Hannah Moule, 34, launched rural surveying firm Moule & Co in 2010 from her parents’ kitchen table with a laptop, a car and a handful of local clients.
In five years the business has gone from 20 local farmers to 350 clients across Worcestershire, Warwickshire and the surrounding counties, advising on everything from record keeping and cross-compliance to farm budgeting and complex planning issues.
Moule & Co now employs four chartered surveyors, a rural business adviser and an office manager. These are Hannah’s top tips for starting up on your own:
1. Paddle your own canoe – “I took on my second employee to do cross-compliance and record keeping,” Hannah says. “It’s bread-and-butter work that many land agents wouldn’t take on, but it builds a relationship that leads to return work.”
2. Pick your people – “Business is based on good people,” Hannah says. “Recruit people with personality. Technical knowledge can be learned on the job.”
3. Network – Organisations such as Young Farmers and the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers are invaluable, Hannah believes. “I also attend local farm discussion groups to maintain my level of farming knowledge and a presence,” she adds. “All our cross-compliance work came in by word of mouth.” On a personal level, “I was very lucky to have the support of my family and my husband. You believe in yourself if others believe in you.”
4. Take opportunities – Being nominated for a Wonderful Worcestershire Women Award (to be announced on 29 April 2016) was a surprise but a welcome one: “A rare chance for a small business to build brand awareness,” Hannah says.
5. Work your assets – “Women are less confrontational which perhaps makes it easier for farmers to talk to us about budgets, forecasts and overdrafts when there is a lot of pride at stake,” Hannah says. “We also deal with emotive issues such as succession and often act as a mediator in a family.”
6. Go with geeky – Hannah admits to having “a girl thing” for straight lines, neatness and attention to detail. “Do everything you do well and the rest will come,” she says.
7. Get practical – Hannah ran a small herd of suckler cows and is now setting up a calf-rearing enterprise with her husband. ”I recommend practical farm experience,” she says.
8. Start low, aim high – “At the outset, I just wanted a half-decent wage and independence,” Hannah admits. “But now I am very ambitious.” Her five-year plan includes taking on a planning specialist, opening satellite offices and developing a subscription website providing online resources for farm diversification.