I started Cotswold Teacup Tours in January 2020, just after I left my Alumni and Events Manager job at Oxford University. I longed to become self-employed since I was, well… first employed. Both my parents started up and ran their own successful small businesses, so the concept wasn’t so terrifying for me. When I handed in my notice, it felt reckless and exciting. Finally, I had a one-chance-only opportunity to just go for it and start my little enterprise.
What an absolutely awful idea to launch a tourism business just before Covid hit the world! Hindsight tells me that perhaps I should have quickly asked for my job back at the University and held on to it tight while we all rode the storm.
However, this isn’t meant to be a doom and gloom story. There are lots of positives that have come out of this difficult time. A large part of Cotswold Teacup Tours is about me needing to know the Cotswolds really well. From the time when Covid restrictions lifted a little and we were allowed out in our cars again, I have passed many enjoyable hours exploring places I thought I knew already, and subsequently found to have so much more history than I realised.
This has been way too much fun to be considered work. I park up my cool Teacup Tours VW, and go for a little wander about in market towns, villages, middle of nowhere. I often stop at picture postcard Cotswold pubs for lunch, just to check they serve up meals I want to recommend to my guests.
Each time on my expeditions, I meet someone new. I make a new friend, discover a little independent boutique, chat to the owner and relish their story of their business success. I want to be like them when I grow up (if ever). I am happiest being out and about chatting to people and learning from them. When I talk to people, and tell them about my enterprise, they want to help. The good Cotswold folk share with me their favourite places in this area. They have lent me their local history books and shared their personal stories. A Cotswold-stone wall builder has even donated to me his vintage guidebook (complete with glued-in WWII note explaining that all the maps have been removed deliberately in case the guidebook got into the wrong hands!).
My Teacup Tours are designed to be a full day of uplifting indulgence in nature and beautiful surroundings, with a good pub or restaurant lunch. I have also added luxury shopping tours, in which we explore the finest Cotswold independent boutiques and shops in this area. We try and stay away from crowds and busy places to give ourselves space to escape, relax and enjoy. I share local folk stories, plus my own stories – which may or may not be true - and some history about the places we visit. And then we stop and have tea somewhere lovely. If it’s a sunny day I pack a full china tea set, picnic rug and stop at the new Hugo Lovage Patisserie in Burford to buy our afternoon treats. On rainy days we retreat indoors – we’re definitely spoilt for choice of tearooms in the Cotswolds, but I have my favourites. Again, these have been visited and ‘cake tested’ by me, so my guests know they’re in good hands.
At the time of writing this, I have just spent two very happy days guiding my first Cotswold Teacup Tour with some lesser-spotted tourists. I’m pretty sure they had a good time too. They said it was good. Well actually, if I am going to brag I might as well do it properly. They said these exact words to me, “Victoria, this is the best day we have had since we arrived on holiday.” And before you ask, “had they just landed?” No, they had not. They had been in the UK ten days already. I glowed with pride. I even baked fresh cookies for the cookie-craving gentleman in the group, after spending considerable time looking for some in Stow on the Wold, and failing to find any nice chewy fresh ones.
Now that I am off the starting blocks, I have the taste for touring, and I am yearning for more tourists and more bookings. While everything may be dormant for me right now, I am so hopeful that next year will be a better year for us all. I hope 2022 will bring me some lovely people wanting to explore the Cotswolds with me. There is so much for me to prep in the meantime. Lots of new ideas to raise my Cotswold Teacup Tours profile come to me daily. Sometimes those fall flat, sometimes I go slightly off-track (like an entire day painting a watercolour of Burford ‘Bumbles’ shop front, which got me 10 pitiful Instagram likes). But the best thing I have found so far, is that good old-fashioned talking to people and encouraging them to recommend me to their friends and colleagues, is how this is going to get moving. Bookings will eventually lead to more reviews which I’m desperately lacking; I need to raise my profile on Trip Advisor. It’s hard right now, but in spite of these struggles, I have never felt so fulfilled and alive in my work.
So, from your perspective, you can guarantee your Cotswold Teacup Tour will be led by one happy lady, who is getting her kicks from coordinating and leading the ultimate best experience she can create for you.
P.S Gift vouchers are available. ;-)