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Morrisville State College Graduate Returns to School, Launches Bed and Breakfast While Working Full-Time

MORRISVILLE, N.Y.—Whenever guests visiting the Hamilton area couldn’t find overnight accommodations because everything was booked, Karen Holcomb would offer them a room in her home out of the generosity of her heart.

As she invited more and more travelers in, she realized how much she enjoyed providing them with special home-like hospitality and decided to indulge her love as a hostess.

So she started her own business.

Holcomb’s Bed and Breakfast opened on Milford Street in Hamilton more than a year ago.

A B&B establishment offers services to a type of customer who travels but may want a change of pace from the traditional hotel stay in a room with a make-up and design much more like their own bedroom. Guests are treated to little deluxe touches such as breakfast that comes with the price of the room and is served each morning in a communal dining room.

Holcomb knew a lot about providing amenities, but she also knew there was a lot more to transforming her dream into reality than just choosing designer towels for the bathrooms and providing a sumptuous home-cooked repast.

“I lacked some critical business skills and there were so many questions and dilemmas I didn’t know how to deal with,” she said.

Aspiring to become more business savvy and to keep her guests happy, the determined entrepreneur decided to learn the ins and outs of running her own business—and went back to school.

With an associate degree in liberal arts already under her belt, the 40-year-old mother of two enrolled in Morrisville State College’s restaurant management associate degree program.

Holcomb takes classes part-time, while carrying a full-time job as a server at the Colgate Inn, in addition to running her business with her husband, Richard.

Morrisville State College is giving her vital skills to help run her operation.

“Every class I have taken has provided some type of new learning experience for me,” Holcomb said.

She’s learning about management, computer and spreadsheet programs, how to creatively promote her business, record keeping, managing cash flow, billing and accounting, setting guest policies—even marketing and purchasing.

Classes have also helped her in her job at the Colgate Inn.

“I was petrified about going back to school,” said the alumna, who already has an associate degree in liberal arts from Morrisville State College and had once planned a career in social work.

Every time she turns around, more doors are opening for her.

The Morrisville State College Entrepreneurial Institute (MSCEI), a student-run organization which provides local businesses with opportunities to partner with qualified students studying information technology, has also stepped in, offering assistance with building a Web site for her B&B, in addition to other services.

More than anything, college is yielding opportunities that Holcomb never knew existed, including scholarships she’s applying for to help defray tuition costs.

“I finally found my niche. I just love interacting with people and putting my whole heart into my business,” she said.

And her family is right behind her.

Richard, who also works full time, sacrificed his hunting room, turning it into one of two bedrooms that are available for guests to stay. It’s decorated in a rustic, cozy, Adirondack theme with partially wooded walls capped with pine cathedral ceilings.

He also helps with reservations while she is working her night shift at the Colgate Inn. Her entire family pitches in with household chores while she continues to adjust to a lifestyle which periodically means doing homework until 2 a.m.

Holcomb must be doing something right. Her B&B has been booked nearly every weekend since March through November. And weekday business is picking up, too.

“I never dreamed I would be running my own business,” she said. “There is such a sense of pride in this.”

For more information about Holcomb’s Bed & Breakfast or for room availability, call 315-824-3901.

Morrisville State College offers more than 75 bachelor and associate degrees and options with eight new degrees being offered this fall: entrepreneurship and small business management, B.B.A.; nursing, B.S.; science, technology, and society, B.S.; journalism and communication for online media, B.S.; horticulture business management, B.T.; human performance and health promotion, B.S.; criminal justice, A.A.S. (Norwich Campus only); and human services, A.A.S. (Norwich Campus only).

Considered to be one of the most technologically advanced colleges in the nation for its ThinkPad University program and wireless technology initiative, the college recently became the first in the nation to comprehensively replace landlines in residence halls with individual cellular phones. Morrisville State College was also chosen as one of the top five colleges in the nation for campus activities by Campus Activities magazine.

The Morrisville State College Norwich Campus offers associate degree programs in accounting, business, computer systems technology, office administration, liberal arts transfer, nursing, early childhood, criminal justice and human services to south central New York residents and employers. Students may also apply coursework to other associate or bachelor degrees at the main campus.