Owner of Owl Wise Phil Eckett was the winner of the Simply Business 200,000 customers competition, with his irresistible story of a bird-focused business built from passion and commitment. We went to visit Phil in his Essex home to present him with his iPad prize and, accompanied by some of the beautiful owls in his care, Phil told us a bit more about what he does.
Midweek on a quiet suburban street in Essex, and I was looking into the huge, amber eyes of an Eagle Owl. She was called Isis, and she was unruffled by my presence and was a natural in front of the camera. However, she did think that the fluffy microphone looked particularly delicious. An intrigued crane of Isis’ neck and a few curious swoops later, cameraman Duncan Wright decided that we would remove the piece of expensive equipment that Isis saw only as a prey-sized rodent….
Duncan and I had come to this unusual street on Canvey Island to meet Phil Eckett, and to hear a bit more about his business, Owl Wise. As one of the largest providers of business insurance in the country, Simply Business gets a fascinating insight into UK businesses every day. When we celebrated reaching 200,000 customers in the summer and invited businesses to tell us their stories, the decision on our favourite was unanimous.
A self-proclaimed ‘owl-oholic’, Phil told us that his love of feathered things had begun as a child. A ten year old Phil came across a couple of orphaned barn owls, and took them in and learnt how to care for them. As his number of owls grew, so did his reputation. Soon, people from all over Essex and beyond were bringing him birds of prey that they found injured or in need of care. Looking after the birds and working on releasing them back into the right habitat was something that Phil initially juggled alongside a fulltime job and raising a family.
Watching Isis and some of the other beautiful birds swoop gracefully back and forth across the driveway and return to Phil’s gloved hand, it wasn’t difficult to see why these creatures had captivated him. Genesis of a business from a personal passion was a theme that ran through many of the business stories that were submitted to us. Phil eventually saw an opportunity to create a business based on his love and knowledge of the birds; Owl Wise provides demonstrations to schools, youth groups, parties and other events, with Phil’s passion for conservation and energetic, dedicated explanation of bird conservation a key element. In turn, the fees for these events helps fund the expensive breeding and conservation work.
Back at the Eckett family home, Duncan and I watched Pod, the Burrowing Owl explore the living room. Cute, tiny and characterful, Pod was only a couple of months old, and was keen to see whether he could go up the staircase. Phil told us how burrowing owls dig their subterranean homes, and also about the rattlesnake-like noise that they make to frighten off predators.
I was completely won over by Owl Wise and by the dignified, intelligent charm of the beautiful birds that Phil works with. Sitting in Phil’s living room, surrounded by owl memorabilia and listening to the human-like chatter of the parrot and learning about birds of prey from Phil, I felt privileged to have an insight into this business. At Simply Business, we’re very proud to form even a small part of Owl Wise’s story, and to get the chance to share it with you.