I was the cleaner... now I'm the owner; HOLIDAY FIRM BOSS: 'I'VE ALWAYS HAD WALES AND HOSPITALITY IN MY SOUL'.
GETTING fired was the best thing that ever happened to Judith Matthews. After being given the boot, young Judith learnt a real lesson in focus and ambition, attributes which stood her in good stead when taking-on Menai Holiday Cottages.
Now 53 and living in Llangaffo, the mum-of-three has carved out a career in the tough holiday sector, attracting visitors from all over the Uk and beyond to her little corner of Anglesey.
The rewards she now reaps came after a bumpy start to education and working life, followed by a procession of jobs.
"I was never particularly bright at school and left with five O levels," Judith told Business Post.
"I went to Kelsterton, then Flintshire College to study Business Studies where I was vice president of the students' union but failed the first year so had to leave.
"When I returned home my father said 'don't expect to get married, don't expect me to support you, you need to get a job', which is what I did.
"I worked in the Dolphin Restaurant in Rhosneigr for the summer of 1976, cooking for up to 100 people at weekends and 50 to 60 during the week before moved to a shooting lodge at Bodedern and then on to work in various hotels in the Cotswolds and The Dormy House in Broadway, where I learnt a salutary lesson not to dodge work.
"That has since stood me in good stead, as I let down the people I worked with and was fired, but thankfully reinstated."
Judith went on to gain employment at other establishments in the Cotswolds before returning to Anglesey in 1979, where she sold double glazing and catered for parties.
"I then set up a cottage cleaning business called Jeeves and coincidentally cleaned a number of cottages for a new little company called Menai Holiday Cottages, which was then owned by Hefina Chamberlaine," said Judith.
"After that I worked for my father for four years in Bangor, running the estate agency side of his firm of chartered surveyors before spending 10 years with Country Landowners Association (CLA) as regional director for North Wales."
Phew! Did you keep up with all of that? Anyway, finally (and thankfully) Judith decided to branch out on her own and used her vast experience and love of the locality to purchase the holiday cottages a decade ago, before erecting subsequent outbuildings in 2010.
"I have since my days in the Cotswolds always been interested in tourism and working with people, Wales is astonishingly beautiful and full of talented people, has good food and many parts of Wales are still little hidden gems," she said.
"While working for the CLA I created a Welsh Village and took about 30 stands in all to the game fairs to champion all things Welsh.
"There was everything from slate to holidays (the then owners of Menai Holidays came along to these events, too) to food and wool, so I guess it's fair to say I have always had Wales and hospitality in my soul."
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r nth ny people visiting the area have a romantic tion and like to come back to get married. had no houses that could accommodate this so I converted some outbuildings at home.
"At the same time we now have a restaurant which services this side of Anglesey, where we have a lot of cottages and not really anywhere to eat close by.
a manager North Wales? spend a little of Business "So one day I may be checking a cottage, the next taking a booking for a summer holiday, the next at a wedding and the next being a waitress... it's so busy, but I love it."
Established in 1982, Menai Holiday Cottages has via Twitter: buildings to "suit all budgets and tastes" which can sleep from two to 35 people, ranging from "simple to sumptuous and those in between".
The group also books activities from coastal path walking and rib rides to fishing and beauty treatments and arrange lots of helpful extras from cooks for cottages, cooked meals and hampers of locally sourced breakfast or supper ingredients to organising and catering for special occasions and celebrations such as birthday parties.
Judith insists any new ideas for development of the business are "top secret", and pointed to offices in Menai Bridge, Criccieth and Llangaffo as factors which add value to the burgeoning tourism company.
That said, every aspect of the venture is ingrained and stamped with Judith's character and ultimately led to its success.
"There is nothing I love more than selling a holiday to someone and finding just the right house," she said.
"Everyone in Menai Holidays goes the extra mile, and now my children are showing an interest in getting involved.
"I have to say the highlight so far was taking on Ben Griffin who now runs our Menai Bridge office and has been a huge benefit to the company."
There must have been tough times? Judith has made all this look far too easy. "It's been entirely positive," she laughed. "The only low point if you can call it that, is the challenge of running a business single-handed, plus I am very cautious, but this hasn't stopped me."
? For more information visit the website: www.menaiholidays.co.uk.
Twitter: @DPBusinessWales different.
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Judith Matthews, owner of Menai Holiday Cottages owner Judith Matthews with Ben Griffin, who runs the holiday business' Menai Bridge office