How do you start a normal working day?
The alarm goes off at 05:00am… I do my morning cardio followed by a walk with the dog! Working on the farm can mean every day is different, but some days I may be stuck sat in the office all day, so I find it’s important to get that early morning exercise to keep myself focused.
The working day at the farm starts for a lot of the team at 08:00am. Mike Attwell, the Farmer, is normally up around 03:00am everyday to check on the livestock around the farm.
My day starts around 07:00am. I check on any overnight emails, queries, reviews and mentions online and try to start the day with an early morning social media post to catch the morning viewers before leaving my house. I get to work at 08:00am for a lovely black coffee and to greet the team before the day starts. Most of our team head to the animals to muck out and feed before we open to the public. The coffee shop team start the morning prep and I tend to take a stroll around the farm to check everything is ready for the day before heading to the office.
On the way back inside, I grab some freshly laid eggs and have poached eggs on toast before heading up to the office and cracking on!
Tell us about your attraction/business.
We have been farming in Beoley, Worcestershire since 1962. Starting with Farmer Mike selling eggs door to door to the local villages, to in the 1990s being one of the largest turkey and egg producers in the UK. Tragedy suddenly hit and there was a huge fire at the farm that wiped out everything causing the Attwell Family to go back to basics. In 2014 we closed our production plant due to market trends and produce coming in cheaper from Europe. Our wholesale customers just kept grinding down the cost of our products until there was no profits left in the business…things weren’t looking too great for the future.
We were able to get by, by selling pedigree livestock and small amounts of chicken to local gyms through our small fitness brand we created… until 2016 we came up with the idea to diversify and convert our farm into a children’s farm and educational centre for schools. We were already hosting schools at the time who wanted to see a working farm. So it was time to make it more official.
In August 2017 we officially opened as a small children’s farm to the public, run by me and three others 7 days a week and building new attractions in the evenings. I’ll always remember we had a total of 1,813 visitors that year and we thought that was amazing! Flash forward to 2022, we have now diversified into an award-winning children’s Farm Park open every day to over 110,000 visitors a year and will be celebrating our 5 year anniversary this August 26th at the farm.
We have gone from a team of 4 to currently 36 staff members and growing. We are also proud to host work placements and experiences from local schools, colleagues and universities all year round, helping students and adults with mixed abilities develop their skills and confidence in a visitor/animal setting.
Our aim has remained the same since day one. To offer an unforgettable family fun experience for all ages, all year round, focusing on education in farming.
What is your favourite thing about the attraction/business?
My personal favourite thing about the business is that every day is different. With all the school holidays and seasons of the farm, we can create some amazing events that keep us and visitors entertained. We recently ran a Jurassic half term event, which released my inner child.
I’ve been at the farm for 10 years now, and when I first started, we were a Christmas turkey farm. So, Christmas always is a mad but special time of year. One of our greatest achievements of the farm park is the unique Father Christmas and the winter barn workshop experience. It’s a great time of year and seeing all the families enjoy the magic we create is what it’s all about.
How do you retain staff and keep motivation levels high?
We create a real family environment with our team, working around childcare, college and commitments. As a family-run business, we understand everything that life throws at us and consider this with our team. We have created an appraisal scheme for staff rewards which include length in the business, effort, feedback from visitors etc. We have always made sure we pay above minimum wage for all ages as well as all team members getting benefits. These range from free regular training programs and free entry for families, to discounts and peak-time bonuses. We also run regular staff events and team-building exercises for fun.
How do you market your business?
We’ve been focusing on our online presence the past two years and have invested in our bespoke website. This has now become our main tool, serving as a one stop shop for promotions, bookings, schools, parties and marketing. We’ve managed to not only enhance the customer experience but also cut down the amount of customer queries we deal with, simply by having a user-friendly website.
We’ve recently started email marketing thanks to the new website and currently have over 25,000 organic subscribers to add to our 25,000 organic social media followers.
As a business, we’ve never paid for online advertising and all our social media engagement is organic. Using Facebook alone, we’ve gone from 299,539 Facebook reach in 2020 to 612,368 in 2021. So far this year, we are at 2,888,309. We’ve gained this through regular posting and always being responsive to customer messages. This has had a significant impact on our business as social media is customers’ preferred way to keep in touch.
What puts a smile on your face at work?
Simply, just seeing people of all ages and abilities enjoying the facilities we have created and all our hard work paying off. Down to the basics such as seeing a child use a pedal tractor that Dale and I spent hours on the night before trying and failing to assemble.
Another great joy is flicking through social media and coming across friends or random posts from people that have visited the farm. It’s so rewarding knowing that we have created a place for people to create family memories.
If could give one piece of advice to a similar business, what would it be?
Measure twice. Cut once. Even if you think you have the right idea, just double-check everything or talk to a peer before investing time and especially money.
We have regular brainstorming meetings at the farm where we discuss ideas that we think are great and amazing! But from another person’s point of view, it may not work that way, but taking another path could get the result.
And most importantly, don’t let bad reviews break your heart!! There will always be someone looking to moan about something!! And as you grow… you’ll see those 1 or 2 bad reviews outweighed by the 1000s of 5-star reviews!!
How do you unwind at the end of the working day?
Alcohol. Good Food and Netflix.