“The sustainable equilibrium of our planet is facing huge challenges. But at The Wellbeing Farm, we are working to create a solution, and to make our green story even greener”. (Celia Gaze)
Who would have thought a wedding and corporate event company could be one of the UK’s first B corps and an example of Harmonious Entrepreneurship? The Well-being farm is no ordinary wedding and event company. In December 2012 Celia Gaze, a new mother, resigned from her job as interim Assistant Chief Executive of Bolton National Healthcare Trust, and persuaded her partner, Stephen Whitehead, to allow her to turn his somewhat neglected rural Lancashire 30 acre hill farm into “something special”.
Initially, she toured the U.K. researching the market and visiting 195 event venues, then she began acquiring genuine, authentic farm artifacts from reclamation yards and auctions while a local builder worked on converting the farm. Eventually, in the second week of March (British Butchers Week) 2013 they opened the farm as an event venue offering a cookery school, butchery courses, a café, and Llama trekking. Within six months they had achieved the Green Tourism Business Award in recognition of their commitment to sustainable business practices and the entire business is “geared towards improving the health and wellbeing of its visitors”.
However, all of that changed in the Spring of 2014 when a young couple asked them if they could hold their wedding reception on the farm. Although they had nowhere to hold it, Celia agreed and converted an indoor livery school into a stunning wedding barn using recycled parachutes for the ceiling. When the wedding was held in July 2014 it was a tremendous success – everybody enjoyed it – and it was quickly followed in October 2014 with a second equally, if not more, successful event. The bride was a wallpaper designer who wanted “a relaxed day with the importance of the church service and a fabulous, relaxed celebration afterwards…we also wanted a mix of vintage glamour and seasonal rustic details and styling – allowing nature and elegance to come together”. The Well-being Farm venue was completely perfect she announced afterward. The following year, the farm hosted 14 weddings and created a bespoke wedding barn that could cater for 260 guests. Since then the farm has been licensed to hold weddings as well as wedding receptions and the number of events has increased so that by 2022 the farm was hosting around 100 weddings a year and bringing trade to the local public houses, restaurants, hotels, and taxi firms. Importantly it was providing employment for some 40 young local people and was serving the local community by being the largest employer in the area, all of their employees being paid a living wage and appointed on their ability and expertise. However, they do not just benefit the local community but they have a twinning policy whereby their toilets, for example, are twinned with a toilet manufacturer in a third-world country.
Sustainability is at the heart of the enterprise which is powered by its own wind turbines and implements such self-sufficient practices as composting and rainwater harvesting. To reduce waste, the uneaten food is donated to local charities, waste meat to the local dogs home, and vegetable peelings are either composted or fed to the farm animals, while previously used wedding and event decorations are stored in a “Prop Shed” and can be recycled to create an entirely waste-free unique vision for each wedding. The farm is also moving towards a zero single-use plastic policy. No plastic water bottles are used, only fresh water, and in 2019 they banned the use of plastic straws and stirrers. In order to become even more sustainable they are exploring the production and use of homemade cleaning products and are introducing green practices to their administration.
On top of all of this Celia, who is ADHD, is an enterprise advisor working in local schools and colleges, and has developed links with the local universities offering internships to students to work on specific educational projects like, for example, the BCorp application. Additionally, the farm has partnerships with local schools and, in partnership with Wellbeing Lancashire, has turned itself into an educational course. Achieving all of this has not been easy. As Celia says “I went through every conceivable battle to set this up. The local authority could have been more supportive. I had plenty of rejections from the banks”. Nevertheless, apart from achieving its Green Tourism Award and BCorp status, the farm has been recognised in several domestic business competitions including, on 22nd March 2023, the inaugural “Good Small Business Awards” where it won the Hospitality and Leisure Champion category.
According to Celia, the Wellbeing farm tries“not to be ‘just another venue’ we deliberately set out to be special and to ‘make the ordinary extraordinary’ and to be unique”. It certainly is not just another venture nor is it completely unique. Rather it is one of a small but growing number of Harmonious Enterprises that adopt a business model in which Profit, planet, and people are in harmony. Like them, it addresses many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals particularly SDGs 1 (No Poverty), 4 (Quality Education), 5 (Gender Equality), 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), 8 (Decent Work and Economic Development), 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure), 10 (Reduced Inequalities), 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), 13 (Climate Action), 15 ( Life on Land) and 17 (Partnerships Towards the Goals).
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I’m delighted to see this feature.
I was honoured to be a judge for the Good Small Business Awards and was so impressed by The Wellbeing Farm’s application. The work Celia has done and continues to do, is absolutely amazing, not just within the business but all the external work she does to make a positive impact.
A very well-deserved winner.
Thanks so much for your comments Jill – yes we certainly believe The Wellbeing Farm deserves credit.