We had the good fortune of connecting with Karlee Phippen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Karlee, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I grew up around entrepreneurs, so there was never a question of if it was possible. Both of my parents had their own businesses, my grandpa had his own world-wide businesses, and grandmother had articles written about her success in being a female business owner and entrepreneur- so you can say it runs in the family! Log River Ranch has been a dream of mine for many, many years. In my teen years, I decided I wanted to be an event planner. I started my career in other facets of event planning- large scale events and concerts, corporate events, you name it. I worked under many different wonderful managers and companies, but there was always something in the back of my mind pushing me to do more- I knew I wanted to own my own business, it came naturally with my family history! Then in my late college years and post college, I had fallen in love with the idea to have my own venue. The first picture that came into my head was the ranch. I grew up visiting my grandfather’s property in Chama, NM and absolutely fell in love with it. What a perfect place! Many doors opened, and we were given the opportunity to open Log River Ranch in 2019. This was a very scary time for my family, but we were so excited to move forward and to see where it may take us. On top of the wedding venue, we also own Chama Trails Motel, a quaint 16 room motel in the village of Chama. The motel was built in the 1950’s so it has plenty of character built into it. We recently remodeled, so each room is unique and different with a southwestern vibe. The motel has been a huge learning curve for us as neither my husband or I had experience with the hotel industry. I have enjoyed the adventure of getting to learn the business and hosting travelers from all walks of life and even all over the world. This business gave us the opportunity to move to Chama Full-Time, so it was another easy decision for us. It also offers lodging for our wedding guests.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My career and businesses are hard to label with just one word! I am the owner of multiple businesses in Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado, including Chama Trails Motel, a 16-room motel in town Chama and Log River Ranch, a beautiful 40-acre property where we host weddings and events. In both businesses we pride ourselves on the exceptional experience we offer our clients and their guests, with attention to detail. We are family owned and operated, and you can see that when you book either an event with Log River Ranch, or if you stay at the motel. Opening Log River Ranch was a fairly simple process, as I had been in the event industry for a while. I understood the operations side of the business including what we needed to get started as a venue, but needed guidance with the actual business, behind-the-scenes, work. That is where the family comes in! I come from a long line of entrepreneurs and business owners, so fortunately we had a lot of support on that end. We opened in 2019. Our first year was quite the success! It performed much better than I was anticipating, then 2020 came with COVID. We were forced to shut down for the entire year. This was the biggest challenge I had ever had to deal with, but we made it through, and are excited for this 2021 season to start. The motel was a completely different story. My husband and I had very little experience in the hotel industry, but knew that if we worked hard enough, we could figure it out! We remodeled all the rooms and increased our online presence. These first couple years have been a challenge, but each year we increase our sales and get better! As a business owner, you have to be flexible and prepared to do what is necessary for your business- this has been the biggest lesson I have learned so far in this journey.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love playing tour guide! Our little village of Chama offers many things to do, despite its size. There are a handful of restaurants we would visit- starting off with breakfast, Wilder Bakeshop. Jazzmyn the owner is the sweetest person, but also has the most delicious pastries I have ever had! (and this is no exaggeration). We will follow then by grabbing a coffee at Rio Chama Espresso, located in our downtown area. There are so many other great breakfast spots including Fina’s Diner and the Elk Horn Cafe. For dinner, you can’t miss The Local where we can enjoy a wood-fire pizza and local NM beer. You can’t come to Chama without visiting Downtown! First stop would be to Dancing Wolf Boutique, where you will find Jim ready to greet and chat. He has a sister store across the street called Trophy Elk that has beautiful home goods and gifts. Our next stop would be to Cruces de mi Corazon, where Antoinette will proudly display her turquoise jewelry and goods. We will follow then with visiting Cornerstone where The Staggs have created a wonderful shop with clothing and outdoor gear- we may even get some fudge at this stop. There are a few other shops we can’t miss too. Then comes the fun on Cumbres and La Manga Pass. The town of Chama is located in the South San Juan Mountains, only 8 miles from the Colorado State Border. There are many roads to explore as well as hiking trails, including the famous Continental Divide Trail. We would also explore the Trujillo Meadows Reservoir area with a walk around the reservoir or to a waterfall nearby. Pagosa Springs is a quick 1 hour drive away too, if we needed and wanted a day to the “big city” where we can soak in the Hot Springs. There is so much to do, one week wouldn’t be enough time!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would not have gotten to where I am without a LOT of guidance and support. My husband, Austin, is my #1 Fan, my life and business partner- he is always supportive of my crazy ideas while also keeping my feet on the ground. My family has been the backbone of this business- they are so supportive and offer much needed guidance as we work through the ins and outs of owning our businesses. And finally, I have so many friends who are there to offer support and encouragement in all I am doing as well, to name a few- Molly, Emily, Brittney, April, and Morgan!
Instagram: @logriverranch @chamatrailsinn
Images Provided By: Jaymie Dunlap Photography Shutterfreek