Q&A with Jenifer Neptune, Boutique Hotel Professionals

Plymouth, MI-based Boutique Hotel Professionals (BHP) is a hospitality management company specializing in boutique, independent and soft-branded hotels. Hotel Business caught up with cofounder/chief visionary officer Jenifer Neptune, to learn more about the company.

Jenifer Neptune
Jenifer Neptune

Can you give us a brief history of your company?
CEO Paul Wegert and I founded BHP in response to the growing demand for boutique and independent hotels. We love to be blown away by unique travel experiences and knew with our team, we could create a company that could take service levels and boutique properties to new heights. Paul’s lifelong involvement in building and managing all facets of independent hotels, coupled with my background in hospitality marketing and sales, offered the perfect launching pad.

For us, it is all about our team. We seek out the best. Each BHP team member is passionate about providing unparalleled guest service. For example, Eric Djordjevic, our VP, operations and F&B, has dedicated his entire career to building some of the most amazing food and beverage operations around the country. He is now bringing that level to our properties. But, really, every BHP team member’s story is like that, and the majority have been with us for 10 to 15 years.

Why did your company decide to focus on boutique hotels vs. branded properties?
We believe that hospitality is an art form, and there is no template for making a masterpiece. Our BHP team loves to create masterpieces, and independent boutique hotels provide that perfect canvas. Curating unique, one-of-a-kind, authentic experiences that cannot be replicated is what boutique hotels are all about.

How many properties does your company have in its portfolio? What can you tell us about them?
We have five properties in our portfolio, which run the gamut as far as boutique hotels go—from metropolitan, all-encompassing resorts to college town, one-of-a-kind stays to remote destinations. What they all have in common is that extraordinary, curated experience that guests reminisce about well after their stay.

For example, we have Saint John’s Resort in metro Detroit with multiple restaurant outlets; an on-site chapel; more than 100,000 sq. ft. of meeting space hosting more than 250 luxury weddings each year and approximately 500 corporate events; and a championship 18-hole golf course.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have multiple properties that we are consulting on through the development phase. For example, a new luxury boutique hotel for Hillsdale College, which was founded in 1844 in Hillsdale, MI. The architecture of the full-service hotel will perfectly complement the beautiful historical campus, making it look as if it was always there.

We are also working on Miller’s Landing, a 315-room hotel with 40,000 sq. ft. of meeting space that will be located in Castle Rock, CO. The 65-acre development incorporates smart technologies powered by Intel to create a groundbreaking SmartTown. This, too, is a quintessential boutique hotel with its distinctive characteristics.

Is there anything in the pipeline?
There’s so much in the pipeline. One of the exciting projects we are working on is a $50-million renovation at Saint John’s Resort, taking the iconic landmark property that sits on 200 acres from an already luxurious property to a five-star level resort. Part of this project includes creating one of Michigan’s (and the Midwest’s) most amazing event spaces featuring NanaWalls that expand the 17,000 sq. ft. of indoor space to an additional 19,000 sq. ft. of outdoor area. This expansion also adds a new 5,000-sq.-ft., four-season garden pavilion that just opened. This glass-enclosed venue offers another beautiful option for wedding ceremonies and corporate events looking to bring in natural light.

What have been the biggest challenges in operating your hotels over the last couple of years?
Obviously weathering the COVID pandemic, followed by staffing challenges that plague the hospitality sector. We are surpassing 2019 revenues and have strong employee retention rates relative to the industry, but because we are building new hotels and growing existing properties, the staffing shortages will continue to be a challenge. To address this, we have increased compensation and benefits (adding more holidays, increasing 401(k) matching and covering costs for things such as child care and wellness programs).

Is there a growth plan for the company?
Absolutely, we are interested in growing our management contracts in the luxury boutique sector and continuing to forge relationships with new investors and REITs that share our vision and passion.

Where do you see the company in five years? 10 years?
Our plan is not to outgrow our namesake. We want to remain true to our vision, which means to us keeping close, personal relationships with ownership groups and investors. We manage our client properties as if they were our own, and we want an owner to be able to call us at any time and actually talk to us, the founders, and our executive team. Another priority goal for us is to be the employer of choice in the hospitality arena.