If customers of Dream Hostel and the connecting Dream Hotel wish to speak with the manager of the accommodation business, they do not need to knock on a door with his nameplate. Most mornings, entrepreneur Ville Virkki is the one who greets people from behind the reception desk.
Ville Virkki wants to receive his guests so that the situation is pleasant and effortless for the customer. He greets familiar faces by saying ‘moro’ and hands over the keys; newcomers get a tour of the facilities and an introduction to the ways of the house and Tampere.
– I wish to convey a feeling that the customer can come to me at any time for help in any matter, says Virkki.
According to his own words, Virkki has a mobile personality, and he worked in several different fields before establishing Dream Hostel. His colourful career past ranges from a dance instructor to a factory worker and from a forklift operator to a hamburger cook. The gained experience has been a great help at the desk of the hostel, since, according to Virkki, customer service is all about reading situations and serving different kinds of people.
– From having met many kinds of people in those previous jobs, it is now easier to find something to talk about with customers and I am better in tune with peoples’ needs. For example, if a dead tired man comes here straight from a concrete pouring job, I know that he needs a bed for sleeping above all else, says Virkki.
Dream Hostel is a design hostel in the centre of Tampere that has attracted international attention and awards. Customers come from all over the world, so the atmosphere is international with a relaxed and professional vibe just the way Virkki likes it. In August, a hotel was opened upstairs from the hostel. According to Virkki, the hotel is fresh, different, and above all else true to its creators.
When Virkki opened the hostel in April 2010, he had prepared for the job for years. Interested in people, stories, and cultures, Virkki thought when he was younger that anthropology could be a suitable subject for him at a university. Since he failed to meet the application deadline, his mother pushed him to apply for HAMK’s International Business programme in his hometown of Valkeakoski.
– As a joke, I applied and got in, and that enabled me to obtain an education in an international environment, travelling and visiting hostels abroad.
Based on his business education and own hostel experiences, Virkki started to form strong visions of how the whole hostel thing could be improved upon with the customer in mind. Finally, the thoughts of a group comprising Virkki, his wife, and four other people created the Dream Hostel concept.
– I have a folder of notes, layout plans, and calculations saved back there that shows how long I have been working on this concept, continues Virkki.
At times, the plans were set aside due to other work engagements. The right moment to establish Dream Hostel came when his wife Eveliina got pregnant with their firstborn.
– We faced the fact that there would be no trips around the world for us for some time, and this way the world can come to us, laughs Virkki.
Virkki is one of those entrepreneurs who try to separate work and leisure from each other. To make it happen, good delegation skills are needed. With Dream Hostel, Virkki wants to keep things out in the open and not just between his ears.
– Our staff has free rein to make their own decisions. It is also a part of good customer service: immediate responses are given to questions without keeping customers waiting for confirmation from some upper level, says Virkki.
With regard to his time off, Virkki says that he tries not to plan too many things. The family now includes three children, so it is not wise to accumulate hobby-related responsibilities and projects outside of work.
– I spend a lot of time with my family, and we do some travelling as well. Our family is heading to Spain at the time of the Basketball World Cup, says Virkki.
Virkki has discovered that he is by his nature a developer, that is, a person whose brain starts to tick easily on how something could be improved. The opening of Dream Hotel is an achievement as such, but there is always something new to develop in the accommodation business.
– The Tampere concept is not quite complete. Our next step is to serve breakfast for the hotel guests, Virkki reveals.
Virkki is also actively involved in the development of tourism in Tampere. In his eyes, the region shows a lot of touristic promise, but more work is needed to make the region really standout.
– A relaxed atmosphere and city culture stemming from the inhabitants could be ‘the thing’. If the growth of these kinds of operations were enabled, Tampere could become a sort of Little Berlin, says Virkki.
In addition to plans and ideas, he still has dreams. This accommodation entrepreneur dreams about opening an inn in a country with nice, warm weather at a certain time of the year.
– Then, I could spend six months working there and the other six here, says Virkki.
And will we be seeing Ville Virkki at the desk of Dream Hostel still years from now? Are there things to do for the rest of his life?
– Yes – and no. My mind is always set on doing something new. There is a lot you can do with a hostel, but then again with my mobile personality…