Stage 5: The reality of opening a hostel

How can we explain this?

Hmmm, there is a delusion behind people’s ideas about opening and running your own business especially in a foreign country. We are lucky. Here in Cambodia is not as difficult as in the UK or Germany but believe me it is hard.

If your motivations are to get rich quick and easy then you are in the wrong country and the wrong type of business.

Expect to make a loss in your first year, don’t expect to breakeven every month. Expect to really put your blood, sweat and tears into this. You will sacrifice your personal life, you will lose people along the way, you will make enemies and you will be a target. But if it is your dream then do not let this put you off. Just be wear of the reality.

At the start it was easier, before we begun selling the rooms, the set up was hard work but manageable. We could have a life too. During construction and room set ups, the work started mounting up, we needed help. Friends helped, we hired a marketing manager to help too…this was a mistake…he semi conned us and we later learned it would have been cheaper and easier to do it ourselves. At the time we needed help. We can do everything ourselves, it would get done properly and we are capable but time was not our friend at this point.

Once we opened the hostel we were working at least 18 hours a day. It was hard, it was tiering but exceptionally rewarding. If you want a decent job description google operation management roles. Also Google F&B management, ecommerce, accounting, design, event management, bar tending, cooking etc etc. The whole shebang. Even some art work, construction, engineering and plumbing. The list is endless.

Our aim was to be happy, to create a home where we would welcome fellow travellers, hear stories and meet new people. We were eager to learn. Through hard work we achieved that, our stats rose through the roof, we hit Siem Reap with a bang, we were on top, getting closer and closer to our target.

Before we were fully opened we were featured in Smile magazine, an inflight magazine for South East Asian airlines;


Our brand was clear, our hostel was themed and very unique. We have many USP’s. We did everything right by following our gut and dedicating all our time to building White Rabbit Hostel.

It is hard work, it is not all fun and games, it is a huge business and grew much faster than we expected. The hours were long, the tasks were endless. We could never have prepared for the amount of work we had to put in. But we did it! we put our all into this.

Max is still working at least 12 hours a day now on the onsite operations. The team are doing an incredible job. I always say we were blessed by god to have the amazing team that we have. Trust your gut and let people help you. There are kind and genuine people out there who will be more than happy to work for free if they believe in your message.

Building a business is not a game, it is not easy and if your aims and motivations are not right or realistic find another type of business to open.

We couldn’t do the normal things others our age were doing, we had to focus. There were many fights, mostly to better the business, we had many obstacles, many worries and threats but we worked through it, as a team we could overcome everything.

When you start up choose your team wisely. I am grateful for doing this with Max. Things may have changed later down the line but at the start we were a force to be reckoned with.

What is the best recipe for a brilliant start-up? a clear goal and unmovable commitments. Most of all trust, in ourselves and each there. We did it!! The foundation has been created. The main job now is management and development. Everyday there will be obstacles but that is life, it makes the job challenging and you never get bored. These were the hardest and sometimes darkest days but each day we would go to bed knowing we worked so damn hard. This was the happiest we have been. Grateful for the opportunity.

Your team are your most valuable tools. Do not take them for granted or lose them. We retained our brilliant team and thanks to them we were able to build a recognised brand.

One bit of advise is if you want it, if you feel it in your gut then do whatever you have to do to make it happen. Don’t rely on your plans, be open minded and learn. God damn learn!! We taught each other a lot, learned a lot and worked a lot.

This is a job, harder then you can imagine but it is also a lifestyle. We lived our dream for the most of it. Below are a few pictures which follow our journey. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook /whiterabbithostelsiemreap and IG: whiterabbithostelsr.

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The next post will be about Siem Reap. Top things to do and estimated prices.

Until next time!

M & M

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