Sally Fielding started her company from her spare bedroom with £1,000 and a computer.
Now, 16 later, she has 23 staff, two offices and it pulls in £8 million a year.
But in an age of social media influencers, tech start ups and Insta-famous bloggers, it's more traditional values that have seen Sally's Cottages stay ahead of the competition.
Sally, from Keswick, Cumbria, began small – organising the letting of a single cottage in the Lake District.
She made £6,000 in the first year, but things grew quickly.
"At the beginning, I didn't need to buy anything, just do a bit of advertising. I already had a computer and our first website was made by me," Sally told Femail .
"With Eskdale [where her first cottage was] being a small village, it wasn't long before a neighbour asked me to take on her cottage too as she could see that we had a lot of bookings for that first one," Sally said.
"By the end of the year I was looking after three cottages, all in Eskdale. Now there are 500 throughout Cumbria."
She added: "To start with I did everything – answering emails/telephone, cleaning cottages, and marketing the cottages."
Things are a lot bigger now, with more than 100 people cleaning the cottages, freelance photographers and writers, as well as maintenance people on top of the 23 permanent staff.
But the traditional beginnings don't mean she hasn't embraced the way the world works in 2019.
"I'll do Facebook lives, and answer Facebook comments," Sally said.
"Our Facebook page is the best in the travel industry. It has 10 times more comments, likes and shares than Airbnb or Booking.com or Virgin Holidays or any of the other travel companies on a weekly basis."
Why has it worked so well?
"We have fun with it," she said.
"We talk to people on there every day, we post pictures that show the Lake District in all its glory, we encourage a nose around the cottages with pictures and videos.
"I also chat to people live every week, we give suggestions of things to do, we enjoy it. The fact that we care about what we're doing comes through really strongly."
What's Sally's advice to people looking to start out for themselves?
"Start small and grow it gradually," Sally said. "That way any mistakes you make are not the end of the world. "
You should also do as much as possible yourself – costing you nothing – in the evening when you'd normally be watching TV.
Make sure you don't isolate yourself, either. "Talk to people – listen to what they say. Then pick the bits you agree with and use the advice."
Sally also said it was important to get outside. "Take a walk in the fresh air every day – that's when I get my best ideas," she said.
But the most important thing is to actually start.
"My motto is better done than perfect – give it a try and then refine it – at least that way you'll have got going. When you're ready to, hire people that are better than you," she said.
Oh – and keep going.
"When it all goes wrong, take a deep breath, stick your head up and deal with whatever it is – my other motto is 'suck it up buttercup'," Sally said.
And never stop learning, or stop at all.
"Keep thinking 'how can I improve on this'. Keep on going. That's the hardest thing. Day after day – it's awesome."
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