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All-action Cornish business scales new heights

A Cornish business expects to double its turnover to nearly £200,000 this year since being taken over by a Nottingham couple in 2002.

The Manor House Activity and Development Centre, at St Issey, near Padstow, is scaling new heights and breaking into fresh markets with the help of Business Link Devon and Cornwall.

The Grade Two listed Georgian manor house was converted 20 years ago as a base for groups of children on activity holidays and was acquired four years ago by Steve and Lesley Kirk. Lesley was a trained nurse and hospital manager who worked in business finance while Steve was chief executive of a technology company and is an experienced climber and paddler who took part in many other sports.

"We'd had enough of the traditional rat race and were looking for a fresh challenge," recalled Lesley. "The Manor House aims to provide a wealth of new experiences and educational activities, helping to build self-confidence and encourage achievement. Professional qualified instructors provide the framework for youngsters and adults alike to develop skills and gain new experiences in the safest possible conditions. But because we were so close to the company we needed someone else to stand back and take an aerial view," she added. "So we called in Clare Whitney, Business Link Devon and Cornwall personal business adviser, to take a look at where we were going."

Clare introduced the couple to a new bank manager who offered a complete refinancing, freeing up resources to buy new equipment and improve the décor. She also linked them with a good local accountancy firm which completes their annual accounts statement and also helped develop Lesley's skills in management accountancy through Business Link's Pace workforce development programme.

Steve and Lesley initially sought to consolidate the core school business and extend the season from February to October but they also recognised they needed to diversify and broaden the client base and fill the gaps at weekends and during school holidays. The outdated marketing literature was inadequate to attract new target groups such as families, groups and corporate clients so Business Link supported the company to re-design it and employ a design and PR agency.

As well as new literature and branding, the agency achieved coverage for the Manor House as a potential venue for hen parties and the company, which employs six, was inundated with enquiries.

"Hen parties are now a regular weekend feature," said Lesley. "We offer a range of activities such as surfing, climbing, kayaking, sailing and cycling as well as beauty treatments including massages and facials. Business Link gave us great support which took the business to its next step forward. As a small company we cannot know everything and we need specialists to help us grow. The support and the professional input have been instrumental in us growing our turnover and targeting new markets."

With continued help from Business Link the company is now embarking on a project to improve its website and increase tourist bookings. "We intend to invest further to enhance the services available to a whole range of clients from schools and adult and corporate groups, and we look forward to continuing our close relationship with Business Link as we see them very much as part of the team," added Lesley.

For further information please contact Carolyn Daw of the Marketing PR Company on 01566 771863 or email:

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in Business Link through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF).


Editor's notes:

Business Link provides a free information and enquiry service via an information gateway on the web and via the telephone on 0845 600 9966 to all businesses and those considering starting a business. Additionally, it provides impartial business advice and support through a network of partner organisations, which it co-ordinates, and a register of independent business practitioners.

Business Link for Devon and Cornwall delivers the national Business Link service to the region under contract from the South West of England Regional Development Agency, which was established by government in 1999 to promote the long-term economic success of the region. It does this by working with others to give people the skills they need, encourage enterprise, improve infrastructure, help communities with regeneration and promote the strengths of the region. Business Link has received Objective One investment (European Regional Development Fund and EAGGF) to help companies improve performance and grow.

The Learning and Skills Council exists to make England better skilled and more competitive. It is responsible for planning and funding high-quality vocational education and training for everyone. It has a single goal: to improve the skills of England's young people and adults to world-class standards. Its vision is that by 2010, young people and adults in England have the knowledge and skills matching the best in the world and are part of a truly competitive workforce. Established in 2001 the LSC works nationally, regionally and locally from a network of offices across the country.


Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439

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