Meet the Entrepreneur: Clare Mackenney, director of Devon’s award winning holiday park Andrewshayes.

Clare is a Director of Andrewshayes Holiday Park in Devon and one of the third generation of family now running the park. Before working in the family business Clare had a successful career in business and marketing including four years with Parcelforce Worldwide.  After a career break traveling, Clare returned to Devon in 2001 to take on the marketing of the holiday park, bringing the British staycation destination to a new generation. Clare has brought many green initiatives to the park and this culminated with the Andrewshayes Holiday Park winning Gold in the South West Tourism Awards and Gold in the Devon Awards last month.  The park is also celebrating 85 years in business in 2021. Clare came up with the idea of a tree planting scheme working with a charity in Kenya. 

At the age of 30 when Clare left corporate life and travelled solo to South America, SE Asia and Nepal for nine months. This was a life changing experience. With a love of travel, Clare has visited many amazing places including a year living and working in Australia. She was also in the Territorial Army for 10 years. That gave Clare a real love of adventure and she has a ‘have a go’ attitude to most things.

What is probably unusual is that despite all her travels and adventurous spirit Clare now lives 25 metres away from the farmhouse where she was born, actually in what used to be the milking parlour on the family farm. The farm developed into the caravan park and despite living away for many years like a moth to a light she was gradually drawn back to it.

Now post-lockdown Clare says it’s time to take stock and ensure that everyone who visits the holiday park has the best staycation possible. Clare said “Those of us that live in the area know how lucky we are to be here. We are delighted to help put East Devon and our village of Dalwood on the map as we know the region is often overlooked. The area has such a fantastic variety of places to visit, attractions, artisan crafts and great local food as well as the glorious and varied coastline. This is definitely going to be the year of the staycation” 

Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey

Andrewshayes is a family owned business that has been running for over 60 years. It was never my intention to work for the family business. Having set out in a corporate career I intended to carry on along that path. After a career break at the age of 30 to travel I came back to the family home and business base to start job hunting. Fate took it’s course, I meet my husband to be, who was local, and that summer the park managers resigned leaving a gap to be filled. It drew me back into the business where I have remained.

Tell us more about your family business Andrewshayes and your role in the business

Andrewshayes Holiday Park is an award winning caravan park in East Devon. It has steadily grown in size and reputation over the last 40 years to now be one of the leading holiday parks in the South West. Offering high quality holiday accommodation, facilities and excellent customer service – the hallmarks of a successful service based business.
With a back ground in marketing I manage the public face of the park as well as the accounts. I am also on the park daily to help oversee the day to day running alongside my brother who is the General Manager.

What does being a female entrepreneur mean to you?

It is important to step out of the shadows and be prepared to have your voice heard. This is true when dealing with suppliers and customers but equally in the family business environment. As the younger sibling of a family business it has taken me until quite recently to feel my opinions are valid and worth fighting for.
Fortunately with other members of staff in the business, my work hours have been flexible around raising a family and it has meant the job has been largely part time. However the sacrifice of being self employed is not stepping away from work for holidays as often or for long breaks (as someone else may do) and often working outside the 9-5 to get work completed.

What challenges or obstacles have you faced as a result of being an entrepreneur?

Fortunately the tourism business employs a lot of females and that does help keep the balance and reduce the obstacles. I believe that being confident to negotiate good business deals is something that is harder for a female but is an area that for me has improved with age and experience.

What has been your success story so far?

The recent award win of Devon Holiday Park Year was topped by going on to winning South West Holiday Park of the Year in the Tourism Awards (awarded in April 2021) the absolute highlight. It has been the culmination of being involved with development and strategy of the park, bringing my skills in marketing and customer service to the forefront and bringing new initiatives to different aspect of the park. I have to give lots of credit to my brother and parents as well as it has been a joint effort to achieve this.

Which other business entrepreneur would you recommend?

Charity Nichols is an entrepreneur who has built a successful ethical gift shop, online shop and trade business following a career at John Lewis. She has pivoted the business and even started developing her own products

What tips or advice would you give to any female considering becoming an entrepreneur?

Be confident in your own decisions and abilities. This does not mean you have to come across as brash or pushy, but assertiveness is important.

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Submitted by Cath Couzens.