Every week, we are adding new entries to our Interview Series. It’s been fantastic to find so many interesting people, learning about their creative ideas and experiences as vegan business owners. Today, we meet Helen, owner of the Peasholm Park, a bed & breakfast that caters to vegans, located in Yorkshire, England.
I always ask the person I’m interviewing about their marketing strategies. I think we, as vegan businesses can all learn about what others are doing. A lot of people rely on social media, but I have noticed a trend on a growing number of business-owners who have stepped away from social media and returned to old-fashioned advertising in print media, for example. That’s very telling!
Helen does use social media, but is one of those who has experimented with other advertising outlets.
So, here’s Helen.
Hi Helen, Welcome to our platform. Tell us a little something about your business.
We offer a compassionate, cruelty free break in Scarborough, on the stunning North Yorkshire Coast.
We provide cruelty free, complimentary toiletries in all bedrooms, Fair-trade hospitality tray with fresh soya milk from the guest fridge, a free vegan-friendly eating out guide and free guest Wi-Fi.
Peasholm Park Vegan B&B is in a superb location; opposite the beautiful, Japanese themed Peasholm Park, within a 5 minute walk to the glorious North Bay Beach.
I happen to have visited the North Yorkshire coast. And I can confirm it is indeed stunning. How long have you been in business?
Who do you cater to? What kind of people, age-group are you seeing most interest from?
Initially we inherited 60 bookings from the previous owner, who were 50 years +, and were non vegans, we rang them all and explained we were re-launching the hotel as a vegan bed and breakfast, we only lost 5 of the 60 bookings, the rest of them came, and very much enjoyed their stays, some even re-booked with us.
We also had a lot of our own bookings from the advertising we did in the first year, these were from; veggies and vegans, young couples, middle aged couples and families. We had a few booking from veggies/vegans who were 60+ but less so.
We encourage people from all walks of life, any age, but we have seen this year the most interest from vegans and return bookings. We are very strict about being 100% vegan in the establishment and don’t allow animal products to be brought into the B&B.
How old is your average customer?
How was your business affected by the quarantine period of the pandemic? What measures did you take to keep afloat? How is your business now that we are re-opening?
We had renovated the property over the Winter and so we were kept very busy during the lockdown period with putting everything straight and cleaning thoroughly after all the building work. We were also busy communicating with our guests and sorting our refunds for bookings that had to be cancelled due to the pandemic.
Many of our guests chose to re-book later in the year, which was a blessing. We received a grant from the government for small businesses, this helped pay the bills short term and with the refund losses. We have always kept a positive outlook and enjoyed spending extra time with our two children and dogs, so mentally we were fine.
We have a Covid19 risk assessment and have put measures in place to secure a safe re-opening, we have kept our guests up to date via email and social media, we’ve uploaded videos on Facebook and Instagram and we are happy to say that we have a healthy amount of bookings flowing through.
We are keeping our occupancy lower, so that social distancing is met and to re-assure our guests as much as possible that we take their (and our) safety very seriously.
How do you perceive the local vegan & eco-friendly market in the UK, in terms of business and how do you see the local consumer?
I would say the market is growing, we have many restaurants and cafes in the area now adapting to include the demand for vegan options and consumers.
I think there is an increase in awareness in younger people regarding climate change, and once they look into this they see the link to the mass murder of billions of animals each year.
Give us a little background about how veganism is perceived in the UK. Is there a cultural clash? Does local media give space to the vegan lifestyle in news channels, lifestyle channels, magazines, etc?
Veganism is becoming more acceptable and less ‘strange’ to people, advertisements on TV and radio include vegan ranges and products, often referred to as ‘plant based’ though. We have many magazines for the vegan lifestyle and as more films are released on Netflix – ‘Game Changers’ for example, people can see the link to animal products being toxic for the body. For us, we are vegan for the animals, we wish their suffering to cease, but if individuals go plant based or vegan for their health, this still has a positive affect on decreasing industrial farming.
In some peoples’ minds vegans are still ‘extreme’, and always will be. We are fortunate to have many vegan celebs such as Simon Cowell, Lewis Hamilton, Morrisey, Heather Mills, Victoria Pendleton, David Haye, Benjamin Zephaniah, and many more.
How do you manage to reach out to your clientele? Social media? Advertising? Other?
A fact of life is that any trending subject-matter will attract internet marketers who come in looking for a fast buck. This is most certainly the case with the vegan trend. How do you manage to get past them and reach out to your clients?
How hard is it for you to market your business?
We started with many adverts in magazines such as Vegan and Vegetarian society, Outrage, Viva! Vegan Food and Living, – we found this to be very expensive in the first year. We do our own social media with the help from our Son, who has trained in digital marketing.
We connect with other vegan companies through ‘Vegan Tribe’ and we don’t engage in companies who want to advertise our company who do not have an ethical background.
We feel we are becoming established from repeat bookings, more followers on Facebook etc, positive reviews on our website and word of mouth. By staying connected and boosting posts on Facebook, we feel we reach out the most in this way, in this digital age.
Back to the local scene, do major supermarkets in the UK, for example, offer a good array of vegan products on their shelves?
Yes, although we have to shop at four different supermarkets to hit the full range! We also shop online from Suma and Ethical Supermarket, to support their businesses. There is a good range of vegan products, although I prefer a wholefood plant based vegan diet, I’m not so keen on the over processed goods.
Can you give us a little background about your personal journey as a vegan? How long have you been a vegan? Why did you choose to adopt veganism?
My partner and I were vegetarian for many years, my husband Karl, had a vegan shop many moons ago in a farming community, which didn’t go down so well with the locals. We raised our two children, Joe 18yrs and Grace 14yrs on vegetarians diets, much to our families disapproval. We became vegan over 5 years ago, when we couldn’t ignore the truth after watching ‘Earthlings’ documentary. The truth is well hidden unfortunately, but once you know, you know.
What drove you to open a vegan business? And what difficulties, if any, did you come across to achieve your objective?
We came to the decision that we wanted to expand our veganism into every aspect of our lives, hence starting the vegan business last year. We want to promote veganism by leading by example and showing people that you can have a cruelty free, healthy lifestyle, that gives you the piece of mind that you are living you life without harming others.
After going away for breaks ourselves, we were fed up of having to call ahead to see if our diets could be catered for, being unsure if any cross contamination may have occurred (cooking mushrooms in bacon fat as an example, which has happened on one of our holidays) We wanted to cater for people who don’t want cruelty to animals in there lives, whether at home or away on holiday. Our gas and electric comes from Ecotricity, our complimentary toiletries are vegan, duvets are eco friendly/vegan, and most importantly our kitchen is 100% vegan, no suffering whatsoever!
We wish for all suffering to cease for our fellow sentient beings, the change starts with us but kindness and compassion has a ripple effect.
I want to thank Helen for participating in The Interview Series. Visit and support the Peasholm Park Bed & Breakfast