Gathering Business Data at the Breakfast Table

April 9th, 2009  |  by  |  Published in Cover Story, Features

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of articles called Working Conditions, about the unusual work environments in which some University of Hawaiʻi faculty conduct their research.

Steven and Ruth Dawson

Steven and Ruth Dawson

If conducting research while lingering at the breakfast table in a country bed-and-breakfast sounds like an easy life, remember that Steven Dawson was on vacation.

Dawson, a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa professor of finance, and his wife, UH Mānoa Professor of Women’s Studies Ruth Dawson, booked several days at Kellah Farm B&B in England in 2007.

They were intent on exploring remnants of Hadrian’s Wall, a 2nd-century Roman structure that once stretched 73 miles across northern England.

“One of the nice parts of staying in a B&B is you get to meet other guests and the owner,” recalls Dawson.

Kellah Farm owners Tom and Lesley Teasdale operate the B&B on their sheep farm near Halt Whistle in Northumbria. They maintain a flock of 300 Blackfaced Ewes crossed with Bluefaced Leicesters Tups. The offspring are sold at Hexham Market.

Faced with increasingly problematic economic times, the couple developed the B&B to supplement the farm income.

sheep at Kellah Farm

“Kellah Farm had been in the family since 1849 and the Teasdales didn’t want to be the generation that lost it,” Dawson says.

“In talking with Leslie Teasdale I gradually realized I was sitting in a really good case situation,” he adds. Not only did it fit the Shidler College of Business’ international focus, but it provided perspective for discussions related to ongoing controversy about B&B units in Hawaiʻi.

Cases are descriptions of real situations faced by a decision maker. Many business schools use them to provide students with a sense of the complexity that exists in the business world.

In the case Dawson wrote, students must analyze Kellah Farm’s situation and decide whether to expand from the present three self-catering units to an additional five B&B units.

“I liked the idea that the B&B supported the farm life and sustained the existing farm community. Neighbors helped neighbors, and the local government provided a free non-repayable development grant to cover half the building costs,” he says.

The Teasdales practice sustainable tourism—using the B&B to augment farm income while providing guests with the opportunity to experience farm life.

“Tourism supports the farm, provides the incentive to maintain the farm, and nurtures the culture and traditions of the hill farm community,” he adds.

Dawson has used the case as a term paper for students in his finance class. He’s also presented it at a case research conference in New Hampshire and is working to get it published.

“I really like this aspect of case research,” he says. “What I learn can be taken into the class and used to help my students learn business concepts. Just like the symbiotic relationship of the B&B to the farm, this type of research supports my students and my teaching.”

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