivering value for money is one of the pillars on which she runs the business. When asked how her business model had changed over time and whether Airbnb had affected the hotels she manages, Renee indicated that “The fundamentals of the industry have been pretty constant…” and emphasised that being highly customer focused is the reason she and her team get up every morning to go to work. She noted that change is inevitable but as long as a good product is on offer and you manage the changing environment, the core business will not be affected.
The business woman noted further that she uses the various social media platforms to promote her businesses while controlling costs in ways that were impossible using the traditional media. In a further nod to modern business trends, the hotelier has embraced renewable energy and energy efficient initiatives at the properties through the use of a solar water heating system and LED lights and guests are encouraged to conserve energy by switching off air conditioning units and lights on leaving their rooms.
Renee’s advice to young entrepreneurs starting out in business was to “have a strong vision as to what you want to do, have a lot of self-belief, because there will be naysayers and people who may doubt you.” However, she cautioned that if fledgling entrepreneurs seek positive relationships and good partnerships with a financial institution like EGFL and learn from experts in the industry, then they can accomplish anything. However, she cautioned that they should be guided by passion too and not rely solely on advice.
When asked what advice she would give a start-up company about avoiding failure, she paused thoughtfully, admitted that it was a very interesting question, then quickly noted that there were some things that she was clear about in her field: “never neglect my commitments, never mistreat my customers and never be dishonest in my business dealings.” These are some of the fundamental principles that drive her in her private life and hence naturally guide the way she manages her businesses with integrity.
Infinity on the Beach and Pirates Inn give back to the community in many ways. They have sponsored Crop Over bands and other community events like football and sporting events and continue to give financial and other support to many school projects, especially those in which her sons are involved.
Managing these two hotels is not what Ms. Coppin simply does daily but what she ‘enjoys’ doing daily. For her, this job is not seen primarily as a chore, or simply as a means of earning a living; it is seen as a way of life. Ms. Coppin is the embodiment of energy, success and professionalism, and she wants her management team and staff to be the same.
As we came to the end of the interview, the General Manager of Pirates Inn and Infinity on the Beach thanked EGFL for the support they have given her throughout her journey as a hotelier. “EGFL operates more like a business partner than a financial institution and certainly is more supportive than some commercial banks.” She therefore highly endorsed EGFL as a financier with whom to do business.