Alison runs Foot Trails, England’s only independent walking holiday company focused on rural England. She has just taken on an apprentice and I was really interested to find out more about this and her business.
Hi Alison, can you tells us a little bit about Foot Trails?
We are a travel company that helps to inspire people to explore rural England on foot. We create walking experiences.
Why did you decide to set-up your own business?
My husband David and I had given up our jobs to walk across France, I was working for IBM at the time. We spent 3 months walking 600 miles across France with a two man tent and a gas stove. It was amazing. When we got back I saw an opportunity that was related to things I am very passionate about; business, the countryside and travel.
I decided I wanted to create walking experiences that were authentic and different in nature to what was currently being offered in the UK. It was seeing this opportunity that made me want to start working for myself. No one was offering walking holidays where the experience was focused on authenticity and indulgence and not on how fast or far you could walk or how many mountains you could climb.
Foot Trails is about having a great experience seeing rural England from its footpaths. We describe our holidays as indulgent and not luxurious. We do however work with some of the best country inns in the south west that are not all about stuffy white tablecloths, just delicious food and drinks and a relaxing atmosphere.
You’ve recently taken on an apprentice could you tell me a little bit about that?
Foot Trails is growing, which is fantastic. We need more help in running our business and we wanted to expand our team. We heard about apprenticeships and were unsure what to expect at first. We looked at lots of different avenues to expand our team, taking on an apprenticeship just made sense for us. What I really like about it is that everyone benefits. A young person learns from a work environment while we benefit by having a energetic young person throwing up new ideas. It was through working with City of Bath College we found our apprentice James.
How did you go about finding the correct type of apprentice?
Truth is, when I met James I knew he was the right apprentice, I just knew he was the person to help us going forward. I suppose for others who may want to do a similar thing you need to know what kind of qualities the person needs. You have to have a very clear idea in your mind what skills you are looking for and match these qualities to the person.
Why do you think its important for commerce business to take on apprentices? It might not be the obvious choice for similar companies that are looking to grow.
It just seemed the best fit for us. I think people should think about apprentices more. We’re still at the beginning of our apprenticeship journey. I would encourage other to do it. It’s very fair for everyone, and this is Foot Trails way. We look to work in partnership with who ever we are doing business with. That’s how we’ve always been.
When you were a child what did you dream of doing when you grew up?
TRAVELING. I have always wanted to travel. In another life I may have been a nomad!
What is your claim to fame?
I was once lifted up by one of the gladiators. I was fundraising for Wessex heartbeat at Southampton general hospital, I think it was called Activate 98. When we did the promo pics for Southampton Echo, Fox (one of the gladiators) just picked me up.
Favourite song to work to?
Elbow’s New York Morning. Because I’m dreaming of visiting soon!
How do you have your coffee?
Usually black, no sugar, just as it is.
What big thing are you working on in 2014?
Growth. That sums it up.