Success Stories

InFocus Success Story: Cohort Hostel

The power of the business pivot

To dream up and establish a new business venture is quite a task. To keep it going beyond the initial energy and momentum of its early phase is another. Then to decide to broaden its scope and expand its offering adds yet more layers of complexity.

Lee and Dan Strickland are co-founders of the Cohort in St Ives. Where once, three or four years ago, it had started life as a provider of hostel accommodation, Lee and Dan decided to reposition it as an educational trip provider. Becoming a ‘low eco-impact, accommodation provider; facilitating inspiring and transformative learning experiences for the educational travel sector”.

Cohort decide to diversify their business offer

Sometimes in business we talk easily about ‘pivoting’; in reality, the physical facts of the manoeuvre can be a challenge. Lee and Dan wanted to change their business from providing holiday accommodation, to specialising in trips for educational establishments from primary to university age and being an active resource and support to teachers through all stages of the planning process.

With this task in mind, Lee and Dan made contact with Unlocking Potential’s InFocus programme at the end of 2020 to seek advice and support for this transformation. Specifically, they wanted to find out what financial support might be available to help them build a fit-for-purpose website to reflect their ambitions and be an easy experience for trip organisers.

This help was forthcoming, and what was particularly valuable for Lee and Dan was that it meant they could quickly realise their ambition to capture the ‘staycation’ market opportunity. With so much continuing uncertainty around foreign travel, domestic destinations for residential field-trips are likely to be popular with schools and education providers for quite a while to come.

One-to-one chats gave reassurance and confidence to diversify

However, over and above this valuable financial and IT assistance, Lee and Dan also came to value the one-to-one support of their Business Development Manager, which is a hallmark of all Unlocking Potential’s programmes.

“They understood our business, where we wanted to go and the challenges we faced. It was really helpful having someone to talk too while we were affected by the pandemic. They helped us to see the silver lining and has been so supportive and understanding as well as excited about what we are doing, which has given us reassurance.”

This combination of personal contact and practical support has been game-changing for Cohort. They’re particularly delighted with how the website has developed: providing them with plenty of enquiries, saving on admin time and, crucially, making a Google ads campaign possible. Lee said:

“Before InFocus we would never have had the confidence to run a Google ads campaign, we did not have a suitable website and Google is so complicated.”

The renewed confidence Dan and Lee now have, is a positive measure of the business’s progress. As Lee says:

“It has forced us out of our comfort zone, and we are now reaping the rewards.”

For more information about support available to businesses in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, contact or contact our partner organisation, the Growth Hub.