Andrew Donaldson of Perthshire rural experience business, Comrie Croft, talks about the company.
Q. How and why did you start in business?
I studied countryside and environmental management and had a summer job as a student at Comrie Croft, then went to work for a while on conservation projects in Africa.
I’ve always had quite an entrepreneurial streak and an opportunity came up in 2003 to return to Comrie Croft after the previous owner expressed a desire to pass over the reins.
I led an employee-community-family buy out of the business in 2008.
Q. How did you get to where you are today?
I was blessed with a great family and education and have been surrounded by amazing people whom I’ve met and worked with along the way.
The team we have created at Comrie Croft have been crucial to getting the business to where it is now.
Q. Who has helped you along the way?
Our team at Comrie Croft.
We are an employee owned business so the team are vital.
I’ve also had great enterprise support from Bravo Nyamudoka at GrowBiz and was lucky to be have the opportunity to complete Scottish Enterprise’s Rural Leadership Programme, which has really helped me have a much bigger vision for the business.
Q. What was your biggest mistake?
We created a wildlife viewing experience which just didn’t work as we had hoped.
Every perceived failure is a learning experience though and it’s important to view things in this way if your business is going to develop and grow.
Q. What is your greatest achievement to date?
Marshalling the right people and resources to buy the farm on which we’ve built a growing business with a strong eco and social purpose.
Q. How has coronavirus impacted your business?
The impact has been significant.
We are more than 50% down on revenue, primarily due to not being able to deliver weddings.
However the camping and biking sides of the business have been really popular this summer and thanks to these diverse income streams we have been able to retain all of our team.
Q. What do you hope to achieve in the future?
Wholesome rural regeneration is our ultimate goal, which involves re-wilding and environmental protection, and working hard to have positive impacts on our local community.
We are currently looking at creating affordable off-grid co-housing to help address the rural housing crisis. I’d also like to replicate the Comrie Croft model in other areas of Scotland.
Q. Do you want to recruit in the future?
As the business stabilises and grows again, I hope there will be new opportunities for the right people to come and join us. at Comrie Croft.
Q. What is the hardest thing about running your own business?
I set out at the beginning not to be a workaholic and have balance between the business and my personal life but it’s not easy.
Having some responsibility for other people’s livelihoods can be very hard too, realising that every decision you make impacts on the whole team.
Q. Any advice to wannabe entrepreneurs?
Put yourself in other people’s shoes and just do it.