“It’s going to kill you! It is, it’s going to kill you!”
Penny was on a memorable break with her mum in Exmoor. During a heated exchange in the car about her job and its stress levels, Penny retorted “well what I’d really like to do is run a B&B like that!” she said as she waved her hand at Edgcott House, a property which at the time, was in need of serious renovation.
Running a Bed & Breakfast is often listed as a top dream job. But when you’re trapped in one job how do you make the change? And what’s the reality of doing it?
“It’s the best thing we ever did” says Simon. “But starting a business in the biggest recession ever means the only way is up after this. At the moment our curve isn’t where we aimed – the rain, the Jubilee. It was dead in June, dead again for the Olympics but it’s picking up again now. Luckily July was entirely repeat business. And we chose a place where business is not entirely dependent on summer trade.”
Edgcott House is becoming popular with triathletes!
Penny had run her own catering company for 24 years in Surrey. Much of it was enjoyable, the christenings and family parties. But it was the bigger jobs that brought in the money, and the stress. “We would have two weddings on a Friday and three on a Saturday. I worked seven days a week and would often start at 4.00am. Sometimes at the weekend I just worked straight through and would go to bed on Sunday night.”
Feeling the need to make change, Penny and Simon scoured the country looking for somewhere to set up a B&B. But with thirty two weddings already in the diary for the following year the question Penny and Simon faced was ‘how do you make it stop?’
They closed the business on Dec 1st to give clients enough time to get used to the idea and find a different caterer. Reception was mixed, but they did it and a change in personal circumstances meant they could leave London and move to Exeter.
“We sold off all the catering equipment within a month. After a long time, in the end it all happened very quickly.”
They put an offer on a house which they didn’t get and returned to Edgcott House and walked in and thought ‘yes.’ Between exchange and completion the roof collapsed in one of the bedrooms. But Simon ‘who can turn his hand to anything’ was not phased. “We went into it with our eyes open. We bought the house in 2009 and we refurbished the place in a year and pretty much kept to our budget.”
Restoring the house built up a network of specialist local trades people (although Penny did the decorating and Simon all the pipework) and passersby expressed their delight at seeing the house come back to life. Simon traded his IT background for dinners at the local pub. Penny is a Cordon Bleu chef and uses local produce for her outstanding breakfasts which includes coffee roasted in Porlock.
Penny has also sourced beautiful handmade soaps, soaks and body washes from Aromatika based in Totnes, Devon. It provides a lovely detail in the bedrooms alongside gorgeous flapjack which awaited us after a great day out at Tarr Steps and Dunster Castle.
“I don’t miss the stress of the catering business. And there’s no one to manage here, except Simon, and he usually does as he’s told’ laughs Penny.
Penny’s homemade lemon marmalade, jams and preserves are available to buy too.