I’ve only just met Helen in real life. And it was only a week ago!
I’d booked myself into the stunning Swn Y Nant (Sound of the Stream) for a midweek break. Owned by Helen and her family, I was so pleased to find that they were staying opposite in their other holiday accommodation whilst having work done on their own home. And well as we are both springer spaniel owners – I was always going to like her!
However, I know it sounds mad. Including someone you’ve only just met in my 12 inspirational women list. But having followed Helen on Twitter and Instagram for while I had a funny feeling she would be special. And yep, having spent some time in her company that week, the more I got to know her story, the more I loved and was inspired.
- Inspiring Women: #HelloMyNameIs Dr Kate Granger MBE
- Women Ahead Awards: Do They Really Celebrate Women in Business?
So in the second instalment of our inspirational women blogs, meet Helen Howarth. Wife, Mum, Project Manager, Alpaca owner and well …. you’ll get the picture below!
Inspirational Women: Helen Howarth (Brecon Retreat)
Ooooh now where do I start? Well, I guess it’s helpful to start with the reason I met Helen. Their amazing dog-friendly, child-friendly, green accommodation.
Yes, I know what your thinking. Really, can it be all things? Well yes. And not just average on any of those three things either.
#1 Helen: knows her customers
One of my biggest bug bears is when accommodation says their dog-friendly and they aren’t really. It’s used as a ‘badge’ rather than understanding what dog-friendly really is. They may just allow you to bring your dog along. Oh, and they’ll probably charge you an additional charge per night too!
From reading the Brecon Retreat website, I knew there were some thoughtful additions that Millie would love but well, you really do have to see it to believe it.
From the offer of a dog crate to a dog bed, treats, dog bowls, mini shampoo and conditioner and even sofa covers for those pooches who are used to being on sofas to snooze. Did I mention the outdoor hose (including warm water) and the ability to order Natures Menu in advance of your arrival for your pooch??
I will share a blog later covering our stay but I hope the above gives you a feel for exactly how well Helen has gotten to know her customers. She doesn’t just satisfy and do a few nice touches, she picks up everything you would want to have at home and makes it available for you. That effort and focus haven’t just been applied to dog-friendly items but to families too.
I really have never stayed somewhere who has put so much thought into arrival, the accommodation and well the whole experience.
Every small business could learn something from how Helen understands her customers and how she provides an all round experience for them.
#2 Helen: A Risk Taker
I’d noticed that Helen had started to advertise an adjacent property, suitable for larger groups, but it was only through talking to her that I realised it was previously their own home.
Having hunted high and low for another property to let out, they chose instead to move home and ensure they could create something just as magical as their first holiday accommodation let.
Now, most people would say that is a huge sacrifice and we all know how stressful house moves can be (particularly if you are then bringing your old home up to a very high standard to rent it out). But no, if that wasn’t stressful enough, Helen was, in fact, doing all of this just as she went into labour with her beautiful twins.
Having had to spend some time in hospital pre their birth, I laughed when she told me that it was on the day she went into labour that they had a call asking if they wanted to go ahead with their new home purchase. It wasn’t until the next day that I realised she hadn’t just bought another house. She’d bought a house with a large building currently housing 24 bunk beds for walkers, larger groups, etc.
And yes. She is right now fully renovating her new home and then will be renovating that large bunk bed building. Having heard some her plans for the renovations, I really can’t wait to see them and am sure I’ll be lining up to book. I’ll leave Helen to reveal her own plans for them though and not spoil the surprise!
A risk to do this all while raising a young family and running an already successful business? Yes, I guess so but I can see how passionate Helen is and know it will be a huge success. Inspiring!
#3 Helen: The Juggler
We know how busy it can be running a small business and a new business at that. It comes with challenges and even the odd social media troll (I’ll save you the long story of a gentleman who took offence to a photo Helen posted of her daughter with some ewes!).
But in reality, Helen does that along with three young children and a husband that who sometimes works away from home.
You really would never know that she is answering a call from a field whilst feeding her Alpaca’s. Yeah, she has those too.
I’m in awe at how much she does and all so calmly!
#4 Helen: A Brecon Beacons National Park Ambassador
There was something Helen said to me during my stay that really stuck with me.
“You have to create your own business out here”
I truly believe Helen has done so much more than that.
She cares about the small businesses around her and stocks several items for guests to buy (yep I bought a few items!).
You’ll find a huge welcome book filled with walks, things to do, places to see. All showcasing the stunning Brecon Beacons and the businesses in the area.
Along with that welcome pack, you’ll even find a mini iPad in the accommodation. It has a map with all of her local favourite things to do, places to eat and areas to explore. I loved spending time looking at Helen’s favourites and choosing the next adventure out with Millie.
It wasn’t a surprise to find out the Helen undertook specific training to become a Brecon Ambassador. You really can’t talk to Helen for a few minutes without knowing how much she loves the area. She just oozes Brecon (if that’s possible!)
She really is finding a way to create a business that can sustain her family while also bringing tourism to the local area too. A true ambassador.
But she’s human too
You may be reading this thinking that the women is a machine. Honestly, you’ll not meet a more gentle, welcoming and friendly lady!
I immediately felt at home in Helen’s company and probably why I felt compelled to include Helen in my 12 inspirational ladies. She really is just an amazing lady. A mum and a wife, working very hard behind the scenes to create a great life for them in a remote area.
But oooooh, she’s doing it so well. Having spent that little time with Helen and staying in her accommodation, I felt challenged to raise my own bar. To check that I’m going above and beyond and living up to the values that Helen holds so dear to her own heart with her business.
Thank you Helen – it was just a short visit but I have a funny feeling you have inspired more than just me during your own journey.
The Brecon Retreat Website – http://breconretreat.co.uk/
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