This summer I had the pleasure of meeting Pia Tokiyamo, the owner and operator of La Betulia Bed and Breakfast in Oaxaca, Mexico. La Betulia is walking distance from Oaxaca’s Centro Histórico and features eight guest rooms and one two-bedroom serviced apartment. I stayed here with a group of food bloggers, chefs, and food aficionados during a week-long retreat with Eat.Drink.Cook.Mexico and am so happy to have discovered this little gem.
Guests at La Betulia convene daily for a delightful outdoor breakfast that features a yogurt bar with homemade yogurt, granola, jams, seasonal fruit, pan dulce, and fresh juices. Breakfast specialties include huevos rancheros, enfrijoladas, huevos en salsa, quesadillas, tamales, and other Mexican favorites.
La Betulia reminded me of Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul – not only because it’s blue, but because of its vibrant décor and homey feel.
As impressed as I was with the accommodations during my stay at La Betulia, I was even more impressed by its young owner, Pia, who formerly worked in investment banking before constructing and managing one of Oaxaca’s hottest new B&Bs.
La Betulia’s lovely outdoor kitchen space.
I can never get enough of these vibrant colors.
In three short years, Pia and her husband have built a successful operation that draws tourists from all over the world. They’ve also managed to keep the business afloat despite the negative — often exaggerated — international media coverage regarding Oaxaca by offering affordable accommodations, excellent service, and leveraging social media to reach customers.
As if that weren’t enough, they founded Fundación En Vía, an organization that combines education, micro-finance, and responsible tourism to help combat poverty in Oaxaca. I was so impressed by the group tour that I recently partnered with Fundación En Vía and donate a portion of my cooking class, workshop, and product proceeds to support the creation and growth of income-generating businesses among Oaxaca’s female entrepreneurs.
ABOUT THE BUSINESS: LA BETULIA BED AND BREAKFAST
What was the initial inspiration for you to open La Betulia Bed and Breakfast?
A couple of years ago, when my hubby and I were still dating, we used to enjoy taking a weekend “off” by going on a staycation and exploring the city where I lived.
One of those weekends, we found ourselves in a wonderful bed and breakfast in the heart of Mexico City, and we fell in love with it so much that after that weekend we stayed at B&Bs on all of our subsequent trips. Eventually we decided to open our own in Oaxaca, where my husband is from.
What factors do you believe have helped contribute to your success as a business owner?
For sure my team! Building the right team and hiring the right people is key to managing a successful business. The women who work at La Betulia are great employees and kind women – they keep the day-to-day operations running smoothly and make our guests feel welcome.
I also believe that knowing how to reach customers and promote our business online (through our website, social media, etc.) has been key in helping us grow in the short amount of time we opened our doors for business. A lot of B&Bs struggle when tourism is low in Oaxaca, but we always have a steady flow of guests.
What sets La Betulia apart from other bed and breakfasts in the area?
Many of our guests have told us that they love to come “home” to La Betulia. Our location is central, but secluded so guests feel like they can get away from the hustle and bustle of the Centro Histórico, but they can still walk to the most popular sites in town. Location has been key and making guests feel welcome, as if they were coming back to their own home.
What is one of your proudest accomplishments as a business owner?
There are many moments when you start your own business that make you feel proud, but for me it’s always the best when a guest leaves happy, grateful, and sometimes even becomes a friend!
What challenges are you currently facing as a business owner in Oaxaca?
Oaxaca gets a lot of negative media coverage because of the events related to the teacher protests. Summer is supposed to be one of our busiest seasons – we have nice weather (a lot of sunshine and some occasional rain), our annual cultural festival La Guelaguetza, and many other events that take place in the summer. Sadly, this year many tourists were hesitant or even afraid to visit our beautiful Oaxaca even though it’s one of the safest places to visit!
Huevos rancheros, al estilo Oaxaca.
Homemade yogurt and granola with fresh fruit.
ABOUT PIA: THE WOMAN BEHIND LA BETULIA BED & BREAKFAST, OAXACA
Walk us through a typical day in your shoes.
Every morning, I start my day early, around 6:30 a.m. My husband and I take our dogs for a walk and then head back home to get ready and start our day around 8 a.m. at La Betulia, where we have breakfast and meet with guests.
Later in the afternoon I usually make a quick stop to supervise the last details of Central Xochimilco, which is our new project that’s currently under construction.
Then in the evening, I religiously take a yoga class, stop by La Betulia, and usually grab dinner and drinks with the hubby and some friends. And I always end my days the way they begin: walking my dogs! I love them, and little by little, I think they’re making their way into my husband’s heart, too.
Besides working for yourself, what do you enjoy about being your own boss?
I truly enjoy the flexibility, although there’s a great amount of responsibility that comes with being your own boss. Being an entrepreneur oftentimes represents more sacrifice than freedom.
Please share three goals you would like to accomplish in 2016.
- Create the best Día de los Muertos travel experience for visitors.
- Finish remodeling Central Xochimilco.
- Learn something new — gain a new set of skills that I can apply toward growing my business or help develop my family and team.
What’s one of your favorite Mexican dishes?
Chile de agua relleno de picadillo.
What’s one of your favorite places to grab a cocktail in Oaxaca?
Zandunga’s Mango Huini is one of my favorite cocktails in the city, followed by all the Mezcalinis from Casa Oaxaca.
How do you stay connected to your Japanese roots living in Oaxaca?
I have a couple of Japanese friends in town. We meet up for cooking dates where we rotate and make Mexican food one time, and Japanese the next.
When you’re not managing La Betulia, what do you like to do for fun?
I love to eat, travel, volunteer and practice yoga. I would say I travel with my stomach, if that makes any sense. Like Nora Ephron said, “I don’t think any day is worth living without thinking about what you’re going to eat next at all times.”
Entrance into the beautiful courtyard at La Betulia.
The décor at La Betulia combines Mexico’s vibrant colors with a clean, contemporary twist.
Loved all of the little details.
La Betulia Bed and Breakfast
Manuel Cabrera Carrasquedo 102 | Colonia Jimenez Figueroa
Oaxaca 68070, Mexico
Fundación En Vía
Avenida Juarez 909
Oaxaca de Juárez
Oaxaca 68000, Mexico
For more information on Oaxaca, read Lola’s Guide to Oaxaca.
Lola Wiarco Dweck
Lola is a Mexican-American recipe developer, writer, and cooking instructor who loves sharing her culture with the world. Growing up in California and spending summers in Mexico, Lola celebrates her family’s Mexican recipes and vibrant culture through Lola’s Cocina.