Alumni Spotlight: Kristen Deptula ('06)
Kristen Deptula (’06) is the co-owner of Canalside Inn (https://thecanalsideinn.com), a dog-friendly inn located in Rehoboth Beach, DE. Kristen didn’t enter Western knowing exactly what she wanted to do—she found her path by trying a little bit of everything.
“Eventually I found an advisor within the Public Relations department. She helped me get organized and guided me to graduation. The courses I loved were creative writing and English literature. I loved my communication classes. I gained practical business knowledge and learned how to communicate with others.”
For so many alumni, there’s that one professor who makes a difference. For Kristen, that professor was James Stephens.
“He was only a professor at WWU for a short time. In my two years of being his student, I was lucky enough to have him believe in me. He taught me how to write objectively, to fact find, and to learn how to communicate. Over the summer, he gave me extra books to study after he left Western.”
That connection was strong for Kristen. “He saw a spark in me I didn’t know existed, made me excited about graduating, and helped me find my footing.”
Of her memories of Western, her favorites are of Red Square. “The best part about Western for me was sitting at the Fountain. I loved everything about Red Square. On a sunny day, the buzz of the sun sparked so much joy. I would sit for hours studying outside and enjoying a frisbee break or just meeting friends. Even on a rainy day there is something magical about Red Square. The seasons of Red Square are truly breathtaking.”
Kristen purchased Canalside Inn with her husband in September 2019. “It has been such a journey. My biggest achievement has been navigating the hospitality industry as a new business owner during a pandemic. Being such a small inn of only 13 dog friendly rooms we needed to stay relevant to our community and to guests/customers.”
The COVID-19 pandemic hit hospitality hard, and Kristen’s business Canalside Inn is no exception. “Being new to Rehoboth Beach owning our first inn for the past two years has been a ride. We closed in March 2020 like most businesses, but in our first year we weren’t expecting that. We didn’t have a gift shop at the inn so, I started a Canalside Inn Swag Shop during this time knowing that swag gets your brand out to the people. This task alone would not have happened as fast if we didn’t close.”
Along with swag, Kristen leaned on her PR training to create a plan. “I was also able to strategically plan our entire Marketing/PR plans while being shut down. It gave me the opportunity to switch gears from focusing on in-person guests to strategically focusing on enhancing the guests experience for once we opened back up. I was also certain that Contactless Hospitality is the way of the future. We invested in a texting service, keyless entry, and other automations to help guests ease back into travel.”
Not only did Kristen innovate to keep her business thriving, she also created a virtual internship for students on Handshake. “Because all college students became virtual students, we thought it was a great time to help give them practical business experience. We have had over 10+ interns in two years from various industries (marketing, pr, business, accounting, communications etc.). Our first intern has been a full-time employee for over a year now. Though we have learned how to navigate COVID-19 in the hospitality industry we look forward to a new normal where our guests, employees, and community can have more certainty with the health and welfare of those around us.
When she’s not busy with the inn, Kristen and her family spend time enjoying the beauty of Rehoboth. “We love to drive onto the beach for surf fishing and ending the night with bonfires. This winter it has been a joy teaching my children to ski, which is what I miss most about being away from PNW!”
Kristen’s advice for students is to not panic. “It’s okay if you don’t have a plan or a specific major. Just take it one semester and one day at a time and figure out how to graduate. Develop relationships with the Faculty & Staff and find someone to be in your corner from day one. Keep pushing forward and be better than yesterday!”