Business Economics-International Studies major Danielle Bourassa Collins caters to Canadian tourists
Every spring, Danielle Bourassa Collins, who majored in business economics and international studies at UMF, prepares to wake what she calls "the beast." "It's almost a living thing, something that hibernates in winter," she says of the KebeK 3 Motel in Old Orchard Beach. "Once it opens for the season, you have to be available all the time."
Collins, manager and part owner of the KebeK 3, says the economics of the tourism-based hospitality business can be summed up this way: For every action there is often an opposite and equal reaction. During a recent summer, for instance, high gasoline prices deterred guests from New England, but a favorable Canadian exchange rate caused French-speaking guests from Quebec-accounting for more than 80 percent of business at the KebeK 3-to return in droves.
"If the economy isn't going well, we offer an affordable vacation. We're kind of middle-of-the-road in cost, and with each unit's kitchenette, people don't have to eat out three meals a day," she says. "Well-to-do Canadian families feeling the pinch might decide to stay with us for a week rather than rent a house on Cape Cod or fly to Europe."
Collins, who was valedictorian of her high school class and raised in a bilingual home as her mother is a native of Quebec, is well suited to serve her clientele. "When they check in, some say, usually in French, 'I wanted to show my kids where my parents brought me as a kid,'" she says. "We always answer the phone in French. If people have car trouble, medical emergencies or if they need a restaurant recommendation, they'll say, 'It feels so good to hear French.'"
Collins, who shares ownership of the Kebek 3 with her mother and father (himself a UMF graduate), came to UMF undeclared and not sure of what her major would be, but certain that she didn't want to join the family business. She says her studies in business economics and work with UMF's chapter of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), consulting with small businesses and nonprofit organizations, provided her with what she calls the "Aha moment" in her career planning.
"Through SIFE I came to see how business development can impact an entire community, and I began to reexamine my family's own small business and the incredible opportunity that was right in front of me," says Collins, who served as vice president of SIFE at UMF and went on to earn a master's degree in hospitality administration. "UMF led me to the family business, and the business led me to the master's degree."