Third generation arable farmer Guy Minshull farms around 320 acres across Warwickshire, including at his home, Ash Tree Farm.
Arable farmers are busiest in the summer months, and Guy is no exception, and so he was on the lookout for a separate business that could slot into his farming calendar whilst at the same time realise his diversification dreams.
In early 2019, Guy spotted what he describes as a ‘ready-made’ business for sale, and thought it could be the perfect fit.
“I had been keeping an eye out for a business that would complement the farming and my land-based experience and knowledge as well as, ideally, one that would trade predominantly over the winter months,” he says.
“The founder and owner of Gumleaf Boots – also a farmer – was looking to retire and sell the business. I got in touch and went to meet him at his Norfolk farm to find out more about the business.
“Despite being in farming all my life, I had never before heard of Gumleaf boots, but found the wellingtons excellent quality, and the business eminently ‘relocatable’.
“Its strong ethical values, commitment to being environmentally sound and the use of mainly natural products in the boots, were particularly attractive.
“I saw huge potential to make more of the company. It also presented the chance for me to step out of my farming world and take on a fresh challenge.”
Guy bought Gumleaf in July 2019, with advice from Lodders’ Corporate and Commercial team.
The purchase included the business’ sales agents and an established network of 60 stockists and specialist countryside retailers.
He moved the business and all stock to Warwickshire, which has proved the ideal base from which to serve the whole the country.
With styles for men, women and children, Gumleaf boots come from a farming background where wellies are a necessity not an option. “You need to look forward to putting boots on every day,” says Guy. “Comfort, warmth, durability and value, are all things that we look for when designing our boots.”
Manufactured in Europe at a traditional boot factory, every pair of Gumleaf boots is handmade using sustainably sourced natural rubber, and pressure-tested before leaving the factory.
“Having our factory in Europe allows us to be fully involved in every stage of the production process and product development.
“The factory has been making rubber boots in the traditional handmade way since 1927,” Guy explains. “It is one of only two mainstream factories remaining in Europe using natural rubber. Plus it uses only wood chip for power, which significantly reduces carbon footprint too.”
“Gumleaf is a quality brand, that is competitively priced in what is a crowded market,” says Guy, “and primarily worn by people who enjoy the great outdoors, both work and pleasure, particularly farmers and for country sports.”
The Gumleaf ‘professional green boot range’ caters for all types of country pursuits, and incorporates the ‘Royal Zip’ neoprene, which makes taking off and putting on easy.
The Viking range is a slightly roomier and more expandable design, the Saxon is Gumleaf’s standard neoprene boot for super warmth and comfort, and the Field has a cotton liner that makes it perfect for warmer days.
A few months after Guy bought Gumleaf, excitement and expectation for the new business and opportunity was soon crushed when the world was shattered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a new business owner, it was certainly a worrying time,” says Guy. “It was a balancing act. With people getting outside more than ever, demand for our boots was high, but the factory was in lockdown, so supply was short.
“Of course, all the 2020 countryside shows and events were cancelled, erasing a big chunk of potential boot sales. Despite that, sales volumes were still pretty good. I am optimistic we can sell at least four times as many boots this and subsequent years.”
Setting out on a new business venture is impossible without professional support: “I value the opportunity to talk to experienced professionals who take an objective, but informed view,” says Guy.
“John Rouse at Lodders has been an invaluable support with solid tax, family, and inheritance advice for me and the family, and planning for the family farming business.
“Lodders has specialists and expert teams in every sort of business and private client law – from Alastair Frew, who has given great advice on matters affecting us brought about by HS2, to members of the corporate team, who provided initial advice when I first looked into buying Gumleaf. A seamless, professional, and highly approachable team.”
Guy adds: “We’re genuinely relishing the fresh challenge of Gumleaf and its enormous potential – everyone needs a pair of wellies!”
Read this and more great stories in the latest issue of Lodders Life.