Gemma & Cliff Watts, The Ship & Bell, Horndean

Having worked for Fuller’s, Gemma Watts as a General Manager and husband Cliff as a Head Chef in the Managed House Division, it was only natural that when they began thinking of running their own business they turned to Fuller’s for advice.

“It was Cliff who had the idea first,” explains Gemma, who has been a General Manager with Fuller’s for three years. “He wanted to write and produce his own menus, have the flexibility to choose his own suppliers and work in a less controlled environment.

Wych Elm

“I was a bit reluctant at first, as I felt it was a bit of a gamble, with all the financial responsibility that comes with running your own business. But the more I found out about it, the keener I became. I had a very reassuring conversation with my BDM (Business Development Manager) who said I had the skills and the capability, and advised us to ‘go for it’!”

With the couple’s children growing up (aged 13, 11 and seven), Gemma said they felt ready for a fresh challenge. “I wanted to be able to run my own events and promotions in a pub that was big enough to be able to have a restaurant and separate bar area.”

After contacting the Tenanted Division, things moved quickly forward. “We also wanted a pub that was local to us and our family, but when Fuller’s first mentioned The Ship & Bell in Horndean, I wasn’t keen as I knew it was a wet-led boozer. However, when they explained they planned to redevelop the premises and give it a major refurbishment, we were very keen.”

Six months in and Gemma and Cliff are happy in knowing they made the right decision. “The financial side has been a bit daunting, being responsible for paying all the bills, the VAT and PAYE, but we’ve employed a very good accountant and our BDM has been fantastic. I feel we can call him day or night if we run into any difficulties,” says Gemma.

“It’s a large pub and people often comment on the fact it’s a big project to have taken on as our first pub.  But it’s exactly what we wanted. All the positive feedback from our customers too has been wonderful – very rewarding. We couldn't feel prouder when we tell people that we run our own business.”