La dolce vita at home in this Dragon's Den
One of the country's most successful businesswomen, Sarah Newman, aims to develop a rental business offering six and seven-star accommodation
SELF-MADE dotcom millionaire Sarah Newman, of RTE's Dragons' Den fame, is planning to breathe fire into her finances by developing a premium holiday home rental business on the back of her success in letting the €11m luxury chalet she owns in the Swiss Alpine ski resort of Zermatt.
One of Ireland's most successful businesswomen and probably the richest 'Dragon' in the Den -- she is thought to have pocketed €40m from the sale of Needahotel.com in 2006 -- she has climbed to the very peak of the holiday accommodation market from the 12-hour days she used to spend offering Ryanair customers discounted hotel rooms from a desk in the corner of their call centre.
Although she has struggled to sell Chalet Grace since putting it on the market at the end of last year, in the meantime she is earning a tidy profit by letting it to wealthy visitors willing to pay about €36,000 for a week's stay.
"I'm considering whether to expand this venture further and build up a brand around it, because I know that while certain visitors to Zermatt come every year, there are others who enjoy visiting a different resort each year.
"I'm very proud of what I've created -- we offer a six or seven-star service and I feel that the same quality and luxury could be replicated elsewhere.
"There may be an opportunity to branch out and either rent properties in other ski resorts and let them out at a profit, or to manage properties on the behalf of owners who want to earn a rental income," she said.
Last winter, her chalet was let for 12 weeks, potentially earning her as much as €430,000 -- out of which staff and other costs had to be taken.
"The coming season begins in the first week of December and I have already let five of about 20 weeks for the season. Realistically, it would be great to have bookings for 16 weeks," she added.
Guests are looked after by a chef, chalet manager and two other dedicated staff in the plush pad which has five large bedrooms -- each with handcrafted beds, iPod docks -- and they can also avail of a sauna, ski and boot room, as well as a well-proportioned cinema with Irish Sky TV and an equally generous-sized games room.
There is also a wellness room, where guests can gaze out through the panoramic window at expansive views of the Matterhorn while they do yoga or Pilates or have a massage or shiatsu.
Outside there is a mountain-top garden, while just minutes away are the world's second-highest slopes served by a ski lift, where both beginners and experts are looked after in equal measure.
Back in Ireland, Ms Newman owns an equally spectacular home on the Mount Juliet sporting estate in Co Kilkenny, which is also available to let to guests for €3,000 a week.
The six-bedroom mansion sleeps up to six children and eight adults and features a huge kitchen/dining room, games room and cinema, while outside there's a deck and terrace with barbecue and sun loungers overlooking the River Nore.
There is also a treehouse in the garden for children to play in, while adults can avail of the golf, gym and swimming facilities at the Mount Juliet hotel, or take part in horse riding, cycling, tennis and fishing on the estate itself.
She is a keen golfer and the Lady Captain at the K Club this year (and also owns a home there) -- so on the rare occasion that she wants some free time to relax away from Dublin, and if there aren't guests staying, then she can do so in absolute luxury in the Alps or beside the River Nore.