Inés Miró-Sans is the co-founder of Casa Bonay — a hip and trendy boutique hotel in Barcelona. The hotel is a collaboration between designers, artists, chefs, coffee roasters, architects, and more. The idea for Casa Bonay came to Inés at the early age of 12 when she was lucky enough to travel around with her grandma. Casa Bonay is one of the few boutique hotels changing the hospitality scene in Barcelona, creating unforgettable experiences and warming the hearts of guests. Here, Inés explains how the idea came to life, the struggles along the way and how her paid employment set her up for success.
Before Casa Bonay began
It all Started 10 years ago, Casa Bonay was my MBA project but it materialised just 3 years ago in 2016. It was 2003 when I started with the business plan, the project and the concept. We started looking for people who already owned buildings and needed someone to rent it so they could make a profit, the other route was to look for investors. When I started this 10 years ago I didn’t have a lot of success so I started to work for other companies instead.
The inspiration behind starting the hotel
The inspiration to start Casa Bonay came when I was 12, I was lucky to get the chance to travel with my grandma who loved travel. When we would check into the hotels I would feel so special, I used to think “I’d love to create these experiences for people when I am older to make people feel good”. Regardless of how a hotel is designed with 10 rooms or less you want to have the best breakfast and experience. Even something as small as the housekeeping and the staff in the corridors who would just stop and smile made me feel welcome into the new place.
I studied Business Administration, I didn’t like it but I knew it would be something important to have as opposed to studying Tourism if I wanted to start a hotel. When I graduated I was inundated with job offers from consultancy and marketing firms. I rejected all of them and decided to work for a hotel and do an internship, I started with making beds and all the small things. My parents asked me why I would want to do this kind of job instead of a consultancy role and I responded with “I just want to make people happy”. I had a very clear idea in my mind on what I wanted to do, consultancy really was not for me. I was lucky that this came to me so early and natural, my other siblings at the time did not have a clear idea of what they wanted to do. I also wanted to study architecture and design which I couldn’t, it’s an important course to study as the hotel industry focuses on these elements.
At 20 years old I started my career in the industry, it has been 14 years so far. I started with Hotel OMM, during this time there were a lot of big hotel groups with no social component but the first hotel to do this was Hotel OMM which has now been sold to another company. They were the first to drive social life into the lobby spaces and for me, it had a big impact, it’s obvious you need to do these things now but it wasn’t obvious back then.
After Hotel OMM, I worked for a group of hotels, it was a great opportunity to also see what I should never do. At some point, I decided that in Spain there wasn’t a hotel company that was aspirational for me or one I would like to recreate. I then I found Ace Hotel in New York, It was a good moment for me, they had hotels Palms Springs, Seattle and Portland. They were small but it was an interesting time to work in the company. In my experience it was amazing because you could see all the levels of the company and observe how a small company becomes a big company, watching the business scale was interesting.
I was the Brand Strategist which was a great role as I was able to see how the creative side translated to the business side, seeing how different sides of the business interact with one other taught me a lot. They have grown phenomenally and have still kept that sense of family and community which is something they know how to do well.
Building Casa Bonay
Around 2012, there were people in Barcelona that wanted to be apart of the hotel wave, people started to understand the importance of the social aspect of hotels and also that it wasn’t enough to just do rooms without investing heavily in the design aspect and creating an experience. During this time, my co-founder and I, who has been in the industry for 40 years and takes care of new business and financials, were contacted that we could start Casa Bonay in a building. However, the law changed in 2012-13 and people were not allowed to start hotels, we, unfortunately, had to stop the project. Two years later we finally found our current location which is owned by a family that we pay rent to, we also received some private investment to support us.
We had to pitch to many people, at the beginning it was very difficult because people felt I did not have enough experience. My co-founder played an important role because he had several years of experience and without him, I won’t be sitting here narrating this story. Things are changing right now and there is an empowerment for young founders, I guess this is thanks to the rise and growth of the start-up ecosystem.
In the beginning, it was a struggle for people to accept my age, when I would show up in meetings they would be surprised to see me as they expected someone older. I do not think years of experience is necessary to make a statement that you can do something, what matters is the spirit, the passion and consistency of the individual. Typically, people feel if you have not been in the industry for about 30-40 years then there is nothing to say but the new generation has much to say about this industry and this should be considered in the future. Regarding females in the industry, there was a meeting for people who run hotels in the city and there were only two women out of twenty-five at the table. The men present were corporate businessmen running over 80 hotels under them, these were people interested in business and not so much hospitality. This industry is dominated by men but I am hoping there will be some change, soon.I do not think years of experience is necessary to make a statement that you can do something, what matters is the spirit, the passion and consistency of the individual. Click To Tweet
On Future Plans
In the future we have some plans for a new location, it’s a small project in the countryside by Barcelona which will open next year. Our plan is to grow another chain but a small group of houses in the urban area but with a connection to the countryside. We are also looking at other cities like Lisbon, Porto, etc we are not looking to expand to London but more small territories.