Pub is runner-up in mentoring awards after shepherd's hut success

Salisbury Journal: Gary Watling, right, with mentor Trevor Dutton Gary Watling, right, with mentor Trevor Dutton

A RURAL Dorset pub and restaurant has come runner-up in a national mentoring award scheme after it started offering accommodation in shepherds’ huts.

Drusilla’s Inn near Horton was paired with a business mentor from Dormen and has gone from strength to strength, bucking the economic downturn with their novel beds for the night.

Now the pub has come runner-up in the Mentorsme Excellence in Enterprise Mentoring Awards 2013, beaten only by Moshi Monsters game|creator Mutant Labs.

The pub was bought seven years ago by Gary Watling and his wife Nicola, and they paired up with Trevor Dutton of the Dorset mentoring service Dormen.

After discussing business plans with Mr Dutton, Mr Watling diversified by opening a number of shepherds’ huts for visitors to stay in, and these have proved a|triumph, with a 98 per cent occupation rate.

The innovation has been so popular that the four huts are fully booked until the end of January and more are being ordered.

Gary said: “I have been a chef all my life and, like all chefs, I wanted my own place and after turning round an old greasy spoon café I bought Drusilla’s.

“That was seven years ago and it was not profitable at all and then the recession hit, but we battled through it.

“We had three acres of land that were doing nothing and we wanted to diversify and bring in more money.”

“We wanted to open a farm shop but Trevor reasoned the huts would bring in money more quickly and it has been a huge success.

“Not only do people pay to stay in them, but they tend to eat in the pub as well.”

Dormen was set up in 2005 by Dorset local authorities to capture the wisdom, and the time, of experienced business people who are able and keen to support other local small businesses.

The Dormen service at most costs a £100 annual administration fee as the mentors are unpaid, and it is looking for other businesses to help.

As well as support from the local authorities, recent funding from “Sowing Seeds” is specifically targeting help at businesses in the rural north and east of the county.

For more information go to www.dormen.org.uk.

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