Here’s the next instalment of my blog. My previous blog introduced my family – the faces behind Longcroft Cat Hotel, Winchmore Hill, Amersham. Now I thought it would be interesting to detail our journey and how we became Longcroft Winchmore Hill.
I will take you back to January 2013. Our lives were stable. I had a good job as an IT project Manager. Our daughter Ellie was 4 years old. We lived in a nice house which we had recently finished renovating. We were financially secure, we enjoyed regular holidays, life was calm and life was good.
There was nothing large on the horizon.. or so we thought. Isn’t that always the way? Just when you are comfortable, something comes along to change your life completely.
February 2013 I discover I am pregnant! Remembering a life of nappies, weaning, toilet training and sleepless nights seemed alien and more than just a little bit daunting! However it didn’t take long for the fear to turn to excitement and we were delighted to be embarking on this new chapter in our lives.
Naturally we started to look ahead towards our life with Martha and what would change. Martha was due in October and Ellie was due to start school in the September. So just as one set of nursery fee’s ended another was potentially about to start. Whilst my well-paid part time job would cover the extortionate cost of childcare, I wasn’t going to be left with much leftover. The idea of working to pay someone else to look after my baby and not see her hurt so much. We talked endlessly about all the options. Do I give up work? Do I go back full time? Do we try to live on one salary? Round and round we went with no clear answer.
It’s now June 2013 and still undecided, we sat down one evening to watch TV after dinner. We were enjoying the Channel 4 series, Compare Your Life in which Carlton Hood, former CEO of Confused.com, helped families wanting to start a family business to allow them to spend more quality time with their children.
There it was… a business working from home, perfectly positioned around the family, earning a good income and to top it all off… involving cats!!! It could not have been more purrfect!!
The reality of exploring this idea and taking it to the next level was emotionally hard work and took a leap of faith.
The next steps involved meeting Abi and her family. We loved the ethos of the business and its potential. Even with the safety net of the franchise model, we were still starting our own business and investing our own money which was a huge commitment. Not to mention the impact to the family, working 7 days a week and no family holidays without closing the business. We had no prior experience of franchise businesses so it was a step into the unknown. There were lengthy contracts to digest and longer term considerations which was a world apart from our stable, secure life just six months before.
Ultimately we bought into Abi and her team and the success they had already demonstrated and they were fantastic at guiding and hand-holding us through this whole process. We signed contracts in August and with Martha due to make an appearance in October we were keen to get wheels in motion before I was up to my neck in nappies.
Time was off the essence. With Martha’s due date looming and us wanting to be open in time for Easter I had just under five months to give birth, get planning consent, prepare the site, get the hotel built and marketed ready for a pre-Easter launch. Nothing like a bit of pressure!
Planning took an agonising 13 weeks to approve. In a way this was a blessing in disguise. It allowed us the opportunity to welcome our beautiful new addition into the family and enjoy some quality time as a new family over Christmas before the madness started.
January 31st 2014 my planning consent was approved. Easter was two months away and I had a deadline to get the hotel built. I was told it was too tight and unlikely to happen… however the project manager in me rose out of the fire and let rip! That hotel was going up come hell or high water. We had both! February was a month of torrential record levels of rainfall.
I needed to have the site prepared, get a concrete base built and tiled in three weeks. Most builders were busy and others said it was too wet. However where there is a will there is way. I won’t go into details about the builders we chose but lets just say it was like watching ‘Keystone Cops’ pouring wet concrete in the rain. Couple that with even more rain, concrete not going-off and a looming deadline made for a very stressful few weeks!
But anyone who knows me, will know that I love a good challenge and if you believe you can do it… you WILL find a way.
Abi and her team were superb and supported us through the whole process. We got through it and on the March 29th 2014, three weeks before Easter Longcroft Cat Hotel, Winchmore Hill officially opened its doors!
There is no doubt those last few months were an emotional and physical roller coaster ride. All this of course was done with an infant in tow. Looking back I don’t know how I did it. But we achieved our goal to be open for Easter and the start of the holiday season.
Only then did it dawn on me, now was when the real work started. Up until now I had been so geared up to opening, I hadn’t really envisaged what would happen once we were open!
I was full from day one and had month’s worth of bookings so it was a massive learning curve. Talk about hitting the deck running.
“Running your own business is exhilarating, enjoyable and scary in equal measures”
The challenge now was to start managing the business around my young demanding family, juggling everyone’s needs and finding that calm.
At times it didn’t feel like we were ever going to find that calm again but as time has progressed we have found our new routine. Our life has a new rhythm with our business and the cats at the very heart of it. We started in untroubled waters…and rode out a bit of a storm but now we are sailing on smooth waters again.