By Cynthia Hoo
Five years ago, Karina Bahrin dreamt of owning a guesthouse by the sea, and, two years ago, she made her dream come true.
She now owns and runs the La Pari-Pari bed & breakfast, a chic 12-room guesthouse which has earned so many fans that it’s now the top B&B in Langkawi on Tripadvisor.
Located on the tranquil Pantai Tengah, the light-filled guesthouse hits all the right notes. It’s modern, chic, understated and quiet, and sits at an affordable price point for most holiday-makers.
Making a new life in Langkawi was a huge leap for Karina to make from a glittering career in public relations in Kuala Lumpur for over 20 years.
So, how did she do it?
Needless to say, it was not an overnight dream. It took her five years of planning before the first nail was hammered, and that, to her, was the secret of making a success of her career switch.
She is, in her own words, not someone who likes risks. So, she approached her new idea with a lot of tedious research and careful thought.
“Somewhere in my late thirties, I had begun to get a sense that I wanted to do something else with my working life beyond the career path I had chosen,” said Karina (pic). “Work had begun to feel as if it was becoming an endless stretch of more of the same.”
Karina, who holds a degree from the prestigious Stanford University, also found the rising cost of living in KL did not make for a comfortable retirement despite her generous salary. She decided to make the leap out of the rat race.
Why a guesthouse? Karina said it could provide a decent income and enough flexibility to allow her to pursue her passion for writing. It’s relatively low-risk as the property can be sold if necessary.
And she already had some of the crucial skills needed. She knew how to develop and market a brand, and, just as importantly, she could personally temporarily fill any unexpected vacancy that arose in the B&B. From making beds to gardening, she already knew how to do these jobs.
Then, it was a matter of choosing a location. She picked Langkawi because it was close to nature yet had city comforts, and was already known as a tourist destination. This meant she could focus on marketing her property without having to market the destination as well.
She zoomed in on her target market, and designed her property and its stylish offerings for the discerning middle class city folk. This gave her an edge in an island already packed with accommodation choices that tend to veer towards either budget or luxury with little else in between.
It has worked out impressively well for Karina who feels blessed that she can wake every morning in a resort by the sea that brings a steady income stream.
Being a first-time entrepreneur can be scary though, she said. But fear could be overcome by knowledge. So, the more she knew about Langkawi and its tourism industry and trends, the more confidence she gained.
For those who hope to take a similar leap, Karina said they should first imagine the most unpleasant tasks that they might have to do.
“For me, it was cleaning toilets and being yelled at by an irate customer! If you find all that palatable, then perhaps you are on the right path,” she said.
She said it was also important for a budding entrepreneur to be very honest with themselves about the sacrifices they are willing to make, as this would determine if they can stay the course.
If there’s one lesson here, it’s simply that success does not come overnight. Painstaking preparation is crucial, and, after that, it’s dogged determination on taking step after step.
“The reality is that nothing is a bed of roses, but I can tell you that I have absolutely no regrets. I love my job, and that is something I have not been able to say for many years,” Karina said.
For more information on La Pari-Pari, please visit their website.