A Tale of Two Families
A holiday and weddings business in a tourist honey trap like Devon may not seem unusual at first but on closer inspection, things at Pickwell Manor are anything but ordinary. From its unique family story to its impressive commitment to social causes, we explore what makes this business stand out from the crowd.
Located just half a mile from the beautiful North Devon coast, near the sandy beaches of Putsborough and Woolacombe, Pickwell Manor is a 15,000 square foot, 10th century manor house that has been sympathetically converted into nine self-catering holiday apartments. It is run by two families: the Bakers and the Elliotts, who took over the manor in 2008 and are responsible for the high end, idyllic retreat that it is known as today.
The families have a long history together, with Steve and Susannah Baker and Richard and Tracey Elliott both marrying in 2000 and having been friends long before that. Things changed when in 2007, living in Sussex with a young family and commuting to London every day, Steve Baker and his family decided they wanted a lifestyle change and began to look for relocation opportunities.
“My property background led me to take a serious look at Pickwell Manor but knowing it would be a big challenge to undertake alone, we turned to Richard and Tracey to see if they would consider coming with us,” explained Steve Baker. “We knew it would be a risk uprooting not one, but two families, but the laid back Devon lifestyle (and the local surf!) proved too tempting and in 2008 we purchased Pickwell Manor and relocated our families to North Devon.”
Pickwell Manor was already operating as a holiday lettings business but the families spent time refurbishing the property and its outbuildings, adding four additional apartments and ensuring the quality of all the accommodation was extremely high, with a mixture of period features, stylish decor and up-to-date facilities. As well as family holidays, which are available between Easter and October, the venue also hosts nine weddings each year.
What makes Pickwell Manor truly unique however, is the families’ refreshingly relaxed and philanthropic attitude to running their business.
“The reason we opted for such a drastic lifestyle change was that we wanted to be able to relax, spend more time with family and friends and give something back to the community,” added Steve. “That’s why we only take on nine weddings each year and the apartments are only available between Easter and October. We work hard during these periods but between November and February we want to spend time focusing on other things that are really important to us.”
Therefore, in the winter months the families open up Pickwell Manor to community groups and charities (at cost price) as well as relatives and friends. They also hold an annual charity ball which last year raised £6,500. Even more impressively, they have created the Pickwell Manor Foundation, into which all profit above a certain threshold is channelled. This threshold, explains Steve, is usually reached by August, meaning that much of their income during September and October is onated to the Foundation.
So far, Pickwell Manor has supported charities such as Surfers Not Street Children, which promotes the use of surfing in empowering street children around the world, and the Amos Trust, which works to raise awareness of the root causes of injustice and poverty internationally.
With two families, six limited companies (including a London-based company run by Steve) and a charitable foundation to contend with, keeping the business compliant, tax efficient and in excellent shape is not a simple task. Simpkins Edwards was introduced to the Bakers and Elliotts by Lloyds Bank when they first purchased the business and has worked with them ever since, providing strategic business advice as well as producing all company accounts and assisting with the families’ personal finances.
“We’ve been very impressed with the strategic advice we’ve received from Jean-Paul, Adrian and their teams,” said Steve. “It’s not been an easy job but they have stayed one step ahead of what has been a constantly changing environment and have always advised us to make carefully calculated decisions to ensure our business remains highly tax efficient. It’s been a fantastic benefit to work with an accountancy firm that gives us tailored operational support as well as handles our accounts.”
Having doubled the turnover since taking over at Pickwell Manor and with a host of excellent Trip Advisor reviews to their name, is there anything left to achieve for the families? “We’d ultimately like to grow the amount of charitable work we do,” concludes Steve. “We feel very lucky to lead the lives we do and enjoy being able to give something back to our local community and those in need further afield.”
Having read the Baker’s and Elliott’s story, hopefully it’s now clear why we think Pickwell Manor is such a unique business and one we’re delighted to work with.
For more information on holidays and weddings at Pickwell Manor, visit www.pickwellmanor.co.uk.
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