Opened in 2007, Tom invented the fictional universe of BeWILDerwood – a treehouse adventure park and children’s book series. “I created a children’s park and wrote a series of books about the creatures which live there,” says Tom. “I then became CEO of a company that has since won almost every award available to it, including a TEA from Anaheim, Los Angeles – an Oscar in this industry.”
With Tom at its helm, BeWILDerwood now attracts more than 150,000 visitors a year to the Norfolk-based adventure park, with further roll-outs planned in the UK. Tom describes his role as a jack-of-all-trades, but he pays particular attention to team-building. In his view, “no CEO is worth their salt unless they can read the P&L and balance sheets and react accordingly”.
Along the way, he has had to prove the naysayers wrong, including one friend who feared that the tourist venture might just “ruin Norfolk”. However, he has managed to build a brand and boost the local economy. For Tom, real business success is not measured in profit but “seeing the smile a child’s face as they play – that’s the one!”
Tom believes that businesses proximity to a myriad of issues means they should play a larger role in their solution: “Businesses employ and pay for huge sectors of the economy. We also have our fingers on the pulse in a way that politicians should pay more attention to.”
As for right now, Tom’s lesson is clear: if your business idea doesn’t fit in the world you’re in – just create a new one.