When Dora Finlay was living in Nunavut in 2001, she started to think about coming back to St. John's. Her plan involved buying 2-unit houses to generate an income. A few years later when she was back in St. John's working, a 7-unit building in downtown St. John's came up for sale and she bought it.
Dora admits there may not be an obvious link between her academic background and the rental and business accommodation market in which she is now a serious player, but there's a definite connection. She holds diplomas in petroleum engineering technology and in information technology, but she says her previous experience helped get her where she is today. Her work in oil and gas has given her valuable information about what travellers want in the way of accommodations.
Expanding her business from apartment rentals into the tourism industry came about when Leaside Manor, which she describes as a “gem of a property”, hit the market. Leaside Manor was built in 1921 and is tucked away in the Waterford Valley area in St. John's. The sprawling estate had been operating as a B&B and was meticulously maintained when Dora viewed it.
“My husband and I had stayed there and we knew that we wanted to dive into that business. The property was perfect and we started putting the deal in place.” She purchased Leaside Manor in 2011 and was relieved that all the operational systems and processes were in place.
She couldn't pass up the opportunity when a few months later, Compton House, a neighbouring property, came up for sale.
With 53 rooms and 22 executive apartments, including a 22-room inn with restaurant and bar in Arnold's Cove, Dora's customer base is diverse. For the B&Bs, tourists flow through from May to October. In winter, they are kept busy with locals seeking a winter getaway. Corporate clients come from across the province, Canada and abroad.
The flexibility that comes from running her own business means that she can attend daytime events at her children's schools. Goal setting is what keeps her on track. “I’m a big believer in focusing on short and long-term goals,” she said.
In November 2014, she purchased the Monastery Spa and Suites, which puts her at the helm of a business with a combined total of 100 employees. She wants to bring the “Leaside touch” to the Monastery and, while she wants the efficiencies of bringing the two staff groups together, she plans to market it as an accommodations business with multiple properties, as well as a spa.
Of everything she has accomplished in such a short time, she's most proud of the opportunities she has created for her staff.
Leaside Group properties are strategically architected to cater to the business traveler and provide elaborate meeting and event solutions. They are exquisite spaces borne out of that perfect combination of old world quality, excellence, and charm mixed with the convenient luxuries of contemporary urban living and décor.
This success story is provided by the Newfoundland & Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs (NLOWE) – helping women in business start, grow and advance.