At TLE we’re always keen to explore different forms of luxury accommodation and when we discovered Estate Life we were instantly intrigued and impressed. The clever concept of reviving old stately homes so that the their grandeur is a privilege reserved not only for the family or owners but one that can be shared with those that appreciate beautiful architecture, history and culture is one that we wanted to learn more about.
To do so I met up with Susan Reid, one of the co-owners, to find out more:
CW: Susan please tell us how Estate Life came about?
SR: In 2004, Joanna Goddard, a business development specialist was approached by a rural estate for help to make diversification more successful. Understanding the drive behind the project – which ultimately kept a number of local jobs secure, Joanna worked tirelessly with the owners. A venue hire business was developed on the estate and in time numerous referrals were made. By 2007, Joanna was working with over 20 properties and decided to rebrand and launch a company dedicated to working with rural estates, to help strengthen rural economies and create a legacy by supporting the conservation of historic properties through improved relationships between business and estates. Estate Life was born.
CW: Wow, what an exciting, challenging but I imagine a very rewarding project.
SR: Absolutely and by 2008, Estate Life was well established and building a good reputation so we were approached by a TV production company that was researching a new series. Estate Life produced an abundance of research for this TV series, secured clients and Joanna (Goddard – the founder) even featured in an episode! When the first screening of Country House Rescue went live – the business really took off.
CW: And is the business still going strong?
SR: Indeed it is. Today, Estate Life works directly with around 200 hundred estates, and indirectly with members of Scottish Land & Estates and the CLA in England and Wales. We have even worked with estates in France.
Another area of expansion was back in 2011, I joined the company to provide new services for clients, my background is in sales and marketing (my role prior to becoming Co-Owner of Estate Life was a sales career for over 18 years and my own sales & marketing representation business which I set up 10 years ago) so I brought them an established database of national and international buyers who regularly book private properties for meetings events, hospitality, incentive and rewards programmes as well as weddings.
And last year (2013) saw the launch of the procurement service – an innovative business model whereby Estate Life procures supplies for Members estates, and the income they derive from the commissions they received from the corporate companies enables them to continue to offer toolkits, site visits and support services to the estates at vastly discounted prices.
This service is unrivalled in the UK market place and clients include Lady Dundee’s home Birkhill Castle, Lord Moncreiff’s home Tullibole Castle, Channel 4’s Sarah Beeny and a number of Scottish Land & Estate members.
CW: How do you promote your business?
SR: Estates have discovered Estate Life through referrals, the internet and reruns of Country House Rescue. Now working with estates throughout the UK and a couple in Europe, the next twelve months is anticipated to see the Estate Life Members Network grow significantly.
CW: What do you think the Estates you work with value most?
SR: The toolkits and site visits that Estate Life provides helps and guides estates to more profitable commercial diversification projects – tackling things like how to market to business tourism, who to decide which type of Renewables projects is right for your estate and how to ensure your tax and legal implications balance the interest of your family heritage as well as commercial activity are all areas of specialism.
Where estates have worked with Estate Life they see a direct positive impact on increased local employment as well as adventure tourism, heritage tourism and business tourism. Some have benefited though produce and export.
CW: Do you think there is a growing demand for this type of service?
SR: A recent report by Visit Britain has highlighted how high demand is for heritage tourism – which of course private castles and stately home lend themselves to beautifully. From private dinners to shooting parties, to heritage balls and film locations; private exclusive access to our nations historic treasures provide is popular at Estate Life. Providing uninterrupted venues for corporate talks and negotiations, discretion for celebrities and VIP’s, and vast spaces boasting period features for film locations, authenticity remains high on the agenda and the opportunity to dine privately with the countries lords and ladies can also provide the most tempting of offers for the wealthy in nations such as China, India, Russia and the USA.
CW: What has been your favourite / most memorable project to date?
SR: Joanna and I have numerous anecdotes from our estate adventures. On occasions clients have merely wanted to embark on a venture to fund a replacement heating system and then retreat to privacy once more, some have lavish tales of hosting royalty and dignitaries. A personal favourite is they day they were asked to provide a film location – with an outside swimming pool – which had to be robust enough for a Ferrari to be driven into it!
CW: Can you give us an idea of what it would cost for someone to stay in one of your clients stately homes?
SR: All prices are tailored to the needs of the event or clients, however many are often surprised to find they are comparable with 5 star hotels!
For more information on estate services or to view properties currently available for hire, visit www.estate-life.com
All images kindly provided by Estate Life.