To celebrate Small Business Saturday this weekend, Shropshire Hills Tourism is shining a spotlight on some of our hospitality businesses. Here in conversation is Jo Longstaff of Hope Farm Park.
How long have you been running your hospitality business?
Six and a half years
What made you decide to open your small business here in Shropshire?
A combination of things really. We were looking to move to the country, needed a place that could accommodate us and my mother who is unwell, and I needed an income as I was giving up full time employment to look after Mum. I had always worked in tourism, as Tourism Officer for my local authority down south, so running holiday cottages seemed to be a natural progression. Shropshire offered not only the ideal property but also beautiful surroundings for us to live in and for our guests to enjoy.
Describe Hope Park Farm for us?
Facing south our cottages enjoy stunning views over beautiful gardens towards the hills and valleys of Shropshire and wales beyond. No longer a working farm, Hope Park is tucked away from the road and is surrounded by fields, offering a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
The two cottages are adjacent to our farmhouse home. They retain many original features and are bursting with character, providing spacious, well equipped and tasteful accommodation with a real homely feel.
What are the challenges in running a small hospitality business?
Having to be jack of all trades from cleaner to handyman! It can be quite an isolated existence and I’ve had to make the effort to go out and find like-minded people running similar businesses.
With all that you have achieved so far in your business, what are you most proud of?
The fantastic reviews that I continue to receive from guests who all seem to really enjoy their stay and appreciate the effort that I have put into making the cottages a real home from home.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting up their own Self Catering business?
Do plenty of research first and ensure that you understand the area that you are moving into, the sort of people who are likely to come and stay and what they are looking for in a holiday or short break. Talk to other people already in this business and listen to their advice. There are lots of groups that you can join/talk to such as Shropshire Hills Tourism and Shropshire Gold.
What are your plans for Hope Park Farm in the future?
We are about to upgrade the kitchens and bathrooms in both cottages as it is important to keep up to date with what people are looking for in a holiday cottage.
A new website is planned for next year too.
Otherwise its business as usual – I am passionate about the importance of excellent customer service, about ensuring that people get the best out of their holiday and I am keen to continue to encourage people to come and stay in Shropshire and to come back again, and again.
What do you enjoy most about running your own business?
Being my own boss! I also take great pride in what I provide for my guests and it’s marvelous when they leave wishing they could stay longer.
There isn’t a day goes by, rain or shine, when I don’t appreciate how lucky I am to live and work in this most beautiful undiscovered corner of Shropshire and I love the fact that other people can come and share it for a short while.
Interview by Louise Welsby of Buy-From Shropshire