Newmarket farmer has ‘no regrets’ after entering highly competitive hospitality market
- Credit: Archant
Farmer Guy Taylor decided to launch a luxury wedding and events venue in his home village near Newmarket after his sister used a barn for her wedding reception.
Guy is the sixth generation of his family to take up the reins at Simon Taylor Farms, at Woodditton, which lies on Suffolk/Cambridgeshire border.
"The farming business is in my blood," he says. "We have arable crops with land throughout Woodditton and the neighbouring villages. I took over the running of the business in 2007 following my father's retirement."
MORE - Agriculture can deliver on sustainability with right support, say East Anglian farmersAnna's wedding was the catalyst for branching out into the highly competitive hospitality market.
"We received many compliments about the venue, and it occurred to me then that this may be an opportunity to look into further," he explains.
"Soon after, I began extensive market research into the wedding market, mainly by inspecting the competition, looking at what other venues were offering and how we could improve upon their service."
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To begin with, he looked at the idea of starting a small-scale business based around a polo club located on the farm, thinking it would be the ideal space for 'dry hire' marquee events.
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"We had a lot of interest, but it was a narrow area of demand, in that most customers were looking for a more ready-made complex rather than a pavilion and a 32-acre field," he says.
"That focused our attention on the barns at Parsonage Farm, which in turn created potential issues as it is located close to my parents' house.
"Whilst I know they have a varied taste in music, I wasn't sure how they would cope with the late nights and guests nearby their property."
As it turned out, they have been 'fantastic' supporters of the venture at Granary Barn, and Guy says he will always be grateful for their encouragement and support throughout his journey.
"Due to the farming climate I have been brought up in, I have always been aware of the need to diversify in order to keep farming today viable and therefore exploring new challenges and ideas has never been something I have been afraid of," he says.
"I sometimes take a step back and think about what has happened over the last seven years and occasionally wonder how it has all happened. We have gone from nothing to providing a fabulous venue, employing great people, managing a sustainable and growing business which is fundamental to the wider farming enterprise and I would absolutely recommend this to others."
The growth of the business has made Guy aware of the need to keep their market offering 'fresh and interesting'.
Future projects they are working on include additional on-site accommodation using shepherd's huts and the renovation of the farmhouse, as well as looking at an in-house catering service.
"There is a huge market in the entertainment and hospitality sectors and although it is competitive, I am a firm believer in cultivating ideas and trying to keep one step ahead of the game," he says.
Today the business employs seven full time staff - an operations director, an event manager, a marketing and creative manager, two wedding co-ordinators, maintenance team, a part-time gardener and a pool of 20 part-time bar and event staff.
They have faced challenges in getting the idea off the ground and renovating the barns, says Guy, but the business has continued to grow year-on-year and is now well into its seventh wedding season.
"With such a large-scale project you have to be ready to adapt and change plans accordingly as there are inevitably going to be bumps in the road. We have been lucky to have overcome any issues we have faced and able to move forward with our business," he says.
"Although weddings are our main income, we are attracting the corporate markets along with substantial bookings of private celebrations and events. The team won a national award, Event Team of the Year, at The Wedding Industry Awards in London last year - an incredible achievement."
Guy's plan now is to expand and grow the portfolio of venues, while staying true to the company ethos of providing "exclusive, luxury venues, offering a tailored experience with an excellent standard of service".
"I am excited to see where The Granary Estates will be in 10 years' time," he says.