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Inspirational Female Founder Spotlight: Celia Gaze

Celia Gaze, is a best-selling author, award-winning female entrepreneur and the Founder and CEO of the Edgworth-based The Wellbeing Farm – famously known for its llamas in bow-ties. Celia, a former burnout NHS Senior Manager, has turned the farm from a passion project to an award-winning Certified B Corporation venue over the last 10 years.

Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?

Growing up in a big, loving family, I absorbed different traits from each person, shaping who I am today. My dad, a dedicated workaholic, instilled my passion, while my artistic mom fuelled my enthusiasm and personality. School wasn’t my forte, and teachers weren’t particularly encouraging. Instead, I thrived in organising shows, cooking, and entertaining my family including my five siblings. Naturally, I gravitated towards the hospitality industry, earning a diploma and degree in Hotel and Catering Management.

Landing my dream job after graduation proved more challenging than anticipated. Out of desperation, with the help of my mother I accepted a volunteer position at the NHS, which I surprisingly loved. However, the lack of income sparked my entrepreneurial spirit. As I climbed the ladder, eventually becoming a Turnaround Director, the stress became overwhelming, draining my health. I felt like I was drowning.

Returning from maternity leave, it was clear this wasn’t sustainable. Taking a break for three months, I sought a way to address stress, inspired by its impact on me. I craved a stress-free environment and longed to share that feeling with others.

That’s how the vision for The Wellbeing Farm was born – a business blending wellbeing, sustainability, and fun. The journey wasn’t a breeze, but it transformed a neglected farm into an award-winning wedding venue and a B Corp-certified company, the venue’s aim is to make planning a wedding as stress-free and fun-filled as possible, making a positive impact on the world around us.

Wellbeing Corporate provides access to a great range of wellbeing and business providers. Businesses can select from a menu of activities and create their own bespoke event. Whether companies want to just hire the farm, plan a strategy development day, undertake some team building, or enhance their employee wellbeing or just have some fun.

How did the idea come to you for the company?

I educated myself on stress management with courses and tons of books. One of the modules on my course focused on creating stress-free environments. This really resonated with me, especially after experiencing burnout myself. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be amazing to create a business that actually helps people live stress-free lives?”

With that spark in mind, I embarked on an adventure with my son, traveling from Devon to Scotland and visiting 196 venues! We soaked up ideas, collecting inspiration from every corner. My coursework eventually turned into something more – a full-fledged business plan focused on this very dream.

My partner, Stephen, had a farm that wasn’t quite reaching its full potential. It was then that the lightbulb clicked. Could this be the canvas for the dream I envisioned? I started to imagine transforming that neglected farm into something truly special – a haven for wellbeing, a place where stress would melt away. The idea for The Wellbeing Farm came from my own desire for a stress-free and fulfilling life. I saw a need for venues that catered to holistic wellbeing, not just celebrations. The bow ties on the llamas were a playful touch that resonated with our quirky and fun approach.

How did you achieve awareness?

We gained awareness through a variety of channels, including social media. However, the day that I put the bow tie on a llama was the day that transformed everything. The minute I put the bow tie on the llama, my business became different. We leapt from 15 to 43 weddings in one year (2016) and we continued to grow. That was the start of the transformation of my business. Up to that point, The Wellbeing Farm was just another venue, but the bow tie-wearing llamas meant we suddenly became a venue that stood out.

How have you been able to gain funding and grow?

Funding came from savings, family loans, bank funding and a rural diversification grant. Growth was driven by word-of-mouth, positive reviews, and a commitment to exceeding expectations. We also focused on being a venue where wellbeing, sustainability and fun were the key USP’s.

What are the key successes?

  • Transforming a run-down farm into a thriving business
  • Becoming a B Corp-certified company
  • Winning multiple awards for sustainability, weddings, and business excellence
  • Creating a positive impact on our community and the environment.

What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?

I had no experience of running a business, and this was a huge project. I had to learn how to secure finances, gain planning permission and oversee building transformation including liaising with architects, builders, and electricians. I almost faced bankruptcy, court hearings, we had issues with staff and system failures. I learnt it all the hard way, but we came out on top.

When Covid 19 struck and facing a ban on weddings, I decided to look at this with a positive perspective and use the time to return to sustainability and driven by my beliefs in nature, sustainability, and wellbeing. I came across the B Corporation concept and worked to submit the application. In 2022, we became one of the first wedding venues in the world to achieve B Corp Certification. Since then, the farm has gone on to win multiple awards and I have been named Net Zero Leader and Sustainability Changemaker for the wedding industry and branded a Hospitality Industry Trailblazer.

What are your plans now/for the future?

We plan to expand our reach, challenge, and change the industry. We want to help more businesses prioritise employee wellbeing and sustainability. We’ll also continue to develop The Wellbeing Farm as a unique and inspiring destination.

What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?

Believe in your idea, be passionate, and don’t be afraid to take calculated risks. Learn from mistakes, embrace challenges, and surround yourself with supportive people.

Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?

  • Find your niche.
  • Be adaptable, embrace challenges, and learn from mistakes.
  • Build a strong and supportive team and network.
  • Focus on solving a problem.

Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?

  • Nigel Botterill, Founder of the Entrepreneurs Circle for his non-stop enthusiasm, drive and energy for generating business ideas and growth.
  • Carrie Green, Founder of the Female Entrepreneur Association for her down to earth business sense and common-sense approach, who isn’t afraid to use concepts like spirituality in business.
  • Alex Polizzi, Hotel Inspector, for her frank approach to sorting out problems in hospitality and the ability to see exactly what needs to be done.
  • Paul Polman, former CEO, Unilver for his vision of purpose-led business and his strong support for climate action and the role of business in addressing climate change.
  • Mel Robbins for her frank approach to all things in life and for her ‘get-it-sorted’ / no nonsense attitude.

What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?

  • “You only get one life so make the most of it.”
  • “Do something today that your future self with thank you for.”
  • “Don’t lie – when you are 105 years of age – on your deathbed, thinking, ‘I should have done a few things!’ I would like to think I tried as much as I could.” – Imelda May
  • “Whoever we are, we have to carve something out of our lives. I would like to be on my deathbed going, ‘I’ve enjoyed that. I went through the rollercoaster of it, but I’ve appreciated it.’” Noma Dumezweni
  • “Please think about your legacy because you are writing it every day.” – Gary Vaynerchuk, Entrepreneur

What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?