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Darla Moore School of Business

Master of Accountancy alumna and her husband realize dream of opening Caribbean bed and breakfast

Oct. 27, 2020

Moore School alumna Julie Hayne (’96 MACC) has applied the skills and knowledge that she gained from the Master of Accountancy program to the hospitality industry with the opening of her own bed and breakfast in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.

After her undergraduate career, Hayne decided that she wanted to stay ahead of the curve and further her education in accounting by getting her master’s degree. She said she researched many different programs across the country, and the Moore School stood out to her from the rest.

“When determining where to pursue my master’s, I contemplated relocating to New York to be closer to America's financial hub,” Hayne said. “However, in researching the ‘best of the best’ the UofSC [Moore School] immediately rose to the top. Having grown up in Columbia, [South Carolina], the fit was natural, and the decision to attend the Moore School was obvious.”

At the Moore School, Hayne was able to hone in on her accounting, auditing and data analytics skills. She utilized these skills after graduation when she earned a much sought-after position as an auditor for Pricewaterhouse Coopers. After a few years in this role, Hayne decided to move into the private industry and later the health care space.

“In 2001, I shifted into health care when I was hired to be the head of finance for Palmetto Health Richland, reporting to the [chief financial officer] of the Palmetto Health Alliance,” she said. “By 2007, my span of responsibility had increased significantly, and I was aggressively pursued by the private insurance industry, eventually accepting a position as a senior finance director for Aetna, a Fortune 50 company at the time. I shifted among various organizational priorities, until in 2014 I became the senior vice president of risk management for Meritain, a wholly owned subsidiary of Aetna.”

Hayne said she found true joy in using her accounting skills to help people find access to the care they needed. However, she said that she frequently battled work-life balance, which impacted her family and her personally.

“In 2017, I realized that my personal goals were no longer aligning with my corporate goals, and out of respect for the amazing places and people around me, and because of my love for myself and my family, I chose to step out of my career path and step across Europe,” she said.

Hayne took a sabbatical from Aetna and sold her home and most possessions to walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route with her husband, Adams. The walk began in St Jean Pied-de-Port, France, and continued on to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and ultimately ended at Fisterra, Spain.

“Altogether we logged over 600 miles walking, truly slowing down to appreciate being present in the moment, sharing joy, experiencing the world around us and engaging meaningfully, even soulfully, with other pilgrims who crossed our path,” she said. “At the end of the walk, I knew that our decade-long dream to open a bed & breakfast ‘somewhere’ was going to happen sooner rather than later.”

After the Camino, Hayne and her husband rested in Portugal for a few weeks and then flew over to the U.S. Virgin Islands to start the process of finding a property for their bed and breakfast. They first stopped in St. John and then later went to St. Thomas. Hayne said that both islands didn’t feel right to her, so she and her husband decided to take a hopper flight to St. Croix for one night.

“It literally took 24 hours to know that St Croix would be our new home,” she said. “Interestingly, it reminded me of South Carolina, where from Columbia you can drive two hours to the beach or two hours to the mountains. The topography of the island of St Croix, while obviously smaller, is very similar...with mountains and a rain forest on the west end, drier ‘desert-like’ conditions on the east end and gorgeous beaches everywhere.”

Hayne and her husband quickly rented a place and started transitioning to working remotely and looking for property. Her husband relocated as a professional chef to St. Croix, and Hayne became an outside contractor for stateside work.  

The couple found a property and began drafting their business plans. Hayne said that her Moore School Master of Accountancy skills have been useful in helping her write a business plan, build financial projections and budgets, establish financing mechanisms and build the financial foundation for the company.

In 2019, they started the private chef services, and in January 2020, Coral’s Edge Bed & Breakfast officially opened for business. Each seaside room offers views of the Caribbean Sea with stunning sunrises and sunsets, and many different gourmet dining options available for guests.

Despite having to close their business multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the bed and breakfast has achieved five-star reviews and have guests who have already returned, with more planning to return in the coming months. 

“While we had to unexpectedly tap into savings to stay afloat [during the pandemic], we have managed to stay open, cover our fixed costs and are looking forward to continuing our current trajectory of sharing joy and obtaining a positive bottom line within the next 12 months,” she said.

- Claire McGrath


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