Sarah Anthony has been interested in falconry since the age of 7, when she saw a flying display at a bird of prey centre in Devon. Sadly, there were no falconry centres near her home town of Harlow, and she had to wait a long time for another opportunity to get up close and personal with the amazing creatures. Realising there were very few falconry centres in towns and urban areas, Sarah was passionate about ensuring others had the opportunity to fly, handle and photograph birds of prey, and to be inspired by them the way she had been as a child.
With a great idea and inspiration running strong, Sarah set about launching Harlow Falconry to highlight the sport of falconry, and soon found an ideal location to make falconry accessible to the public in her area. Sarah set up a business account with NatWest and started working with local community groups, schools and large corporates to grow the business and the brand.
Harlow Falconry is one of the only falconry centres in Europe which concentrates on the idea of Urban Falconry – giving guidance and support to people with an interest in training birds of prey as a hobby, and offering work experience in a falconry centre environment. The centre offers ‘experience days,’ allowing customers to view flying demonstrations and fly the birds themselves. The centre also offers corporate events – including team building days, school visits and falconry workshops – as well as running community based projects alongside conservation groups to educate people about wildlife and birds of prey.
Harlow Falconry grew rapidly in its first 18 months, quickly outgrowing its existing premises. To ensure the brand could grow and prosper, Sarah recognised they needed a new place to call home – a base that was bigger, accommodated more birds of prey and provided an even better experience for customers.
Having located a new venue, financial backup was vital to make the step from a successful but small local business to the well recognised, leading bird of prey centre in the South East they wanted to be. To help with the aviary build and centre improvement costs at the new venue, it was essential that Sarah had a good level of cash flow and a chance to consolidate previous set up debts.
Sarah approached NatWest for a business loan and says “Honestly, I wouldn’t bank with anyone else. NatWest are supportive of new businesses and give essential advice on how to grow your earnings and achieve your dreams. I always felt that the business team were there to support me and my business and offered fantastic rates on a new business account for the first 2 years…it seemed fair not to pay any charges whilst I was growing the business so that was really appreciated.”
With a NatWest business loan approved, Harlow Falconry are excited to be launching into a much bigger market, building new aviaries, buying new essential equipment, and creating a bespoke cabin for customers to enjoy when they visit the centre. The support from NatWest means the business is more financially secure.
Harlow Falconry won “Best New Business” at the Harlow Star Business Excellence Awards in 2013, and is listed as the #1 attraction in the area on Trip Advisor. Sarah says “Without the support of NatWest, Harlow Falconry wouldn’t be in the strong position it is now.” With the brand becoming more and more recognised, Harlow Falconry will also be launching a new merchandise collection soon, available online and at the centre.