October 25, 2023

Entrepreneur balances off-grid getaways with online business

Crowdy Hall
Alasdair Brown, founder of Crowdy Hall

Visitors are travelling from far and wide for the seclusion and digital detox offered by Alasdair Brown’s rural retreat in Sedgefield.

But while off-grid getaways are the main attraction for guests to Crowdy Hall’s luxurious cabins, the success of the business depends on staying firmly online.

This need to stay connected to reliable broadband was one of the key reasons Alasdair has decided to run the administrative side of his start-up from nearby Business Central in Darlington.

“Crowdy Hall is all about giving guests the space to unwind, unplug and relax but when it comes to running the business, I need fast internet,” he said.

“I love the coworking model that Business Central offers. The ability to hop in and out is exactly what I need and the feeling of community is really important when you’re a rural business because working solo can be lonely.” 

Crowdy Hall

The serial entrepreneur hit upon the idea of Crowdy Hall after returning to his family’s farm for a visit after years of living in far flung corners of the world including Chile and Colombia.

Overwhelmed by the beauty and seclusion of the surroundings, he spotted an opportunity to create a tranquil haven where people could reconnect with nature. He set about creating a series of four individual off-grid cabins with sustainability and comfort in mind.

“My heart and soul are in entrepreneurship but this is a very different project for me,” he said.

“It’s my first solo venture, it’s a very physical project, and it’s so incredibly personal. I feel like I’ve come back to my roots.

“In Colombia I learned the true happiness that can come from stripping things right back to the beautiful basics and simply enjoying your surroundings. My aim is to share that with my guests.

“In the digital age we live in, we need to take care of our mental health and escape now and then for a detox. Here, you can almost do a 360 degree and there’s not a building in sight!”

Crowdy Hall

Each stylish cabin at Crowdy Hall is a showcase for sustainable living, incorporating innovative solutions ranging from tankless boilers, solar powered electrics and Norwegian incinerator toilets to all kinds of repurposed items. From each cabin’s private deck, guests can look out onto picturesque rolling Durham countryside.

Crowdy Hall launched last year and Alasdair plans to expand into offering themed retreats, as well as marketing the location to CEOs, executives and other leaders.

Vanessa Wood, Centre Manager at Business Central, said: “You might not expect to find the owner of a farm-based business plugged into a desk in our coworking lounge but that’s the beauty of what we offer here.

“A diverse range of entrepreneurs and enterprises love the collaborative, creative and connected community and we’re thrilled Alasdair has made his second home here with us. We can’t wait to see what’s next for his business.”

Business Central and neighbouring sister site Innovation Central are owned by Darlington Borough Council and are managed by the North East BIC. They provide a connected business community at the heart of the town’s Central Park development, offering a choice of coworking, office and lab space along with meeting rooms, events and shared services designed to help today’s entrepreneurs to innovate and thrive.