Insight: Could you work with your other half?

Could you really work full time with you other half? Here Holly Ashbrook tells us how juggling kids and canvas has made her and her partner Mike a formidable team.

“It began with an idea”

“We have always knew that we wanted to work for ourselves and with each other, so when the opportunity presented itself to us to set-up a business hiring luxury sailcloth marquees for weddings and events we didn’t have to think twice about going for it.

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Of course we knew it would take some nurturing – that juggling family, work life and time for each other and ourselves would be a struggle at times but we were confident that we could make it work. There’s absolutely no doubting that it can be a great juggling act but the feeling of running your own business is so liberating and I think we both agree that there’s no going back now!

As keen festival goers and camping enthusiasts with a lust for outdoor living we honestly believe that spending time under a canvas canopy is so good for the soul. I don’t feel like either of us will ever not feel a sense of overwhelming joy when stepping into one of our canvas structures!

The marquee is a symbol of community, fun and of the summer months. Working with our tents for events that inevitably bring people together whatever the occasion, really is one of the best things about what we do. How can you not love your job when essentially, it’s about being a part of what makes people happy on the best and most memorable days of their lives”.

“It takes a village”

“Now the summer season is in full swing, the workload is chocker! As the only foreman of the team, Mike is on-site 6 days out of 7. I juggle the business admin, social media and marketing, school runs, playdates and clubs. My mum and step-father are extremely supportive of what we do and are happy to take the children for sleepovers at weekends, days out and mini-breaks over the school holidays which allows us some breathing space and also means I can jump onboard with builds and take downs. We are firm believers in the phrase ‘it takes a village’ and in all honesty, we just couldn’t have done this without ours.

We wanted a business model that would give us flexibility around our family and although at this time of year the workload can be very full on, we do get to do the stuff we perhaps wouldn’t have been able to do working shifts for somebody else. School drop-offs and pick-ups is very important to us, as is sitting down to eat with each other at the end of the day and attending social events with the children. At times, our office space is a cluttered kitchen surface – e-mails are written and phone calls are made between school runs and the demands of an energetic 2 year old with an insatiable appetite but we really wouldn’t have it any other way!

The business really has become a part of our lifestyle. The kids love to come along with us on the odd job and to ‘help out’ where they can! They often get VIP access at events and enjoy the new places they get to visit with us. They too love an outdoor celebration and are super excited for the Parentfolk events that we’re involved with this year!”

“Promoting each other strengths”

“The work in theory is seasonal and for now, we’d like to keep it that way. We’re very lucky that we get to have some time off over the winter months, although in reality, we’re always thinking about the next thing and we do still have to keep up with enquiries, correspondence and planning for the next season. I think it’s only natural when running a business to never really switch off!

We’re used to a challenge and have had to overcome a few in our nearly 11 years of being together. Both our children were born under 31 weeks for various reasons, so we spent over 10 weeks in hospital in the very early days of parenthood twice! We learnt a lot during this time and as cliché as it sounds, challenges such as this has really strengthened our partnership. Mike and I are very supportive of each other in challenging circumstances, we promote each other’s strengths and honor our weaknesses.”


“Weddings are our bread and butter”

“Weddings are our bread and butter and it’s the nature of our role to become quite involved with the people we work alongside. To be such a big part of someone’s wedding journey is an incredible privilege. Working with couples and their families and friends to recreate their vision – often one that has been developing for many years – we cannot help but feel a huge responsibility to make the process smooth, as stress-free as possible for all involved, and to work with a person-centred ethic. We have worked alongside some truly awesome couples and have even been invited as guests to the weddings that we have helped to organise!

We aren’t just selling tents, but a lifestyle and this has to be portrayed though social media. Whatever the occasion, our clients are free-thinking, outdoorsy, style conscious people with an eye for detail and a creative flair.

For weddings, our couples want something much more than an over-stylised venue which has been over-used and want to let their celebration to really reflect them. For any other event or celebration, our clients often want a sensational social space that brings people together, one that complements a surrounding location, bringing the outside in and that comes with a bespoke service that is second to none.”

“The future?”

“We’re a relatively new company but have had an overwhelmingly positive response to the brand and products which we are so grateful for. The acknowledgment of our hard work really drives us and pushes us to move forward.

What are our thoughts for the future? Well, at the moment we can’t really see past September so right now we have to just keep juggling, stay smiling and embrace the chaos of the great balancing act that is managing a business alongside bringing up a family – but we wouldn’t have it any other way!”

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