A Day in the Life with Sarah Heath
Last month, we had the pleasure of talking to Heaton House Farm’s Sarah Heath to find out her typical day and some key reasons that led to such a successful rural diversification.
Here’s what we discussed.
What would be your typical morning routine?
Working in events, I’m not much of a morning person (unless I’m getting home in the early hours), and more of a Night Owl.
If you could describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
Funny when drunk!
What is the first thing you look at in the morning on your phone?
Emails and Instagram. Not the best strategy for time management, but I clear any spam emails out so when I get into the office, I feel more focused on the tasks in hand. I also love checking Instagram regularly throughout the day as the wedding industry is growing rapidly on the App, so great to get ideas from other companies with how we can improve our marketing strategy.
Heaton House Farm is a wedding venue, but what makes it unique?
Other than the breath-taking views over Cheshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire (which are pretty unbeatable!) I would have to say our team here at the venue.
We truly care about our couples and their special day and want to provide the best service possible from the moment you enquire with us, to maintaining a relationship even after your wedding day is over; our reviews definitely reflect this with many guests commenting on our friendly and helpful team.
What made your family diversify?
My parents have been involved with charity events for as long as I can remember and we used to host annual concerts in our cowshed for charities such as Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation and Alzheimer’s Research, all of which are extremely close to our heart.
One year, my dad was very eager to create the best possible acoustics as he used to be a mobile DJ, so he decided to hire a marquee lining to ‘soften’ the sound. A couple in the audience happened to be looking for a marquee styled wedding for their daughter who was living in London, but they didn’t have any land to host the event. They called us the very next day to enquire. We had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for, but we agreed! So, in June 1999, we welcomed guests to our first wedding reception.
The venue grew and grew from recommendations alone and in 2003 we came to the decision to diversify from being a dairy farm and sell my dad’s beloved dairy cows to hosting weddings in our barns full-time – However, we still have sheep and beef cows in our fields, just to keep my Dad busy!
Have you had any business challenges arise as you have diversified? If so, how did you overcome them?
So many! Probably one of the main ones has been not putting in systems and software’s that are big enough to cope. We have grown so quickly, so everything that we have put in place has only just been adequate, with no room for growth, and I feel like we are chasing our tail constantly. Go big and stay organised!
What’s your advice for anyone looking to diversify from traditional farming practices?
You can’t do everything. It’s easy to think you have to be involved in every little job, but that’s just not sustainable. Bring on staff as soon as you can – they will be your biggest asset. And outsource to specialists when you can too. They know what they’re doing – they’re the experts. It will make your job a whole lot easier.
What’s your favourite thing to do when you’re not at work?
I’m not sure what life away from work looks like? With a family-run business, you’re always involved one way or another – but thankfully, I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I’m not working, I’ll probably just be wandering around the farm, or enjoying a beautiful home-cooked dinner with produce straight from the garden.
The best business book you’ve read?
Unfortunately, I’m not a big reader anymore, I seem to be better learning physically and recently attended one of the best rural business conferences – Cultivate! Although heavily biased as it took place at Heaton House Farm, and was organised by Hillsgreen, I can honestly say it was the BEST conference I have ever attended and I took so much away from it, and for the first time ever, as a team, we are looking and analysing our whole company and looking at big changes to improve it for our clients and our staff as well as ideas for our teams progression and development.
What a great insight
Thank you to Sarah for taking the time to discuss with us how the family farm turned into successful rural diversification – It’s also pleasing to hear that beneath every successful business there are plenty of challenges too!