A working organic farm, in the heart of the Worcestershire countryside, has seen Liz Carlyle pursue her ambition of establishing her own specialist Pilates and treatment studio.

Home to Liz’s family for nearly 100 years, Phepson Farm is no stranger to diversification, with a series of successful businesses being established over the years.

“The farm business still remains at the heart of what we do, which my brother now runs, with a strong emphasis on conservation management,” explains Liz. “Over the years my parents have also set-up and run their own Bed and Breakfast business and diversified into holiday lets too.”

See also: Leisure and sport-based business ideas

Most recently, Liz and her family have converted the old cart house on the farm into a studio housing a treatment room, pilates studio and welcome area. “Even though we have ventured into different businesses over the years, we’ve ensured that they all complement each other and embrace the ethos we have as a family and a business.

“It’s a shared space and it’s important it all works together as a functioning business and unit,” she says.

The inspiration behind The Farm Studio

Having graduated from Reading University in 2003, Liz went on to train in sports massage. Since then she has worked in elite sport, hospital environments and with The British Army gaining experience as a soft tissue therapist.

More recently she has specialised in clinical Pilates with the Australian Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute, adding another ‘string to her bow’.

“Being able to offer Pilates as well as soft tissue therapy opened another door for me and allowed me to provide more to my clients.

“Initially I worked out of a treatment room in the main farmhouse and as demand grew I was joined by Sports Therapist Sarah Kelly to treat the growing client base, which allowed me to concentrate more on building up the Pilates side of the business.

“I started off with local classes, but the dream was always to operate out of my own premise with specialist Pilates equipment, offering customers a more complete package when it comes to health and wellbeing,” she explains.

After travelling with her husband in the Army and having two children the start of 2017 saw Liz and her family progress with the creation of The Farm Studio.

See also: Assessing farm assets for farm diversification

“We already had the infrastructure for the studio, so we applied for planning permission to change the use of the dwelling to a mixed-use unit, which was granted in August 2016. By January 2017 we had started the building work and we opened for business in May 2017,” she says.

Building and maintaining a customer base

What Liz has created is a unique space that offers a tranquil environment for her clients. The south facing, glass-fronted building overlooking the Worcestershire countryside, means it’s a great place to relax and unwind.

“We want everyone to leave the studio feeling as if they have got the most out of their treatment or Pilates session. We really pride ourselves in providing excellence in terms of care and treatment with our client's needs at the heart of our work; this approach to customer service has really helped when growing and maintaining our customer base.”

See also: How to network successfully to market yourself

Liz explains, when she first started in this line of work, local directories were a great way to build her profile and visibility within the area. “With my business offering a local service, word of mouth ‘marketing’ and referrals from the local healthcare practitioners have been the backbone of how I have grown my client base.

“By networking and building a relationship with the right people in the industry you would be surprised by how much business comes your way.

“Our website and online presence, including Facebook has been and continues to be another great way of building a following and reaching out to a wider audience. I’m now seeing more of my bookings coming through Facebook as well as the website,” she explains.

“At The Farm Studio, we have built our own brand in the services we offer and the approach we take which means we have created something different that people within our area are happy to buy into.”

Growing the business

Having only been open for six months, Liz already sees up to 80 clients through the doors each week offering varied Pilates classes and soft tissue therapy treatments.

“As well as myself and Sarah, we now also have sports massage therapists Polly Arnold and sports therapist Sophie Lunnon to help meet the current demand and build up their client base.

“The therapists pay for the hire of the treatment room and the diary management service I offer and it works really well.

“Having other people around has been a real benefit. It means we can share ideas and support each which is important.

“What we’ve established so far has been well received by our clients and the bookings are consistent. However, with regards to growing the business further, I have to ensure any developments or introductions are worthwhile in terms of the effort involved with the return this will achieve.

“As a parent of young children and a business woman, there is a constant challenge to balance work and life. There is a lot of potential in the business but for now, we’re happy with where we’ve got in six months and therefore we’re going to focus on what we are offering now and doing it well before building things any further,” she explains.

To hear more from Liz, visit her quick-fire questions here.

Sign up to our newsletter

Get it now

Search for new diversification ideas

Search here

Find the products or services YOU need

Find an expert

Access exclusive member content

Get it now

Contact us for help and advice

Get in touch