Amber Harrold is a disabled ARMY veteran with the rank of Captain when discharged. She is currently a Production Supervisor at the local Pepsi Bottling plant. Her dream and passion were to open a hostel in Phoenix, Arizona where guests could enjoy budget oriented and sociable nightly accommodations. Amber wanted to create an exciting, home-like environment that cultivates a sense of community among the guests and staff.
Site preparations were started in June for a July 1st opening. “CamelBackpackers focuses on the total experience rather than simply providing a cheap bed,” says Amber. The two full-time staff offer local knowledge and assistance to ensure that each stay is both memorable and enjoyable.
The facility is a converted single family home offering an 8-bed dorm with a private bathroom, a 6-bed dorm with a shared bathroom and one 2-4 person garden view private room with a shared bathroom. Breakfast is included for all guests. The nightly price ranges from $30 – $45 and includes:
Bed linens and a towel Games room and Lounge area
Free coffee and tea Full kitchen and small shop
Free continental breakfast 24-hour hot showers
Free high speed, wireless internet and cable Washing machines
Fax 24-hour reception, Late Check-out
Wake-up calls Tours/Travel Desk
Free on-street parking BBQ area
Free individual storage lockers No curfew
“We wanted to let the neighbors know that we were opening a hostel so we invited the 75 neighbors within 5 blocks to an Open House,” says Amber. She wanted to get ahead of any concerns and start the process of building rapport with the neighborhood residents. Initial concerns were quickly resolved and Amber has been welcomed to the neighborhood.
Hostel guests have opportunities to socialize, make contacts, relax in common areas, and join other guests to explore the city as they wish. The common areas allow for individuals or small groups to participate in private or group activities. The main lounge offers a computer lab, movies, and a sharing library for quieter activities. The second communal area (coming soon) is for louder activities such as karaoke, Wii games, and sports viewing.
In their first week, CamelBackpackers reported 17% occupancy. Amber says that only 8% occupancy is needed to pay the bills. During the week of July 16th, CamelBackpackers was at 42% occupancy with Friday, Saturday, and Sunday fully booked. Customer reviews are already running greater than 98% positive and Amber couldn’t be happier.
What’s Great About My Mentor?
She first met with Greater Phoenix SCORE Mentor Bob Salzman in November 2011. Bob and Amber immediately set out to craft a convincing and realistic business plan. With Bob’s assistance, the business plan was completed in December. An SBA Patriot Express loan was obtained in June.
How SCORE Helped
Amber is very excited about her accomplishments so far, optimistic that her success will continue and looking forward to meeting all the interesting travelers that visit her hostel. Amber says. “I can’t tell you enough how thankful I am for all of Bob Salzman and Greater Phoenix SCORE’s help through the process. I really appreciate it. I’ve learned a lot about opening a business and the crazy process of applying for a loan.”