Making a return to hospitality
Experience in the hospitality industry opens up new opportunities, as Mike Bain reports for our series, Business Matters.
A Matamata couple is looking to capitalise on the district’s visitor industry by opening a new accommodation business.
Michael and Mia Smith are due to open Walnut Lodge Bed and Breakfast on the outskirts of town.
The finishing touches are being put on the new units so the business can welcome its first guests.
The couple moved to Matamata, leaving a successful career in real estate in Pukekohe.
Michael is hoping to continue though, as an agent with Property Brokers in Matamata.
Building the bed and breakfast business is a return to the Smiths’ roots as both were involved in the corporate hospitality.
Mia Smith has a diploma in hotel management while Michael spent seven years in the hotel culinary industry before taking the role of activities co-ordinator for a hotel chain.
During those ‘‘heady years’’, Mia trained and served as New Zealand’s first female butler in Auckland’s Sheraton Hotel serving VIP guests.
‘‘There were so many famous names at the time staying, a lot of politicians at the APEC conference, music stars like Elton John and business people like Merril Fernando who founded the Dilmah Tea brand.
‘‘They maybe famous outside the hotel but to us they were like any other guest staying in the VIP suites.
‘‘They received the pampering, like the gold embossed stationary, special fruit platters and full attentive service.’’
When Mia was a butler she was ‘‘a young girl’’ among career butlers who had been in service for a long time.
She was offered a scholarship to continue training in the hotel industry.
Now with their three boys, the Smiths purchased the 10ha, Windmill Orchard from Mia’s parents and converted it into a mixed farming model.
Surrounded by a 0.5ha garden, dairy cows and maize crops, they have built two units.
The units feature a two-bed studio and a larger four-bed unit adding to Matamata’s muchneeded visitor accommodation stocks.
Matamata couple Michael and Mia Smith are due to open the Walnut Lodge bed and breakfast units in April.