Former TV Director Hannah Springham has launched half a dozen businesses over the years. Now in the hospitality industry, she explains how life in lockdown has been an eye opener – and has led her to launch another business!
My life has been pretty non-stop so far, but I’m still enjoying the ride. I’ve launched various businesses over the years: three in TV – in my ‘other career’ as a TV Director – and then three in hospitality. In TV I ran a business with Peter Jones from Dragon’s Den; was a founding producer for successful TV Production Company Knickerbockerglory and also still run a Facebook group called CREW ME NOW, which now stands at 34K followers and crews for TV and film daily. My husband and I run Farmyard in Norwich; The Dial House in Reepham and now Farmyard Frozen based at The Royal Norfolk Showground – as well as a retail brand called Vegas Vintage. Two young children keep us busy, too – so yeah, non-stop really.
Pre pandemic I was more stressed than I think I’ve ever been. We had so much on our plate – and I was struggling with it all really. Something needed to change.
We’ve changed so much during the pandemic – for the better. To be honest, pausing and reassessing in lots of ways has been a gift. Rather than running takeaways we took the time to (as well as home school!) really drill into our business models so that we could ensure we reopened in the best way for the businesses. We lost services that weren’t making us any money and focused on what we were doing well and then built on it. So, weddings at The Dial House have been reformed and gone to the next level, the vintage clothes shop at The Dial House was rebranded as Vegas Vintage and taken online as well as in house.
Our biggest evolvement though is around the current staffing crisis we’re seeing ripple through the hospitality industry. A lack of chefs in particular means there is a real possibility of burning out the team and we’re not prepared to do that. So, at Farmyard we’re currently only open four days a week and the chefs get three days off back-to-back. We’re committed to forging a new way through for our teams to ensure they’re enjoying their lives as well as working hard. Life in lockdown was a first for many people in hospitality who enjoyed time with loved ones, an important eye opener for us all really and we’re committed to not going back to the ‘old ways’ where the industry can be cruel to the teams who work so hard.
My husband Andrew is our Chef Patron and so of course spent lockdown at home. We were so busy with the business planning and home-schooling so inevitably he ended up batch cooking and we froze his food so that we had meals sorted in advance. I realised his food was still epic when frozen. Chefs are really snobbish about frozen food but I badgered him into the idea that – instead of takeaways – we could try selling frozen melas at The Dial House up the road. We would do it more cost effectively when not making to order, there’s no waste involved but the food can still be extraordinary. Our frozen beef welly and the Farmyard Chocolate bar are proof of just that.
Our customers loved it and so we then immersed ourselves in the world of food manufacture and supply – from trading standards to frozen deliveries. We’re now running a production kitchen within the Royal Norfolk Showground and our ‘Fine Frozen’ range, FARMYARD, is in 15 Norfolk and Suffolk based farm shops and we will be launching UK wide deliveries in September.
DRIVE, the new Delivering Rural Investment for Vital Employment programme, has been great. After a lot of work on detailed business plans, they’ve given us £18,000 worth of funding which pays for a considerable amount of new machinery – including our new frozen van. This means we can start deliveries nationally much sooner than we might have done without that funding. It also made us look in detail at the market we‘re moving into. Wish we’d had them four years ago when setting up Farmyard!
Change can be brilliant. If you want something different for your life, then it’s all about making things happen yourself. It’s not a rehearsal after all.
We’re incredibly proud of what Farmyard and The Dial House are currently achieving. They’re led by brilliant teams who take great care of our guests, the feedback is glowing and we couldn’t be happier. The Head Chefs keep on pushing the food levels up so who knows what might be around the corner for each of them.
Farmyard Frozen has its heights set high. We’re in talks now with two London based luxury brand retailers which would be an incredible step forward.
Featured image: Hannah Springham outside The Dial House in Reepham (Photo credit ©Simon Finlay Photography)