Posted: Tue 3rd Aug 2021
In 2015, after working in financial services for almost 20 years, Hannah Jones and her husband Dean became disillusioned with the buzz of corporate life. They decided to buy a holiday home where they could escape the hustle and bustle. In their quest to find the perfect property, they stumbled upon a business idea: to open their retreat to paying guests.
Fast forward five years, and on a dark rainy evening in February 2020, the couple drove excitedly towards the village of Bryncrug in Snowdonia – home to Geufron Farm. Little did they know that in just a few weeks’ time the UK would be plunged into lockdown…
Hannah, what first attracted you to Geufron Farm?
To be honest, it was all quite serendipitous. Our initial plan was to buy somewhere in Europe close to a ski resort; somewhere we could retreat to ourselves for winter sports and summer mountain adventures.
We spent three years looking for the ideal spot. During that time, I started trail running, and many of the events I attended were in Wales. I got to know a few people in the local adventure community and then stumbled upon an advert for Geufron Farm.
With a farmhouse, a cottage, three barns and 22 acres of land, it was a much bigger project than we’d previously considered – it needed total refurbishment from top to bottom. But we went to look at it and everything just felt right. I’m sure our friends thought we were mad, but we knew that this special place deserved to be brought back to life.
Of course, the arrival of COVID-19 was pretty scary. It felt like the world had stopped – and we’d just made a huge investment which sat empty on a hillside in Wales. But rather than crumble, we used the time to do additional renovations.
It was hard. I was still working a full-time job in financial services and Dean was managing his other business. But eventually, on 31 July 2020, we welcomed our first guests.
From financial services to a farm in Snowdonia – that’s quite a change of direction!
It’s been a huge learning curve. But it’s exactly what I needed after 20 years in one industry.
As bookings started to increase and I was taking on more and more work at Geufron Farm, I gradually reduced my hours at my previous job. And just a few months ago I took the plunge and left the corporate world behind me once and for all. It’s the best thing I ever did.
So what does a typical day at Geufron Farm look like?
Our day always starts with coffee. We sit outside, take in the views, and plan our morning. Then I walk our two dogs.
Mid-morning is all about the admin. I tend to deal with that side of things – booking enquiries, contacting suppliers, managing the finances – and Dean takes the lead on new revenue streams and creative projects. I set aside afternoons for the meatier stuff, like installing a new booking system and planning my new allotment.
On changeover days, I’m very hands-on with our housekeeping team and I check each property personally to make sure everything is just how I’d expect it to be if I were a guest.
In the evenings, I take time out to walk the dogs again, run tests on our outdoor pool – I had to train as a pool plant operator too – and reply to more customer enquiries. I wrap up work around 8pm. It’s a long day, but I get to spend most of it outdoors and I’m answerable only to myself and my guests.
Speaking of guests – you’re fully booked for the foreseeable future. You must be thrilled…
It feels amazing, and with dozens of five-star reviews and many returning guests, it’s a real testament to all our hard work. The people who come to stay with us are all looking for time out in nature, whether that’s mountain biking, trail running or spending time on or in the water. We don’t have the huge crowds that other holiday spots do.
We’re dog friendly too, so many of our guests come to us because they can spend their downtime with their canine pals. So much of southern Snowdonia is undiscovered so it’s perfect for those looking to retreat from their usually manic lives. It’s such a pleasure to see a new guest arrive, step out of their car, see the view, and visibly relax. That’s what it’s all about!
The views look just incredible – as does the accommodation itself. Having that extra time to renovate during lockdown really paid off!
I can’t take credit for the interior design – that’s all Dean. We also work with a local wood craftsman, Stuart Smith. Together they’re responsible for a number of unique features around the farm.
The kitchen tables are all made from Douglas Fir felled from the local Talyllyn Steam railway. There’s a light in The Barn that’s made from a huge tree root from a neighbouring field. And in The Old Farmhouse there’s a light made from part of a rowing boat which washed up on Tywyn Beach. Touches like this really help to engender our sense of place and love of the area.
You’ve clearly had to learn a lot of new skills along the way. What advice would you give to anyone just starting out on their entrepreneurial journey?
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Just because something is unfamiliar doesn’t mean you can’t handle it.
I’d actually really love to help other professionals through the mental transition of becoming a small business owner – where you no longer have a large team or company to fall back on.
I’m a qualified business coach and I want to become an adviser on Enterprise Nation some day too. I got to know the team during my time working in financial services, and I was really inspired by the mission to help small businesses.
Dean and I have both found the resources on the platform really helpful, and it’s often my first port of call when I have a business question. I love the on-demand webinars too. Running a business means I’m not always able to attend events as they happen, so to be able to catch up when I have more time really helps. Trusted experts are worth their weight in gold.
You seem like people who like to stay busy. What’s next for Geufron Farm?
We have a plan, but it’s hugely flexible. First, we’re installing bike storage and a fire pit in readiness for the Autumn. Mid-term, we have plans for some exciting new accommodation, and Dean plans to train as a SUP instructor so he can take guests out on the local waterways.
Ultimately though, we want to make sure that we have a work-life balance that really works for us both. And that we get to spend time outside doing our favourite activities with our favourite kind of people. We’re looking forward to a bumper year at Geufron Farm.
Photo credit: Si Ranshaw Photography
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