Clare Cooper runs Vanora’s Cottages in Alyth with her sister Olivia Robertson
How and why did you start in business?
After our parents died, my sister and I decided to pool our resources to start Vanora’s Cottages.
Alyth is a very picturesque town located in some of the loveliest landscapes in Scotland.
Tourism has been an important part of the economy here since Victorian times, so we knew there was a strong market for holiday accommodation.
How did you get to where you are?
Neither of us had worked in the visitor economy before so we took it step by step. We started with a wee but ‘n’ ben and set the website up in 2014.
I had become totally captivated by the local King Arthur legend – Vanora was the Scottish name for Guinevere – and suggestions that Arthur’s last battle was fought around the Hill of Alyth, so we named the cottages after her.
We launched Mum and Dad’s house about a year later after a big refurbishment.
We began to pick up bookings through Trip Advisor and Booking.com and are now doing really well.
Who has helped you along the way?
Friends in Alyth who also have self-catering holiday accommodation and are more experienced than us.
Community-based enterprise support organisation GrowBiz who introduced us to other local tourism-related businesses and groups like the Perthshire Tourism Partnership.
Your biggest mistake?
Not choosing the right kind of mattress covers! We originally went for waterproof ones which folk found too hard. Thankfully we were able to resolve that one quite quickly!
Your greatest achievement?
We’re really proud to have Certificates of Excellence from Trip Advisor on both houses and we’ve even had a couple who decided to get married whilst they were staying in the but ‘n’ ben!
We get consistently good feedback on the way we have furnished both houses with books and furnishings and paintings that have been in our family for a long time.
Hopes for the future?
We’re involved in Alyth’s new tourism destination development strategy which is being led by a group of local tourism-related businesses and local development trusts.
One exciting initiative is the new Cateran Ecomuseum.
It’s museum without walls and all its sites are outside. We’re all working towards creating an amazing new visitor experience which reveals the hidden heritage of eastern Perthshire and western Angus, telling the story of its people, places and landscapes from pre-history to the present day.
We aim to launch later this spring.
Do you want to recruit in the future?
We’ve just bought a third cottage so we’ll need more help making sure the properties are always comfortable and looking their best.
What is the hardest thing about running your own business?
There is always a lot of different kinds of tasks to juggle on a daily basis especially in high season and you never know quite what is round the corner, so you always need to make sure you are on top of everything and have room to be flexible if something needs urgent attention. Pacing yourself is important.