myHRdept’s monthly profiles of UK entrepreneurs – Bean Chapman, founder and owner of Chobham Adventure Farm
Each month we’re featuring a profile of a myHRdept client & entrepreneur, to gain a fascinating insight into what motivates them, the challenges they’ve faced and their top tips for others planning their own venture.
This month we’re delighted to profile Bean Chapman, who we first met in a part-finished barn with a leaking kitchen in a muddy field in Chobham! Today it is Chobham Adventure Farm, a hugely popular activity and play centre for the whole family, and a jewel in Surrey’s crown.
Bean defeated numerous challenges enroute to setting up a successful business, and any would-be entrepreneur would regard an hour of Bean’s time as gold…so myHRdept have taken the initiative, and we’re bringing Chobham Adventure Farm’s Bean Chapman, and his experiences of starting the business, to you.
Bean, tell us a little bit about your business please.
I created Chobham Adventure Farm as an activity facility for children that gave the whole family a place to interact and play together, and learn through doing by challenging oneself in a safe environment. Having grown up on a farm, there was also an opportunity for all generations to share learning and interact with numerous animals, big and small, and enjoy doing this together. Coupled with a desire for good food, we offer freshly homecooked healthy food cooked daily by our talented chefs to provide a wholesome, educational and adventurous day out for all the family
What did you do before you became a business owner?
I spent 15 years working in Sports Marketing. I worked across a variety of sports including Formula 1, football, golf, sailing, rugby. My last job was working with 28 Olympic athletes at the London 2012 Olympics – to make them as much money as possible from lots of sponsors!
When and why did you decide to start your own business?
I knew that in October 2012 the Olympic party would be over. Therefore in 2010 I started looking at creating a new business on a brownfield site that I owned with my brother. During this time I had 2 young children to entertain, and although they loved the outdoors and farm parks, the nearest was over an hour away…..so my children were really the seed for the idea, and I have a great deal to thank them for! I spent the next 2 years visiting numerous Farm Parks to work out what I, and more importantly my children, liked – and what we didn’t!
What was your greatest challenge, and how did you overcome it?
The lovely world of planning! We had huge amounts of support from the locals, businesses, families & children – as well as from the Council’s own Economic Development Officer, who saw the value in our creating more than 50 jobs, not to mention the additional tourism spend we’d bring into the Borough.
The economic development team’s enthusiasm unfortunately wasn’t reflected by the council’s planning department, and what followed was a tortuous process typified by lethargy and disinterestedness. What should have taken 8 weeks, took 2 years of energy-sapping endless chasing. And 6 years later the Planning Department continue to be the treacle we need to endure every step of every day.
What was your most memorable mistake, and what did you learn from it?
I made a very clear mistake when doing the build and listening to an “office architect”- it led to the lady’s loos being perfect for an office, but far too small for what we needed! – and on reflection they’re half the size they needed to be. I should have trusted my instincts – I had said I wanted bigger.
BUT – I am a big believer in using and listening to “experts” in their field, and so in every other aspect I have been supported and achieved so much more than I could ever have done on my own!
How optimistic are you about the future of your organisation?
The immediate future looks sadly bleak, but that is a reflection of the challenging times that we find ourselves in. The hospitality and leisure industry have found it tough after 2 years of closure, and now disposable income is at all-time low, so 2023 will be extremely tough. But the business is very well thought of and we know we offer a great product and service, so we need to ride this out and hope we can expand in the coming years.
What key pieces of advice would you pass on to someone contemplating starting their own business or organisation?
You have to find something you enjoy…. and have endless energy to bounce back up from the inevitable knock-backs! As someone said to me, if it was easy then everyone would be doing it! Clearly you need to find a market and a service or product that you can offer / sell, but my biggest piece of advice is to make sure it is something you are passionate about – as at least it’s something to fall back on in the dark times and remind yourself why you are doing it! The other key piece of advice is to find people you like and trust, and surround yourself with people who know more about their subject than you – helping ensure all your weaknesses become strengths.
How have found working with myHRdept?
myHRdept are experts in their field – I am not! I have used them to ensure that I can provide a top HR service to my staff, and to take any headaches away from me knowing that we have the most up-to-date info and can adapt and answer any challenges as they arrive. They join a greater team of lovely people that allow us to thrive and grow as a business.
Calling other owners, tell us your story!
What a great insight into approach to creating an innovative and successful business, initially inspired by Bean’s children! Bean left behind what he knew and understood, to take on challenges that he never could have envisaged at the outset – first a major build project, then a business with so many facets – food, physical activity, animals, and the myriad of legislation involved.
Bean had never previously employed people, but needed a substantial team, which flexes up during the holiday periods. He’s created some of the most off the wall conversations in the myHRdept offices over the years too. We’ll never forget asking around the team, “Bean’s looking to employ Christmas Elves….does anyone have a view – fixed term or temporary contracts?”! Bean’s created a masterpiece in Chobham Adventure Farm, and despite a current tough trading environment, we have every confidence in Bean and his team for a bright future.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts Bean, and for offering us an insight into your world.
If you’re an owner of your own enterprise and you’d like to be profiled in these columns please contact me: email@example.com.
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