Cornish spirit beats the credit crunch

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Two couples and neighbours from Marazion in West Cornwall are reaping the rewards after risking it all with a major life changing project. One couple were looking to retire and the other, looking to start up a new business.

In the current economic climate new business ventures and the sale of businesses are notoriously difficult, however with fresh ideas and determination the two couples came up with a plan.

Richard and Heather Tucker had owned and managed The Corner House Guest House for 12 years, operating a successful B&B and restaurant business in the heart of the busy market town.

After spending much of their lives in the hospitality industry Richard and Heather, both in their 50’s, decided the time was right to sell the business and take things easier. With Richard planning to start a small gardening business and Heather becoming more involved with charity work and school governor duties they were ready for a change.

At the same time Julia and Damon Hopkins were planning to start up a business in Marazion, looking at restaurants, cafés or B&B’s. Julia and Damon, who have two children, George and Harriet, have been involved with the leisure industry for some years. Julia manages a number of self catering holiday cottages and Damon has experience as both a pub chef and a builder, working on projects in hotels around Cornwall.

Being neighbours, Heather and Julia would often meet each other in the town. It was on one such chance meeting that Heather mentioned her desire to retire from the business and Julia mentioned her dream of starting up a new business.

“We couldn’t believe we had both been thinking about changing our lives so dramatically” said Heather, “As soon as Julia said she and Damon were thinking about starting up a business the cogs started whirring.”

“It was as if everything suddenly fell in to place,” added Julia, “It all seemed too good to be true, there we were looking to make a new start and Richard and Heather were thinking just the same thing.”

After much planning and discussion the two couples agreed upon an ambitious plan. Richard and Heather agreed to sell their business to Julia and Damon and they would then move into the Hopkins’ house, just up the road, while Julia and Damon would take on the business and move in to the private accommodation above the business.

The first step for Julia and Damon was to seek financial support and a business loan. They began making enquiries in October 2008. “I was sure it would be almost impossible to get a business loan.” said Julia, “All the banking problems were coming to a head, no one was keen to invest and provide loans and I was sure we’d be fighting all the way to get what we needed.”

Julia couldn’t have been more wrong. After just a few weeks of meetings and planning sessions and finalising a business plan, Julia and Damon secured a business loan from Lloyds TSB Commercial for the full amount they needed, not only to buy the business, but also undertake some renovation work, apply for an accommodation grading and build their new website, www.stmichaels-bedandbreakfast.co.uk.

The news was a pleasant surprise to both couples: “It was wonderful news” commented Heather. “It was great to know that we could now both make the changes to our lives that we wanted.”

Julia was even more overwhelmed, “This news really marked the starting point for us and from this moment on everything moved extremely quickly.”

After finance was agreed in November all the legal and business papers were agreed and a move date set for 12 January 2009.

Phil Wilkes from Lloyds TSB Commercial said: “The challenging economic climate means that many ambitious entrepreneurs are holding off on launching new ventures but for those with strong business ideas, the right strategy and a real understanding of their market, there are still plenty of great opportunities out there.

“When we were approached to provide a business loan, we were extremely impressed with the business plan and the thought that had gone into the property swap between the Tuckers and the Hopkins. As a result, we were able to quickly provide the funding required and help Julia and Damon make this project work and drive it forward.“

Since January The Corner House has had a full makeover and been rebranded. It has also launched a website and achieved a three star AA grading. St Michael’s B&B opened its doors at Easter and Julia and Damon haven’t looked back since.

Julia said: “Things are going really well for us. It’s challenging, obviously, but hugely rewarding and we are all really excited about the summer season. It seems that with the credit crunch and strong Euro we may be getting into the business at a good time.

“We are so grateful to Lloyds TSB Commercial for helping us realise our dream and also helping us get to where we are so quickly.”

Richard and Heather have been enjoying taking things a bit more slowly and they are still both busy with their own projects. “I’m out and about at meetings, events and school activities during the week and Richard’s gardening business is really taking off” said Heather “He’s got a good number of regular clients and is taking on more all the time, I’m not sure we’ll ever really retire.”

For more information about St Michael’s B&B go to
www.stmichaels-bedandbreakfast.co.uk.

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