In the parking lot, there was a bounce house, and, under a tent, a tray full of freshly baked brownies.
Like any grand opening celebration, there were tours provided of the property, an opportunity to meet the staff, and a chance to relax and mingle with other guests while enjoying a brownie, champagne or soft drink.
And if the success of a business can be measured in the size of the new building they occupy, An Flamand was able to use Saturday’s open house to show that her chosen field – the vacation home industry – has done quite well in Northeast Polk County.
“It’s much bigger than my old office,” Flamand said. “It’s definitely a big difference.”
For the past decade, Flamand has run USA Vacation Homes & Spa, which manages a series of short term rental vacation houses in Polk and Osceola counties. For years she operated out of a smaller building in the Polo Park development, right on the line between Polk and Lake counties on U.S. 27.
But as business got stronger and her vacation homes experienced solid bookings, she needed bigger space, and found it a short distance down the road, in a small business plaza that she now shares with a health care office.
Her own office provides a big increase in available space from the one at Polo Park.
“It’s more than doubled the space,” said her husband, Danny Flamand, as they made the last minute preparations for the open house. “We pulled out everything, including the carpeting, and did the whole thing over.”
An Flamand said the building used to be managed by another vacation home company, but one that went out of business. She said that while the vacation home industry has gotten stronger as Central Florida’s tourism industry has experienced a healthy rebound, not all vacation home businesses do well, including some large ones.
“A lot of the reasons why they go out of business have to do with bad management,” she said.
Vacation homes are fully furnished houses that are rented to tourists, not long term tenants. They’re offered to families vacationing in the area that want more space than what a hotel room provides, including multiple bedrooms, a kitchen, and a private pool.
This has been a fast-growing segment of the local tourism economy, particularly in Northeast Polk County and Southwest Osceola County, along U.S. 27 and U.S. 192. Both regions offer easy access to the major theme parks.
An Flamand said the new office gives her more options. She now has a marketing room where her staff can hold regular meetings to talk about how business is going, and how to improve it.
“I wanted to have a room where we can brainstorm,” she said.
There’s a guest room that customers can relax in, and even a room for Flamand Productions, the film making business started by her son, Nick, a junior at Dr. Phillips High School, who is studying film and television production there.
“Definitely, I’m really happy to be here,” An Flamand said.
An Flamand said one of the reasons why the vacation home industry appeals to entrepreneurs is that it provides promising opportunities for small business growth. Flamand is the president of the Central Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association, the trade group that represents vacation home managers across the region. The association assists not only managers of vacation homes, she said, but anyone who provides services to them – from house cleaning companies, to pool cleaners, to those who market furniture, carpeting or air conditioning repair work to vacation homes.
The industry has even provided an opportunity to Linda Page, a personal chef who prepares meals for vacation home guests who don’t want to have to worry about do the cooking after a long day at the theme parks, but would rather eat in their rented house than at a restaurant.
“I come in and make dinner for them,” Page said. “I do special events. If it’s a small group, I can come in and make dinner or breakfast for them. I love it. I get to entertain and meet lots of people.”
She also found a niche, she said, through vacation homes, which is why her web site is called www.orlandovacationchef.com.
“I’m actually hired by the guests,” she said. “More and more people have independently found my Web site. I have a group of 21 golfers who come back here, every year, that I cook for.”
And it helps her business, she said, to have an industry like the vacation home field, which is ready to work with her and provide opportunities to find new customers. That’s why Page attended the USA Vacation Homes open house, and brought along plenty of her freshly baked brownies for the guests.
“An just really believes in my program,” Page said.
To learn more about USA Vacation Homes & Spa, call 863-424-3835, or log on to www.USA-vacation-Homes.com.
To learn more about Page’s personal chef service, call 407-353-3351 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.