Building a business from scratch: everywomanClub member Christine Griffiths explains



Appalled by the high energy bills at the family farm, Christine and husband Pete wanted to install solar panels, but it was impossible because the farmhouse was a listed building.

Then they discovered they could have a wind turbine in the orchard. Turbine installed, Christine realised that thousands of other farms must face the same problem.

So despite knowing nothing about renewable energy and being terrified at the thought of fronting a business, she decided to start Aeolus Power Group, distributing and installing individual wind turbines.

Now Aeolus has installed 200 turbines and has a turnover of £6 to 8 million – a success recognised at the NatWest everywoman Awards last year where Christine was a finalist. Here she takes us through a day in her life and explains how she overcame her shyness and built a business from scratch:

‘At 7am I go over to “the gym”. It's actually our garden shed with a cross trainer and treadmill in it but half an hour exercising gives me time to think. Then it's breakfast at my desk. The business started on the farmhouse table but now we have eight employees and six technicians on the road so we have an office in one of the farm buildings.

I start by looking at emails at around 8.15am. I don't have a PA. Then I check on the status of our customers' turbines. An online monitoring system checks for problems that require us to send a technician.

Some days I go to shows. That was the part of the business that initially frightened me most. We'd had a decorative concrete business as well as the farm but I'd always stayed in the office combining admin with looking after our children and our B&B guests.

When I told Pete we should start a business installing wind turbines, he said fine – but I had to be the face of it and go out selling. It terrified me so much! It was a male-dominated industry – still is – and I knew nothing about renewable energy.  I researched everything I could about wind energy.

There were no courses to take and few business examples to look at.I went to speak at meetings of the Country Landowners Association and the rooms were full of men. I had to talk and answer questions so it was quite frightening. In the early days I learnt as I went along and passed my knowledge on.

At first I used to go to shows alone, setting up a tent and presenting for three days. Many people object to turbines so I faced lots of arguments.An installation always involves a fight, either with planning, the grid, or people who are anti-turbine. Customers get hate mail.

You have to be resilient and support customers through it. It's worth it when you see how delighted they are in the end. A properly-sited turbine makes money - many farmers have told us it's their only chance to get a decent pension.

I have lunch in the farmhouse. I just throw a salad on a plate and I'm back at my desk in 15 minutes.

In the afternoon its more admin and dealing with customer queries. As our turbines cost about £250,000 we feel they should get personal service.  

In the evenings I prepare a meal with food from our smallholding. I do Sudoku as I can't bear TV, and I'm in bed by 10pm.We can be owed up to £1million because farmers sometimes experience delays with their banks.

You just have to think: "It's just figures."

My daughter Victoria has recently become involved in the business. I expect it to grow and diversify, but I'll never give it up as I still believe in the green cause 100%. Without that we'd never have endured the roller coaster ride it's been.Find out more:

Christine Griffiths was a finalist at the NatWest everywoman Awards. In December we reveal the winners of the NatWest everywoman Awards - the most coveted award for women entrepreneurs.

Christine Griffiths is also an everywomanClub member - an exclusive club for senior women in business who share their thoughts, tips, routes to success and stories with the everywomanNetwork community.