Last summer, we had the pleasure of visiting Ojai Vista Farm, a family run vineyard and boutique farm stay in beautiful Ojai, California — and it’s just about as special as it gets. Mother-daughter duo, Susan (mother) and Cassandra Card (daughter) run the operation, and it’s officially one of our favorite places in California. The sprawling property is located on a private road and secluded hillside, and it is so tranquil that you never want to leave. The lodging and amenities are luxurious and sustainable, there’s a pool, hot tub and outdoor hammocks overlooking avocado and olive groves. And once you book the property, Susan and Cassandra can help you book additional experiences, like a private chef, guided hike, massage, yoga class and so much more.
We were lucky enough to get to know Susan and Cassandra over the last few months, and not only are they the loveliest people, they are an inspiration. They work so incredibly hard and have built such a special place that fosters community. We’ve only mentioned a little bit of Ojai Vista Farm and all that this dynamic duo does, so be sure to check out their site and book your stay immediately. We wouldn’t be gushing over it if we didn’t think it’s one of the coolest places in the Ojai Valley.
Susan (left), Cassandra (right), and Fable (adorable goat) walking on the property.
The Ojai Vista Farm is one of the most charming places, ever. How did you and your family come to starting this business? Did you have any experience in hospitality, or something similar to this?
My mom, Susan and I have worked together on various real estate projects for over 10 years. When my husband and I were on our babymoon at the Ojai Valley Inn my mom came up for the day and we decided to go look at open houses, just for fun. After walking into this property (and with absolutely no experience in running a large avocado farm), my mom said that she had to get the property one way or another. True to her word, we ended up closing on it while I was in the hospital delivering my son! We knew that there was an opportunity here to do something really special and we began brainstorming immediately on how to make it a viable business.
How would you describe a day on the property for you and your mom?
Each day is different. I’m based in LA and I work on the bookings, marketing and behind the scenes of running the business. Susan is boots on the ground working with the land, tending to the farm and overseeing all. If we have guests checking in, we are working with the team busy prepping and making sure it’s up to standards.
We are obsessed with the interior and design of the entire property. What inspired the decor and style of the property?
The inspiration was really pulled from our love of California. It was important to create a lot of outdoor “rooms” to really enjoy the natural surroundings of being nestled in the hills so close to the Los Padres National Forest. The Spanish architecture of the main Casa is echoes throughout the buildings. The decor in the home is an eclectic mix of Spanish and Mexican antiques inspired by California missions, paintings from local California artists, bold prints and rugs balanced against the cool stone white walls and tile floors. We wanted our guests to feel instantly at home and like they were walking into something that really flowed with the natural aesthetic of Ojai.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in getting this property up and running, to getting it to where it is now?
Getting our head around how to run a farm in a cost effective way while not ever straying from our core ethical and eco standards. Since purchasing the property there have also been changes in the laws regarding running overnight farmstays. We are currently in a transitional phase and will be moving into more events and workshops on site which we are really excited to get into!
Family business are wonderful, but we know it can come with its challenges, too. What’s it like working with your family?
Absolutely! The whole family is really involved and I think we have the most fun together when we’re all brainstorming and working towards a common goal. Some people prefer to keep family and business separate but for us it’s something that’s been so deeply ingrained and although it’s hard when emotions run high there is a trust level there that you can’t recreate. I feel really fortunately that we get to work together.
Do you have any advice that you would give to a family thinking about starting a business together?
Playing to people’s strengths is really important, recognizing that not everyone is good at the same things and supporting one another in that. Having mutual respect and setting clear goals, just like running any successful business, is crucial. And when in doubt, bring in a professional to help!
What’s on the horizon for you and the family business?
Transitioning into more daily events in Ojai. We’re also really excited to announce that we’ll be opening another luxury farmstay on a 3 acre farm on the East side of Big Bear later this year! We’re going to be taking the next couple months off of Ojai to be able to focus our energy on getting it launched by the end of the year.
Cassandra, you’re a mama to a toddler and expecting another very soon — congratulations! What are your secrets in balancing motherhood and running a business?
Thank you! I’ve been so lucky to have incredibly strong and loving female role models around me and I think their work ethic and joy for life has rubbed off on me. Work/ life balance will always be a work in progress (and it will no doubt be tested again when our daughter arrives in May!) but learning to take the pressure off of being perfect been really huge. I also have an amazingly supportive husband that co-parents with me 100%. We’re just working hard, every day, loving each other and having fun in the process and I think that’s enough!
Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs looking to kickstart their careers, especially while also being a new mom or dad?
Get scrappy, get comfortable with change and trust your gut.
Getting to share this beautiful property with others, and even though it sounds cheesy, being able to work on something that in a small way tries to make the world better for the next generation.