Jo and Rob Smith, owners and founders of Hope Mountain Bed & Breakfast, are planning a bumper 2021.

The couple already run a popular B&B, but can now add cheese-making and workshop-hosting to their business talents.

Far from letting this year's pandemic hold the couple back, it gave them the push they needed to embrace change.

We find out more about the dog and horse friendly B&B, including their visit from a man on the run...

The Leader:

What does the business do?

Set in a fantastic location in one of Wales' Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, we are a B&B with a difference - we offer activity packages for tailor-made corporate trips, birthday weekends, stag and hen parties and weekends away. Evidence shows the 'staycation' phenomenon has hit the UK.

We are dog and horse friendly, so they can also enjoy the miles of walking and riding routes in and around the grounds of Hope Mountain Bed and Breakfast and the nearby area.

The B&B offers venue hire to host small private parties, such as christenings and funerals, with the added value that food served will be local and food miles kept to a minimum. We feel we can take the stress away from people needing to host smaller get-togethers and also offer the personal touch.

During the early years, local people were key to spreading the word about the location of the B&B, we now have people travelling all over the world to stay with us, which now helps keep the local economy vibrant.

The Leader:

Most memorable or proudest moment in business?

Winning in 2019 The Most Socially Responsible Business Award.

The judges looked for organisations that had successfully developed and encouraged a culture of corporate social responsibility throughout their operation and could demonstrate widespread commitment and engagement from staff; innovation within community involvement; and a holistic approach to responsible business that ideally encompasses supply chain and partners.

At Hope Mountain B&B we realise the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR) throughout our operation, which we also refer to as our corporate conscience and our responsible business. Offering a workplace and corporate culture of caring about essential social issues that have been successful at both business and giving back to the wider community and involves how we give back to society and communities through special projects.

We realise environmental is one part of our CSRS. The B&B also works with local suppliers and driving change in areas where we feel connected.

Jo volunteers with the support of Rob on many local community groups, Flintshire Tourism Association (Jo became chair in September 2019) and also chairs the Destination Management Partnership for Flintshire County Council; a committee member of Clwydian Range Food & Drink; Chef Alliance Coordinator and committee member for Slow Food North Wales.

Hope Mountain B&B wants to have positive contributions to the environment, community and economy and about what we do as a business that is beneficial to the following: Internal - our environmental impact, our training, our businesses commitment to good causes; Locally - use local suppliers, support charities, fundraising, work with local groups; Globally - making sure we don't feed into modern slavery, our environmental commitments.

The Leader:

Any strange requests or stories from customers?

Having an escaped convict stay with us!!

On January 19, 2010, the notorious John Kemel arrived to stay with us at the B&B for an eight-week stay. He arrived out of the blue, not pre-booked in, so alarm bells should have started to ring, but they didn't. Not until Jo arrived home and took an instant dislike to our new guest.

This is the first time that either of us had taken a dislike to a guest. He was a charmer, told us he had a contract with Tesco to replace some refrigeration units at the Wrexham branch and would be working in the area for the next eight weeks.

He asked could he put his car at the back of the house as he had expensive tools in it and wanted to keep it out of sight. He kept promising to sort out his bill and would pay the whole amount in one go, once we had done an invoice for his company.

We did this after he had stayed for seven days with us; then Jo decided to work from home for a couple of days and our guest arrived back one morning a little startled to see her - he asked could he have a bin bag to take some washing to the laundrette. Jo obliged and then got a little twitchy; for some unknown reason when he left - allegedly going to the launderette, Jo checked his room and all his gear was still in the room, then she Googled his name and found the following headlines:

• Convict flees with cash: A police hunt is on to find a "charming" con man who has tricked people out of thousands of pounds...

• Conman charms holidaymakers: Police are hunting a Warrington man who uses his smooth charm to con thousands of pounds out of holidaymakers...

• John Kemel - European Arrest Warrant: Yes he even got to Gibraltar. On July 4 RGP Financial Crime Unit officers at the Gibraltar airport arrested British national John Kemel on suspicion of obtaining property and services by deception and theft...

Armed with the above information Jo phoned North Wales Police, then Crewe CID direct. She was thanked for her information and they would liaise with North Wales. Jo asked for more information, but was informed that due to data protection no information could be passed to her; so she asked the question: "I'm currently in a remote B&B on my own with the possibility of a convict staying with us and should we be concerned?" The phone operator said "yes". Jo Phoned Rob and asked him to come home to change the locks.

When Rob arrived home he noticed that the car belonged to a lease company, so we phoned them, who then informed us that the car was stolen.

So we spent the evening with the police on January 29 giving statements and getting the car removed. We had been harbouring a criminal!!

North Wales Police phoned on September 6 to let us know Mr Kemel had been taken into custody and was now in prison on various offences.

The Leader:

Anything else we should know?

During Covid we had to adapt. We closed down literally overnight in March when our guests had to leave. It was a sink or swim situation.

We had been wanting to offer workshops at the B&B for a number of years, we'd done the odd one here and there, and Covid forced us into thinking outside the box, so we ran our first watercolour workshop with a local artist, it was fantastic, so we did another.

However, the firebreak forced us to stop again. We are now planning workshops for 2021 from painting, jewellery making, dog training, cookery demonstrations, cookery, basket waving, jam making and butchery.

We are keen to work with local businesses that offer a uniqueness about what they do, this way we promote what we have in the area and the courses are run from a fantastic location.

We have plenty of outdoor space with fantastic views, from an undercover BBQ area, an outdoor kitchen with a pizza oven (learn how to build a fire, make and cook your own pizza). During Covid, we started to refurbished an outbuilding to become our outdoor class room - we've called it The Pavilion - which will be utilised for all sorts of outdoor themed workshops.

We are also building our own cheese-making dairy at the B&B (the Little Welsh Cheese Co) trading under the name of The Little Welsh Food & Drink Co Ltd. The B&B will then have its own manufacturing unit, to produce cheese and other dairy related products using local cows' milk.

We have a limited amount of stock of our hard cheeses. I started trials on two soft cheeses - halloumi and ricotta at the end of 2019 to compliment and support the business and enable additional sales to be achieved, whilst hard cheeses are maturing. Hard cheese-making and soft cheese trials have stopped due to Covid-19.

• Hope Mountain B&B



Flintshire LL11 5EY

Email: hopemountainbedandbreakfast@gmail.com

Phone 07912 327808 or 01978 769058