A disused farm building that is set to be unveiled as part of a £2m revamp to turn it into a wedding and conference destination has already taken 48 advance bookings – before even opening.
The former steading in Dumfrieshire will open its doors in November but such is the success of a pre-marketing campaign, the calendar is already starting to fill up for 2018 from the lucrative weddings market.
Duncan McConchie, a former TV executive who runs the team-building activities firm Laggan Outdoor and is spearheading the new venture from his family’s farm estate in Gatehouse of Fleet, said: “The response has been phenonemal. We had only invested £20,000 in getting the website up and running and the bookings already started coming in. We realised the weddings market was going to be a massive driver, and we started to run a Google adwords campaign with three key words, which has really driven the business.”
He added: “We have had 48 weddings booked for next year, but we are keen to look at the conference market. We have a 1,000-acre private estate with the most awesome activities you could ever try – including the UK’s longest zip wire, as well as archery, zorbing and shooting – and we’ve got 10 seaview snugs as accommodation, so we feel with a venue as well we’ve got everything a corporate would need.”
The venue is called GG’s Yard – named after Duncan’s 98-year-old grandmother Margaret, who gave her ‘permission’ for the shed to be converted (the building is right next to her house).
“She just said she wanted to see progress; she’s a local girl from a local farm but she appreciates the need for development, to change and adapt.”
The nonagenarian even decided shortly after her birthday in May to have a go on the 800-metre zip wire herself, which has been certified to stringent safety standards by the European Rope Course Association.
The resulting three-minute video has picked up 10,000 views on Facebook.
Duncan adds: “She was high as a kite for the next week. She absolutely loved it!”
Duncan set up Laggan Outdoor after a successful career in TV production – working on programmes including Emmerdale, Heartbeat and Question Time. He then worked for an event management company in Leeds, helping it to launch a video production arm for clients including M&S.
Eventually tiring of the rat race, he returned to his family’s farm and decided to embark initially on an adventure play business for youngsters before the outdoor activities centre idea was born.
Three years ago, he decided to look into developing the disused facility into a venue – based on a perceived gap in the local and wider markets – and attended a rural leadership programme supported by Scottish Enterprise.
As a result he managed to secure £360,000 in funding from SE as well as a £1.8m bank loan, and engaged architects to turn his vision into something concrete. The investment has allowed the company to create 30 jobs to support the local economy, although the pressure is now on to drive enough business to the venue.
Those architectural and CGI drawings have formed the basis of the pre-marketing campaign allowing Duncan and his wife to drum up interest in a highly lucrative weddings market; one such couple recently saw the venue featured on the Google adwords campaign and travelled from London to book up.
Now, he intends to take that offer to the MICE market in the hope of filling the venue during the week, which will be key to its occupancy levels.
“We’re in a quiet part of the world so whilst it’s nice to get interest from London and the big corporates, we are also conscious of not wanting to price ourselves out of the local market. We are very open about our costs, especially for weddings where you can be easily ripped off on food and drink. We don’t want to be charging a fiver for a pint, or anything ridiculous. We want it to be affordable for everyone.”
For information on GG’s Yard visit http://ggsyard.co.uk