Sally Fielding, winner of this year’s Women’s Business Woman of the Year, has been praised for her contribution to the economy of Cumbria, as well as for being an inspiration to other women in business, by judges of the prestigious award run by the Cumbrian Chamber of Commerce.
Owner of Keswick based Sally’s Cottages and mum of three under five, Sally was honoured for the energy with which she has grown her successful business from an original investment of £1,000 in 2003.
Sally, who was born in Eskdale, set up Sally’s Cottages in eight years ago after a neighbour asked her for help in letting her holiday cottage. Seeing how successfully Sally did this, other people starting asking her to let their cottages too, and the business has grown at a steady rate to include 160 cottages throughout the Lake District today.
The business grew by word of mouth and Sally put a lot of energy into marketing different parts of the Lake District to visitors. The cottages she let needed local people to clean them and others to provide maintenance and her passion for local business ethics is still present in her successful business today. Sally says: “We are in constant contact with people that I went to school with, as well as their parents, all of whom have spotted an opportunity and provide a service to us and to each other. Over the years we have become a growing network of people who work well with each other in a mutually gainful relationship, rather than the unequal but more usual employer-employee relationship.”
Whilst putting a huge amount of energy into growing her business into a thriving success story, Sally has also been bringing up three children at the same time. She said: “I’m so happy to receive this award. The past eight years have been really hard work – I had just two days off when my first child, Bruno, was born, and the same when Daisy was born too (although I had several weeks off when Julia was born). When they were little they would sleep beside my desk in a basket; later on a bit more juggling was required. But it has paid off and we have managed to increase the number of cottages we let while still managing to deliver on our promise to cottage owners to do our very best to ensure that their cottage lets well.”
Joanne Holborn from Baines Wilson LLP who was on the judging panel for the award said: “We were looking for someone who is inspiring to other women in business and it was clear that Sally stood out as a rising star. Add to that the fact that around 100 women have found work cleaning at Sally’s cottages, and that they also have over 150 local handymen, electricians, plumbers, painters and other suppliers to call on for general maintenance at the cottages, we felt that Sally was definitely putting something good back into the County.”
Gill Forrester from Financial Management Bureau who was also on the judging panel added: “It is clear that Sally has grown her business with skill, confidence and great foresight. When I met her at the award ceremony I was impressed by her quiet determination and vigour.”
In January this year Sally’s Cottages opened its first office in Keswick, which now houses eight of the company’s employees.
When asked “What next?” Sally said: “We have recently employed two more people in the office, Deborah and Suzanna, which will allow us to offer a good service to even more cottage owners throughout the Lakes. Despite having grown our turnover substantially, we maintain our original vision for the business: exceptional service, approachable staff and a commitment to the local community and economy. We hope that cottage owners share our passion for the Lake District and preserving its special environment, whilst supporting its economy for the future. It has been an unusual year and we have seen people’s attitudes and requirements change nationwide. So we have adapted what we do and what we offer to take advantage of this and we will not sit still. It will be interesting to see where the next few years take us.”
The award celebrates inspirational success in business, and reflects a significant achievement during these uncertain times. Catherynn Dunstan of the Cumbria Chamber of Commerce presented the award, which was sponsored by Baines Wilson LLP and Financial Management Bureau, last Thursday (17 November) at the Women in Business Conference held at Carlisle Racecourse.
Sally with her two smallest children