Building a brand as sacred as the surrounding land
In 2004, Scott Kutler and husband Steve Pratt bought a piece of land in the desert so harsh most people would find it too baron to visit for a day, let alone build a boutique B&B. With the dream of creating something antithetic in the landscape and a new place to call home, the loved up couple embarked on the journey of a lifetime.
Sacred Sands in Joshua Tree National Park, California far exceeded anyone's expectations when it opened doors ten years ago. More than a unique place to stay, the owners have somehow created something sacred and inherent to the land.
Scott and Steve kindly invited us to stay for a truly remarkable weekend and a chance to find out more about our fascinating and welcoming hosts.
"We knew the National Park would be really big for us. But we didn't realise how big it would be. There was this one day many years ago we talked about a secret passion to be an innkeeper. What would it be like to move to the desert and escape life as we knew it? We were surprised to find we both shared the same dream. We were a young couple at the time and had no fear, so we didn't discuss it much more than that. A few years later we just did it. And it all happened very quickly from there.
"The reason we built Sacred Sands was to create a space people could have their own desert experience in a very personal and positive way. This extended into the way we designed the property. By approaching the architecture as an extension of the earth below us, we were able to create something that feels as sacred as the land it's built on.
"We also recognised there was a need for better lodging in the area, so we aimed to do something no one else around us had been doing. By providing a superior level of quality, we knew we were going to produce something special. In doing so, we also created a new lifestyle for ourselves. Strangely enough, we didn't really know what that would look like at the beginning. We are both passionate about design and architecture so felt inspired and confident we could pull it off."
"One of the things we wanted to create through design was a casual, but luxurious space in the desert. Working closely with our architect we discovered how intrinsic rust elements are to the desert and part of what people experience when they visit this area. We spent years finding and collecting dilapidated mining structures which became the main construction material and focus of the design. We also found some beautiful old mining equipment which we collected and used to build organic sculptures of art around the property. They have become a nice whimsical surprise as our guests discover them.
"We have recently commenced a major rebrand as part of a 10 year plan. Our new website is ultimately the face of who we are and the core of our marketing activity. Up until now we have not been overly active on social media, so it's important to us to implement a social strategy and 'up our game' on Facebook and Instagram. Despite the fact that people have been telling us for years that's the way to go. We've had a small number of rooms to fill so there hasn't been as much of a need."
"We see a huge opportunity with destination weddings. There's a huge interest in weddings at Sacred Sands. Most of our Facebook posts right now are wedding based. As part of our new marketing plan, we have allocated a large portion of the budget into targeted Google and Facebook ads to market our wedding business to a segmented demographic.
"Everywhere you look there's an incredible photo opportunity. As the years have gone by we have recognized how important photography on social media has been for us.
"We've had great success in capitalising on the wedding photographers who have shot weddings here. They have been a great free marketing channel for us. We are able to reach a much wider audience through their socials. In fact, this alone has been most of the social media we need – which has been quite wonderful.
"We haven't necessarily over-worried about promoting our business because in many ways we felt like we were we were doing pretty darn well. However, it's been important to remain on top of trends. But most importantly we have been true to ourselves. That's been our biggest success.
We get a lot of inspiration from business and industry related books. One of the takeaways from reading them and the key to success for a hotel business, is to have a unique draw-card. Unless you're famous, you need something incredible to attract your guests."
"After ten years of lodging we've learned what we like and what we don't. Our business model has been to treat our guests as though they have been invited into our home. We particular love watching people when they come for breakfast on their first morning. We actually see a beautiful transformation over their stay. At first, our guests are still adjusting to being in a dramatically different place and unfamiliar setting. We always smile to ourselves as it only takes one-more-night before we hear them say 'they should've stayed three or four nights or a week or more'.
"We had our hands full building Sacred Sands, but it truly blossomed out of our love for each other. We now feel like we could do anything."
Check out the Sacred Sands website to book your sacred desert experience. If you mention No Vacancy they'll even offer you a 10% discount when you book directly.