Strathspey business adds another property

Handpicked Lodges has added another property to its portfolio just two months after winning Young Business of the Year at Association of Scottish Business Women Awards 2019.

Founded by businesswomen Tanja Hughes and Judith Thurlow in 2016, the self-catering property management company, which manages luxury lodges across Strathspey, has expanded rapidly whilst gaining a strong and trusted brand reputation.

Handpicked Lodges has now added the newly refurbished Caberfeidh lodge in the village of Kincraig to its books, taking its total properties to 18. The original target was to take on four lodges within a trading year, but just 10 months in and Handpicked Lodges had taken on their sixth.

Two years on and the women now have two permanent members of staff and in addition to the new members in the Handpicked Lodges team based in Aviemore, the business is also creating operational jobs across the Cairngorms region – from cleaners to property managers.

Tanja and Judith felt nowhere in the Cairngorms provided the levels of service that guests were now expecting from a self-catering holiday, and owners expected from a property management company.

With a background in property management and management and customer service training respectively, Tanja and Judith were introduced by a mutual friend, and they soon realised they shared a common vision and had the skills and expertise to create a business that would fill the empty niche.

Although neither are Cairngorms natives – having both relocated to the National Park from the city with their partners; Tanja from London in 2010 and Judith from Edinburgh in 2011 – they have successfully carved out a business for themselves, and other women living in the Highlands, within just a few short years.

Handpicked Lodges’ formula is the simplest and most well-tested one: to look at the entire experience through the eyes of their customers and add the extras that they believe will bring that experience up from good to great. The attention to detail is uncompromising, with every house checked by a member of the operations team after cleaning, to ensure that it’s spotless, well-stocked and welcoming.

From collaborating with other local businesses – such as The Highland Kitchen who provide gourmet cooking and dining experiences in the lodges – to establishing a profit share programme for operational staff, Judith and Tanja are always innovating and moving the business forward. This approach encourages staff to take an active part in ensuring the company’s success and growth, becoming a vital and valued part of the Handpicked Lodges family.

Judith said: ‘We are delighted to have added another beautiful property to our books just two months after being recognised as Young Business of the Year at the Scottish Business Women Awards. Our success and continued growth is due to our consistently high level of personal and attentive customer service.

‘Thanks to our strong and trusted brand reputation, we are truly able to handpick the properties we manage, and in the last nine months we have taken on our three largest and grandest properties yet.”

Tanja added: ‘We are very proud to have been one of a handful of trailblazers locally for a new, far more high-touch and attentive approach to luxury self-catering. We feel we are helping to push the development of high-end, concierge-style, hands-on personalised service and, in doing so, changing expectations and raising standards across the self-catering holiday businesses in Strathspey for both owners and guests.

‘It’s fantastic to have been named Young Business of the Year and have added another property, we can’t wait to see what’s next for Handpicked Lodges.’