How Animal Farm & Nature Reserve has benefitted from the Big Up Small Business Project.
By Bianca Young, Marketing Manager and Environmental Consultant
Jost Neumann, head of Economic Development at the TUI Care Foundation, described small businesses as “key engines of the Jamaican economy.” It makes sense then that the TUI Care Foundation’s Big Up Small Business Project (delivered by the Travel Foundation) is, in many ways, the maintenance manual that small businesses can use to tune up their operations and optimise their outcomes.
That’s how we see it at Animal Farm & Nature Reserve. Our small business is a farm and eco-tourism attraction located in Hanover, Jamaica. We sell quail meat and eggs and provide tours for nature and animal lovers. We also provide accommodation in the form of wooden cottages of varying sophistication. Animal Farm is also the beneficiary of the Big Up Small Business Project and its Booster Programme.
Our participation in the Booster Programme started with an assessment, a diagnosis if you will, of the health of our operation – what were the conditions under which we were operating, challenges we faced, our strengths and weaknesses, opportunities, and any support needed? We enumerated them all and from there designed a roadmap to take us to our desired goal. We have received invaluable coaching, mentorship, and advice from experts tailored to our specific needs and goals. Much of this advice is available to all small businesses for free through guides and webinars in the resources section of the Big Up Small Business website.
1. Better Tools
Our website got a major tune-up when the Travel Foundation facilitated an on-site photoshoot and provided guidance on how to improve it, including the importance of including testimonials, having clear call-to-actions, and using an easy-to-navigate design. The high-definition photographs, featuring people enjoying the services we offer, have made a huge difference in the visual appeal of our site. We’ve also used the photographs and tips on social media and third-party sites like Airbnb and Tripadvisor.
2. Operations Plan
To maintain a well-oiled ‘machine’, we developed an operations plan to guide the routine check-ups necessary for sustaining our small business. It serves as a training manual for our team by highlighting strategies that are foundational to our performance. Examples are business opening and closing checklists, Covid-19 and health and safety procedures, and marketing and social media guidelines.
3. Investments in Solar
Animal Farm & Nature Reserve operates completely off-the-grid; we are literally fuelled by the sun and so our ‘engine’ emits low (and virtually no) harmful emissions. One of our long-term goals that featured heavily in our Booster Business Action Plan was the addition of an eco-cottage to accommodate the increasing demand for overnight guests. This venture was undertaken with the understanding, but without the capital in place, that this would require a major boost in our solar power generation. The answer came when we won the first Booster Programme competition and used the prize money precisely for this purpose. We were able to open our new eco-duplex and have it listed on Airbnb in May 2022. As an added bonus, our existing cottages were upgraded to include hot water to them as well.
4. Tour Upgrades
We have also streamlined and upgraded our tour offerings by utilising the learnings from specialised Recovery Webinars such as one on customer demand. For example, we added a self-guided tour by designing a facility map for those guests wanting to tour the property at their leisure and on their own rather than taking a more expensive and structured guided tour. Further, we’re improving our camping grounds due to the increased demand and popularity among locals, in Jamaica.
These are just some of the ways that we have already benefitted from being a Booster Business. We plan to keep our engine fine-tuned to take advantage of any future opportunities that this worthwhile programme has to offer, and to improve our capacity to promote sustainable livelihoods, while protecting and preserving Jamaica’s natural resources.