Picture by Ashton Photography
"I just don't get awards. Aren't they all fixed?"
Said my client Katie Street from Ashfield House, an incredible country house wedding venue overlooking the picturesque Douglas Valley in Lancashire.
I know the power of awards. I've helped past clients win local, regional and national awards that have had a direct impact on the financial growth of their business and their market share of awareness.
"You need to enter. You've got to be in it to win it and my track record is 100% nominations from all the award entries I've submitted."
"OK let's do it then".
To put things into perspective, this was two weeks before the entry deadline which needed all previous brides and grooms from the last year to vote for the venue. This required email marketing campaigns, social media and a gentle nudge on the telephone to some of Ashfield's much loved past couples to get involved and score the venue for the 2017 Wedding Industry Awards.
Most other venues had entered months in advance. Not us. We spent a week working closely together on the award entry, demonstrating the company ethos of 'to serve with integrity' through every answer.
Photo by Andy Wardle Photography.
In November, Katie and the team travelled by party bus to the regional finals and couldn't quite believe that they had been awarded the trophy for the Best Wedding Venue and Best Wedding Event Team in the whole of the North West.
Then on a cold January Thursday, Katie headed to the glitzy Cafe de Paris in London to hear the finalists and overall winners crowned.
"Not won event team" - she sent on Facebook messenger.
"Booooooo" was my reply.
Then twenty minutes later the announcement we had been waiting for and couldn't believe. Ashfield House was only crowned the Best Wedding Venue in the whole of the UK! The shock and bewilderment is evident on Katie's face as she collected her award from sportsman Roger Black and Damian Bailey from the Wedding Industry Awards.
The beautiful thing for me here is that the award entry process actually made Katie realise just HOW brilliant she and her team are at Ashfield House. Self-described as "a bit of a rebel" she set her sights higher when she took over the venue in 2008, aged just 24 and with no experience of weddings or running a venue. In 2013, she decided to focus on the high end wedding market and overhauled the venue in a huge restoration project, taking the historical building back to its roots, while still injecting her trademark trend-setting style. With a creative and innovative eye for detail, she knows what she wants and has the freedom as an independent business to go get it. I mean, she wanted a unicorn somewhere in the venue "Why?" I asked. "I just fancied a unicorn somewhere. Everyone loves a unicorn." she replied in her trademark deadpan witty way.
So yeah, there's a specially made unicorn's head in the baby change unit and now three very shiny trophies in the cabinet for the recent award wins.
"I genuinely didn't realise how much of an impact this would have." said Katie as the phones rang off the hook, and brochures for Ashfield House were being downloaded at a rate of 1 per minute when she appeared on the cover of the local and regional press.
It is an accolade well deserved for a team who operate like a genuine family and place "people over profit" to give the couples who choose to honour the most special day of their life at Ashfield House.
If you're reading this and you're engaged, I highly recommend you visit one of the spectacular open evenings and see Ashfield House for yourself. Sorry, let me get that right, go and see the award-winning Ashfield House (gotta get that in haven't I?). Open evenings are held every month from February to November, check out the website for the next one here www.ashfieldhousehotel.co.uk.