Meet Graham, Lindsay and Emily Morrison and discover how they run their family business without getting under each other’s feet – with Orchard Huts
Living with your family is one thing, but going into business with them is a whole different ball game.
We all know what it’s like to have the occasional family tiff, especially after spending the majority of the last year locked up in the same house.
But there’s one family who made the most of the lockdown to set up their own hospitality business.
Orchard Huts is a luxury shepherd hut business located in the Cotswolds, run by the Morrison family. Currently, they have two, self-contained shepherd huts in their orchard that each sleep two people, with plans for an additional hut in future.
Lindsay said her husband, Graham, is very handy which has been a huge help.
“He does all the groundwork and he put in all of the electrics and the plumbing and connected the water,” she said.
Their daughter, Emily, finished university last year, where she studied on a textile design course.
“Emily does all the social media side of it and takes all of her own photos,” said Lindsay.
Emily said: “I learned about Photoshop and design, so my degree helps a lot with branding and marketing.”
The Morrisons explained that they run all aspects of the business themselves.
“We don’t employ anybody,” said Lindsay, “we just do it ourselves and we love it.”
But how do they work out who does what? What stops them from getting under each other’s feet?
“We all have our own little roles,” explained Lindsay.
“I stay away from any social media stuff and if anybody messages us, I know not to reply to them because Emily does all of that.
“I do all the washing and ironing and then we get Graham involved if we have a bigger job that needs doing, like if there’s a leak or something breaks.”
Emily said: “We just know our own roles and if one of us can’t do something, like a changeover, then the other one will step in and do it.”
She added: “It works really well at the moment. Our running of the place seems pretty smooth as we all enjoy it so much.”
When it comes to figuring out who should do what and assigning roles within your family business, Lindsay’s motherly advice was to ‘stick to what you’re good at’.
She said:“I think people generally know what they’re good at, so if you’re good at design, then put yourself in charge of shopping for all the interior stuff.
“Know your area of expertise and stick to what you’re good at.”
If you’re not sure where your skills lie, Emily’s advice was to start by trying a bit of everything.
“You might think you’re not very good at something,” said Emily, “but you don’t know until you try it.”
She added: “It’s just trial and error until you find your role.”
Laughing, Lindsay added that it can also be wise to learn when to keep your mouth shut.
“Sometimes I don’t agree with Em, and sometimes she doesn’t agree with me, but I won’t say anything because we’ve all got our own opinions,” she said.
“I do have to remind myself that she knows what she’s doing with the social stuff, and then in the end, I’ll think ‘Oh, well maybe she was right’!”
“We all have our own little roles and if one of us can’t do something,
then the other will step in and do it.” – Emily Morrison
Despite the fact that starting a business can cost you, Lindsay said you “don’t have to have a bottomless pit” of money.
“Some people might say ‘Oh it’s okay for them, they must have a lot of money’, but that’s not always the case,” she said.
“If you’ve got a dream of doing something, whatever obstacles you come across, just stick with it and make it work.
“You don’t necessarily have to sell the family heirlooms or have a bottomless pit of money either.”
Emily explained some of the things they’ve done to keep costs down.
“We’ve made our own hooks and our own shelving,” explained Emily.
“There’s also been a few marketplace purchases that have worked well.”
She added: “Some of my favourite things here are actually second hand buys or homemade stuff!”
Little homemade elements within their shepherd huts also help to express that this is a family run business.
“Little touches make all the difference,” – Lindsay Morrison
“For example, we make our own gin from the damsons that are grown in the orchard here, and we give every guest a small bottle of gin and we write them all little notes just to make them feel special.”
Emily added: “And if they come for an anniversary or a birthday or something, we’ll give them a bottle of fizz.”
One of the advantages of the business being family run, is that their family home isn’t far away from the orchard where the huts are.
“It’s about a mile down the road,” said Emily, “so if there’s any issues, we can just pop back.”
“But that’s only happened a handful of times,” said Lindsay, “I mean, some people ask for the silliest things and we still seem to accommodate them!”
Emily added: “We do try to go above and beyond. We hate to say no, especially because we haven’t been open for that long.”
Another advantage of having the whole family involved, is that if something goes wrong and you have someone with the right skill set, you don’t need to wait for an external tradesman.
“The pipes burst over our first winter of being open, and I think it was the coldest in nearly 25 years,” said Emily.
Lindsay added: “We had guests staying and it was a nightmare!
“We just told them to go for a very long walk and we’d sort it out for them, and we did. Graham, my husband, did it.
“We got new pipes in, cleaned up the mess, put in fresh towels and mopped up ready for when they got back.”
Laughing, Emily said: “It was pretty horrific!”
Lindsay added: “But we sort it out and that wouldn’t have been possible without Graham.”
If you’re interested in starting your own family business, Lindsay and Emily had some final advice.
“We had so many teething problems to start with,” said Emily, “and you have to just learn as you go along.”
Lindsay added: “We would ask our guests to please tell us if there was anything we could do to improve.”
Emily also suggested visiting other businesses.
“Go and stay in some other shepherd huts or other B&Bs,”she said, “so that you can get an idea of how they run their businesses, and definitely stay in your own.”
Lindsay said: “Yes, stay in your own shepherd hut or B&B or whatever you have so that you can see if there’s anything you missed.”
Encouraging your guests to book directly from your own website is becoming increasingly popular and important. But as a new business, the Morrisons decided to use AirBnB to help them build an audience.
“We did think about setting up a website,” explained Emily, “but we stuck the huts on AirBnB whilst I started putting it together and we’ve actually been so full from AirBnB bookings, that the website got put on the back burner.
“The two huts we’ve got are doing so well that we’re already talking about getting another one, so ideally we’d have our own website.”
Lindsay added: “AirBnB has just made it really easy for us. They take a low commission from us, the way their diaries work, and how they hold a deposit then send us the money… It just makes the whole system very easy.”
“You also get your own insurance policy if you list with AirBnB, which is quite handy” said Emily.
If you’re a new business, Emily and her mum strongly suggest listing with an OTA (Online travel Agent) such as AirBnB to help you find your footing.
Lindsay said: “Using an OTA like AirBnB is 100% worth it because it helped us to get started.”
Emily said: “It’s all about building that client base.
“I think that once we’ve had maybe a year of people staying with us and being fully booked, then your name gets recognised more and people are more likely to search for your website.”
Using an OTA such as AirBnB is a great way to lay the foundations for your business. Should you choose to list on an OTA to help with those initial bookings, use the platform to start building a loyal client base, just like Orchard Huts.
“Using an OTA like AirBnB is 100% worth it, because it helped us to get started.” – Lindsay Morrison
Should you later decide to stop listing with the OTA and only take direct bookings from your own website, you can use the audience and client base you built up during your time with the OTA to your advantage.
The LBNB Team suggests you spend some time online, researching the different OTAs available to you. Remember to look into listing rates and how much commission they take from each booking.
“I never imagined the business would do this well,” said Lindsay.
Emily said: “It’s a little haven and we love that we’re able to share it with others and maybe inspire them to open up their own similarly loved spaces!”
Top Tips – Operating a B&B as a family business
- Know your area of expertise
- Give everyone a role that relates to their skillset
- Be prepared to help each other if someone can’t do something
- Learn to trust each others decision making in their own roles
- Stay in your own hospitality venue so you can see if you’ve missed anything
- Personal touches, like handwritten notes, make all the difference
- Ask your guests for feedback
- Don’t be afraid of using second hand or homemade products
- You don’t need buckets of money
- Enjoy yourselves