Creating a wellbeing farm and standing up against adversity
“Being an entrepreneur is about living your passion and never letting anyone put you in a box”
My name is Celia Gaze, I am founder and director of two businesses; The Wellbeing Farm and The Wellbeing Corporate in Edgworth, Bolton.
As one of 6 children I came from a very competitive background, which always made me strive to be the best I could be. My parents were, unfortunately, not very entrepreneurial but they were extremely academic and intelligent. Therefore I was pushed towards the academic side of life despite not particularly enjoying school and showing a passion for business from a young age. From the age of 10 I was outside my house creating different stalls and selling things like toys. I have one distinct memory of a time where I took my fathers clothes out onto the street and sold them in the name of Live Aid. I also demonstrated fantastic organisational and leadership skills when I was little and I used to put on plays with my family and friends.
I also began to develop an interest in cooking when I was younger, cooking for my family from the age of 8 and entering the Junior Cook Off of The Year competition. I much preferred the hospitality sector to academia but when my teacher told me at 16 I would never pass my O Level maths I was compelled to try my absolute hardest and I passed, exceeding everyone’s expectations and displaying a drive for success I later utilised in my business career. Therefore when I finished school at 16 I decided to pursue my interests and I went on to do a Btec qualification in Hotel and Catering Management. My dream was to work in events and I went on to do a degree in Hotel and Catering Management. I believe that I have always been brave and my desire to pursue my own dreams rather than what my family encouraged me to do is a clear demonstration of my bravery.
However as a graduate I encountered a great degree of difficulty getting my first job and got rejected from over 100 places. I spent a whole summer just attending graduate assessment centres and so my mother volunteered me to help out at the local hospital, just to get me out the house. I then spent a whole year at the hospital gaining experience and finally was offered a job for the NHS. I worked my way up over the 14 years I spent in the NHS and went from a manager to a director in health service. Although I loved the NHS, as an extraordinarily creative individual, I felt very restricted by the bureaucratic nature of it. Every idea I had for improvement would take months to be implicated and would have to go through many committee stages to be approved. At an event I hosted I was told by someone that my creativity and passion was wasted in the NHS and that instead I should begin my own business, I hadn’t really thought about this before.
But then I had my first baby and everything was put on hold. I had my baby quite late in life, as my career has always been my main passion and I really wanted to focus on it. During my maternity leave I was offered the chance to pursue a big project for the NHS and I was extremely flattered that I’d been considered for it. However, I then found myself encountering one of the biggest dilemmas of my life, which many women have to go through, the conflict between my work and motherhood. I put my 6 month old into a nursery and got to work on the project but I found it very difficult, as it was focused on finance, which I hadn’t really encountered before. I’d never shied away from a big project before but I was finding myself in a rapid decline mentally. I was overwhelmingly anxious on my way to work, my heart beating in my chest, and I was becoming very tearful at even the slightest bit of criticism. One of my colleagues eventually suggested I see a doctor, something I hadn’t thought of because I wasn’t aware that there was anything a doctor could do to help me. When I did see the doctor I was just suggested medication, which I was extremely hesitant to take, as I’d read scary stories about the effects of such medication on society. I was disappointed with the lack of alternative treatment and instead I decided to put myself first and resigned from the NHS.
My next adventure idea came to me very randomly as I had started researching stress. My partner owned a farm and I had the idea to transform it into a centre for improving wellbeing. My business model was rejected over and over and then when it was accepted my planning permission was rejected too. I felt like I was encountering every single possible obstacle to creating my dream, but I still did not give up. Finally, after 2 years of bureaucracy, The Wellbeing Farm started to be built. I encountered even more difficulties as the farm was in the middle of nowhere so had no gas, sewage system or drainage. Therefore it took around 3 and a half years to complete and opened in March 2013.
I was then given the unpleasant surprise of a bill for £42,000 worth of extras for the farm, so I was very short of the money needed to run it for the first six months. Therefore out of desperation my initial business model was lost and the direction for my farm became very skewed. It was a cafe, function centre, cookery school, wedding venue, children’s party centre, petting zoo and the list goes on. I decided I needed to refocus on wellbeing, what I believe to be the most important element and what I initially set out to achieve. My mum lent me the money and I refocused as a wedding venue. After a picture of a bowtie on a llama, the venue went viral and I was up to 100+ bookings a year.
Covid was obviously a very difficult time for many people and I decided to keep most of my staff to work with the couples who had booked the venue and provide reassurance. I also took Covid as a time to reimagine The Wellbeing Corporate aspect of my business model, using the farm as a centre for business events promoting the importance of wellbeing.
Finally I would like to emphasise the importance of creativity and wellbeing. You only get one life so it is extremely important to pursue your passions and make sure you maximise your fun just like I did in starting my own business as a result of a very difficult period in my life.