Thursday, 4 December 2008

A Cornish Treasure Part One

A shorter version of this is in this month's Cornwall Today. An incredible couple with an incredible company.

Treasure Trails is the brainchild of Steve and Teresa Ridd, both 43, from Probus, who spent 16 years travelling worldwide with the army, until three years ago. “We had good pay and a good lifestyle in the army, so it was a huge gamble to leave,” says Steve, who has an MBE for his military services. “But it was our life plan.”

“We wanted our sons to have the sort of childhood we were lucky enough to enjoy,” explains Teresa. “A less frantic pace of life, the Cornish scenery, and a safer environment to bring up children in. Leaving the army was more about being brave rather than reckless. It would have been far worse if we’d looked back in 25 years and been disappointed that we hadn’t taken the chance.”

Back home, Teresa taught modern languages while Steve looked after the house and children. While he loved this role, he needed another challenge. “I’d always loved treasure hunts as a child,” he says. “I’m a big kid and treasure hunts are fun and bring out the inner child. Treasure Trails seemed the natural fit and there was a gap in the market. We started it part time but then it just took off!”

Teresa adds: “We set up Treasure Trails as a fun and inexpensive way of encouraging locals and visitors to get out and about, working together to solve a mystery, exploring and appreciating their surroundings. Treasure Trails are value for money, you learn something historical about the area and have an outstanding day for £5.”

Teresa joined the company in 2005 and now they have carefully recruited licensees running Treasure Trails in 12 other counties with another 4 coming online before Christmas 2008. “The licensees have to look after Treasure Trails as we do,” says Teresa. “They are like minded people who have usually done the trails themselves. They become extended family!”

Treasure Trails started because Boscastle, St Mawes and Mevagissey all lent themselves to the pirate theme. Then came Murder Mysteries “which was my mum’s idea,” says Steve. The most recent addition is the Spy Trail. “This was discussed at our last conference,” says Teresa. “It seemed a natural progression and is great fun.”

The Trails can be downloaded from the website at a cost of £5, take from 1 hour to
3-4 hours, and you can even win a prize at the end! They are suitable for all ages and abilities, though not all are suitable for wheelchair users. Perhaps surprisingly, Bodmin Moor is always the most popular. “Roseland and the Lizard have been in the top five every year,” says Steve. “People seem to like the different challenges.”

It’s clear that Steve’s army experience has helped a lot in the success of Treasure Trails. “My management and leadership experience encouraged delegation and flexibility which is very important in running a business,” he says. “We have a good relationship with our staff because we believe it’s about making them accountable for themselves: they work harder that way, and when they want time off that’s fine.” But they believe that life has helped them as well. “We have negotiated a course through life together as a family and I think that arms you to run a business.”

“We’ve been together for 27 years. We’re very different but this makes our relationship stronger which makes us stronger as a company,” says Teresa. “We know each other very well and we plug each other’s gaps.”

It’s impossible not to be swept along by Steve’s enthusiasm. “Every day’s different,” he says, dark eyes gleaming. “I love being an entrepreneur. There are so many different strands - Treasure Trails is so exciting!”

“We meet lovely people, particularly at shows,” says Teresa with a smile. “We love the feedback and we also love the flexibility of working for ourselves.”

What keeps them rooted is their love of Cornwall. “Having served all over the world I wouldn’t want to live anywhere other than Cornwall,” Steve says. “You can do almost anything you want here. You’ve got the sea, the moors, lovely beaches, cliffs, good shopping and some good sport coming. Cornwall has an innate sense of style and well being.”

“There’s something magical about Cornwall which is why millions of people come here on holiday,” says Teresa. “But for us, it’s home.”

This company is clearly going places, but they are determined to stay in Cornwall, however successful they become. “Treasure Trails will always be a Cornish company,” says Steve firmly. “We have a very high level of customer service, a sense of fun, it’s different, high quality and it’s a lifestyle business.”

They have recently acquired Shinermons Games, which will be re-branded Treasure Trails Games, and some exciting new board games will be launched at the end of 2008. A newspaper based Treasure Hunt called Cross Trails has also been launched, to be published weekly in The West Briton and The Cornishman and there is also a bus trail between Truro and St Ives and a cycle trail in Scotland.

But that’s not all. “I see Treasure Trails activity parks for the whole family, with orienteering and interactive fun activities,” says Steve. “We could have Treasure Trail television, Treasure Trail caf├ęs, horse riding trails, dog walking trails, canoeing, extreme trails and sailing trails!

“I’m going to make this a national brand – in fact an international brand based on education, health and people doing exciting things together. We’re setting our sights high and we’re going to achieve it.”

Cornwall Tourism Awards 2006 – Gold Leisure Pursuits Provider
Runner Up, Best New Business in Cornwall 2006

Treasure Trails Ltd
1 Vicarage Hill
St Austell
PL25 5PL

01726 68829
www.treasuretrails.co.uk

12 comments:

Akelamalu said...

How wonderful that they are following their dream - not many people get to do that! :)

JJ said...

What a fabulous idea.

Elaine said...

It's a great idea. And that's what I need...a brainwave!

Flowerpot said...

Ak - no you're right - though they've worked very hard at it and it's a profitable dream!

Flowerpot said...

JJ - yes - and fun too!

Elaine - I think we all need brainwaves like that!

ChrisH said...

It's one thing to have the idea and another to see it through like these two, well done them! Good article.

Lane said...

Great article. I love reading about people who are passionate about what they do. And the trails sound brilliant.

MarmiteToasty said...

This all sounds brilliant.... what a clever idea....

x

Flowerpot said...

Chris no you're quite right - Himself often has wonderful ideas but we're not rich yet!

Flowerpot said...

Lane - they're a great idea, particularly for those with children or wanting to keep a whole family amused.

Marmie - It is, isnt it?

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

That's really interesting, Flowerpot. I shall go and visit their website as soon as I've dropped in on all the Novel Racers.

Flowerpot said...

Zinnia - glad you enjoyed it. I must go and see the Novel Racers too!