Louiseashby blog2

"Optimism is about the future......

It is not blind positivity nor is it naïve.

It is not seeing the glass as half full and ignoring the half of the glass that is empty.

It is the ability to see the emptiness of half the glass while choosing to focus on the fullness of the other half of the glass.

It is the ability to see the good in the face of the bad"

Source: The great optimist, and one of my favs Simon Sinek and his view going into 2021.


So with these eloquent and very wise words in mind, I thought I would choose to focus on one of those glass half full times from 2020 and put together this case study. 



Following the sale of his company in 2016 and some time out, Jon Neil and his wife Jaci needed a project to keep him busy!

They came across a property - the Shoulder of Mutton in Fordham in Colchester. They bought it and in early 2020 set out to convert it from a public house to an Antiques Centre with Vintage Tea Room.

The 700 year old listed building was in a poor state of repair with flooded cellar, leaking roof and overgrown grounds. It took over 6 months of careful restoration and hard graft, but they succeeded in the change of use planning and got the place into great condition.

They appointed a tenant for the tea room - Sophie and team were perfect, a vintage tea room family business complimenting the culture that Jon and Jaci intended for the venue. Several antique dealers and their exciting ranges of collectables were installed and after hitting the news with a secret hidden staircase and stories of ghost sightings, they opened the doors to the masked public on October 14th 2020  - and were busy straight off.

They may have had to close temporarily, for a couple of weeks as the country were locked down for a second time, but by that point, the word was out, their website was up and running and they had Georgia on board - their marketing assistant who got stuck into social media and promoting their business on line.



When I first met with Jon, we talked about several elements of this project and where he wanted our help. The first was to do with his vision. He wanted the Shoulder of Mutton to be a venue that was welcoming and family friendly and he really wanted to retain the locals' fondness for the once busy public house.

So for him and for us, it was clear  - both the Antiques Centre and the Vintage Tea rooms, although run as 2 separate businesses, should be aspiring to the same brand values. We discussed how presenting themselves to their customers in a succinct way would help to unify them as a venue. This in turn, would begin to build an overall brand with certain customer service and quality expectations that would then become synonymous with the Shoulder of Mutton as an overall attraction to visitors.


A close family member, Charlotte, had been asked to commission an illustration for part of the logo, and we were asked to bring that together for the Antiques Centre and the Tea rooms. We used the colours from the illustration as the working palette, tweaked the fonts and produced various stationery as required.


This project was one that rolled out fairly quickly. With the building repairs and restoration going on right to the last possible minute, covid restrictions and an immovable opening date, Jon had an awful lot on his plate. There was no time for a photoshoot (which is something we recommended and have planned to do with Jon and Georgia, as soon as possible), but with a strong brief for the website and a good idea on the content required, we were able to get that underway. We secured their domain, designed the site, assisted in creating the content and then built it. They now have a fully functioning online shop  - perfect for those customers who are isolating and for Georgia to direct all her new social media followers to.


This a story of hard work, determination and is a great example of what can be achieved through adversity. One of my firm beliefs as a brand consultant is that your team are most definitely the best ambassadors for your brand, Jon and Jaci have employed a small team here, who are all pulling in the same direction to launch a new business during a national pandemic.

This quote from Georgia shouts in volumes so I thought it was worth sharing:

I think I am a little bit obsessed with my job; I’ve spent hours outside of working time to up-skill and learn the basics of Photoshop and animation. Why am I motivated to commit so much extra time? Not just because I love what I do but because those I work for/with have fostered a friendly and supportive atmosphere where I am encouraged to try new things. Thank you Jonathan Neill!  

It just goes to show that the way you treat your employees makes a difference to productivity - and also that because someone has little/no experience, it doesn’t mean that they can’t learn quickly.

They say culture eats strategy for breakfast -  and mindset eats culture for lunch and the Shoulder of Mutton is a fantastic example of what can be achieved when there is a strategy in place, the right culture is fostered and a positive mind set employed throughout.

We are very much looking forward to continuing to work with Jaci, Jon, Georgia and Sophie and helping them to build this brand further and move it through the gears as their businesses take off.

Well done to all - its a marvellously fun and friendly place with hustle and bustle and that welcome, sociable atmosphere we have all been craving.

I personally can't wait to return for a nose around the treasures and a lovely tea room treat.


"Thanks, love the site and really pleased how it looks...perfect -  

Works well, loving the ease of it, you did a great job and delivered in a tight timeframe and with minimal input from us" Jon


 "We’ve loved the work you’ve done for us.

You understood exactly the image we wanted to portray". Jaci