Owner of the Douglas Park Guest House, Ken Togwell

Updated: Sep 1, 2020

1. Tell us a bit about you i.e are you native to Dunoon or have you moved here from elsewhere? What did you do before you set up your current business?

My grandparents came to Dunoon in 1945. They owned and managed The Esplanade Hotel, which was passed on to my mum and dad, who married in 1960. I was born in 1963, so have been in and around this area and the hospitality trade most of my life. I helped run the kitchen in the hotel, so when the family sold the business in 2001, I used those skills to join a mobile catering service. I catered for the film and TV production industry. You could find me on the sets of Taggart and Harry Potter at all hours. It was great fun, but hard work, and you didn't know when you were going to return home at night.

After that we, in a partnership, opened and ran a deli in Kirn with outside catering. Then had five great years working at Tents and Events, a business owned by my good friends Graeme and Janet. I have been running The Douglas Park Guest House here in Kirn for the last seven years since 2014.

2. What sparked your business idea? i.e Did you take on a family business; did you head out on a new adventure; or did circumstances force you to adapt?

Taking on The Douglas Park Guest House was inspired by a trip to New Zealand and the quality of accommodation my wife Shona and I experienced when we were out there. When we returned from our trip we started to look for a new business venture. Eventually we bought the Douglas Park Guest House from a couple who had extensively renovated the property. Historically this building was Dr Smith's surgery. Today it is a five-bedroomed, four-star guest house with stunning views of the Clyde.

3. What was the best piece of business advice you have been given and who gave it to you?

Best advice was to charge what you feel your product is worth. Don’t get dragged into a bidding war. You know how much blood, sweat and tears your business is worth, and we wanted a quality product, one that we would be proud of.

4. What challenges have you faced to make use of online resources or promote your business digitally?

I am an oldie and wasn't bought up with Google or Facebook. I have had to learn about these platforms from scratch. I went to a few Business Gateway run sessions and picked up some basics. I then figured out at how to present the business using resources such as Youtube and by asking members of my family for advice.

I tried Twitter, but I just didn't get on with it, so you need to figure out what works for you and decide where to invest your time. Very little feed back from guests on this one. Facebook and Instagram are my usual platforms. Posts with my little dog, Tilly, get the most responses!

Today The Douglas Park Guest House is number one on Trip Advisor and learning how to use this platform has been really important for my business - recommendations on Trip Advisor are the ones that my guests trust.

5. What is unique or interesting about running a business here in Dunoon? (if you have a story that highlights this, we’d love to hear it?

Dunoon is a funny place - it is the best kept secret, if you don’t already know about it. It doesn't have the same pull places like of Inverness, Oban or Edinburgh, so people need to find it for themselves, with a little help from social media and the Douglas Park website.

6. Tell us the one thing about your business that you are most proud of?

Being number one on Trip Advisor for Dunoon and Cowal for the last 7 years is what I am most proud of. Guests are leaving good feedback and that is the reassurance other people need to book with us. I’m proud of the way our business has developed, many guests are returning year after year. You’ve got to invest your personality into the business.

7. What changes do you think could help sustain and develop Dunoon as a place to do business?

How long have we got…?? Last night I couldn't find a place for my guests to eat, as all the local places were booked out or closed, probably because of the government's Eat out to Help Out scheme. It was a bit of a shame. We really need a seafood restaurant locally. I also would love to see a wine bar/pub/restaurant in Kirn. I really hope that the Dunoon Project can bring the cable car to the town and open up the hill to a whole new market as well as mountain bikers and walkers. I would love to see the long talked about harbour being established around the old Victorian Pier, giving the town a focal point and bring in extra marine trade. At the moment there aren’t enough beds in the town to attract conference trade to Dunoon. We really need a quality hotel to fill this gap. Oh and don’t forget the lack of a decent ferry into Dunoon pier, and the Rest and Be Thankful road upgrade.

8. What support do you think is missing for small businesses in the Dunoon Area?

I am the secretary for Enviro Kirn, which is a community initiative. Enviro Kirn accessed money to put benches on the sea front and we installed them with the support of young people from The Help Project. I think as that as businesses and as members of the community, we need to think about how to do things for ourselves that improve the area, rather than just leaving things to the council, who have no money spare.

9. What are your key business goals over the next 12 months?

Survival. I received the £10k grant from the government to survive lockdown and that really has helped over the last few months. I am delighted to have now had three busy weeks. I am not sure this will continue, but I have good return customers and want to keep the business ticking over for them. Extra cleaning, sanitising and guest distancing precautions are all part of my new normal for being Covid19 secure.

10. Promote your business. Tell people why we should come to you?

People should come to the Douglas Park Guest House because our house has got a great friendly feel, comfortable rooms, stunning views and a brilliant reputation. If you are local and want quality accommodation for friends or family, they will be very welcome here. And, why not have a look at our reviews on TripAdvisor.…don’t just take my word for it!

Visit the Douglas Park Guest House

See the fantastic Trip Advisor reviews for yourself here>

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