Interview With Lord Stephen Rossiter | Become A Lord or Lady For A Good Cause
With Highland Titles, the passion for conservation puts “noble” back in nobility
The concept of “nobility” often carried the concept of merit and social duty since a long time ago. “Lords” and “Ladies” were often expected to live by honorable behavior and uphold social responsibilities. Today, Highland Titles allows anyone who has a passion in nature conservation to add a touch of class into their lives with souvenir plots of land that not only grant the landowner the title of “Laird”, “Lord” or “Lady”, but also ensure the conservation of Scottish woodlands.
Having served as the global Marketing Director for Highland Titles since 2011, Lord Stephen Rossiter’s honest charm and zealous nature has played a significant role in the success of Highland Titles globally. He has welcomed over 50,000 people across the globe into the Highland Titles family, uniting these Lords and Ladies together with their shared passion for conservation.
How did the journey of Highland Titles first start?
Highland Titles began ten years ago and it was the dream of Dr Peter Bevis. He wanted to createx a network of nature reserves around Scotland. He didn’t want to go to the government for funding but rather he wanted to fund it himself. It was also important that he funded his dream with people who were interested in the conservation of nature. At the same time, Dr Peter Bevis’ daughter was looking to fund her university education. They lived in a house in Scotland with lots of acres of land available. The Bevis family had heard of this idea of selling souvenir plots of land so, at their house, the family devoted an acre. The land was cut up into small plots, identified by grid references and sold it on eBay. There was a lot of interest. Peter then realized that there was viability for this project to take off so he bought a 250 acre plot of land from the money they had raised. It was an ideal plot of land to develop into a nature reserve, so he launched Highland Titles. From then on, we haven’t looked back.
The breakthrough came when an Australian comedian called Julia Morris went on the media to share how she was gifted this plot of land and how wonderful it was. The Australians got really interested in the that and there was a massive influx of orders from Australia. It was actually quite huge and tricky to cope at first which resulted in redesigning the website to better cope with the high amount of orders coming in. So, the money was there to further develop the nature reserves such as building a pathway around the nature reserve to navigate around the place, and along the way they also built a bat box, nature reserve huts so guests can go watch the animals we have there to constantly improve the place. We have a full-time warden there now to manage the nature reserve and welcome guests. Till this day, we are now a Four Star Attraction in Scotland.
What is the most interesting thing about being in the gift trade business?
I think Highland Titles is a unique gift because if you’re looking for a gift for someone who already has everything and is difficult to shop for a present let’s say for Christmas, this is a very affordable gift and your recipient will definitely have a great reaction to this gift. It’s not just unique, it is also very personalized but more importantly, it goes into helping conservation of the nature reserve in Scotland.
What drew you to become the Global Marketing Director for Highland Titles?
I saw it as a good opportunity to do good in Scotland. I have always been in the gift trade, and hence have experience in marketing and selling gifts. This was a unique opportunity to combine my experience as well as my love for conservation and Scotland. I have been with Highland Titles for five years and it has been wonderful so far.
What are the benefits of owning a plot of land in Scotland?
One benefit is that you get to have this wonderful title that goes with owning a plot of land at Highland Titles in Scotland. Because you own land in Scotland, regardless of the size of it, you are a Laird. In Scottish, Laird means land owner. The literal English translation is Lord and the female equivalent is Lady. Of course, you can’t go rushing to London and go to the House of Lords. This is a courtesy title but you very much have the liberty to style yourself as a Lord or Lady. One thing you can do is put this title on your credit card when you own one in the United Kingdom. It adds a little bit of style, and that is a benefit for any individual who decides to own land at Highland Titles in Scotland or to gift it to a loved one since like I mentioned, it is a unique gift with a bit of fun. The other benefit is, of course, you’re helping conservation efforts in Scotland, you know a proportion of the money you are spending is going into up keeping the nature reserve.
What has driven Highland Titles business strategy to ensure that the company continues to grow?
The growth of Highland Titles is in the different markets that we go to as the company is in over 100 countries around the world. We are currently looking into growing the Asian market as we believe more people in Asia would be interested in gifting this. My job here at Highland Titles and why I am making a trip to Singapore now, as well as in Hong Kong in the next few days, is to promote Highland Titles.
How does Highland Titles continue to ensure the best noble experience for each Laird or Lady?
Every Laird or Lady who owns land at Highland Titles has an exclusive membership card so when they do come for a visit to the nature reserve, we have teamed up with local businesses for the Laird or Lady to enjoy exclusive VIP perks. You also get a tour of the nature reserve and of course you get shown to the plot of land that you own.
For those who can’t make it to Highland Titles in Scotland, we do have a Facebook page with regular updates on what is going on at Highland Titles. We have spy cameras all across the land and every night our warden uploads different shots of the animals at the nature reserve so you can take a look at the animals moving around and even during feeding. So even if you can’t go to Scotland, because we appreciate that not everyone can get there, you can still feel like you are a part of it by having access to the nature reserve through social media and receive consistent updates of what developments we are doing and how we are progressing.
We have many animals at our nature reserve such as deers, red squirrels, badgers, lots of bats as we have bat boxes now, a couple of pigs which are helping to clear the bracken. So everything we do, we try to do it in an eco friendly way. These animals are all native to Scotland and we have managed to create a natural habitat for these animals to come back to where they belong.
What are some of Highland Titles‘ future plans?
We have bought our second nature reserve, Mountain View. Our Four Stars Visitor Attraction at Shepard’s Hut so more and more, we want to get our second nature reserve going. And of course moving forward, our third one, so on and so forth. But, these expansion plans need cash and we are never going to go and ask for government funding so while we have our global following from people all over the world who wants us to do this, we will continue to strive and make it happen.
Currently, we have sold about 60-70% of our first nature reserve. We are not looking to sell every bit because there needs to be some space for development projects like the building of bat boxes and pathways around the place itself. We also sell larger plots of land. So clients can buy a plot of land that is 1 square foot which is the minimum, but you can also buy a 10 square foot plot of land, and even 100 or 1000 square foot plot of land if you want to. What we are doing also is selling the larger plots of land at Mountain View, our second nature reserve. When they do get larger plots of land at Mountain View, they also get a one square foot plot of land at Glencoe Wood (the first nature reserve). The dream is have more and more nature reserves.
Highland Titles is becoming a brand now, it is important the name is associated with conservation since it is owned by thousands of people worldwide who have an interest in conservation in Scotland.
How has Highland Titles continued its success in its many flora and fauna regeneration projects?
We have around a dozen local volunteers that’ll come and work on the reserve. But it’s mainly managed by a warden, Stewart, who’s there meeting people and who’ll ensure the regular plantations go on since you can only plant trees at a certain time of year. So our success is really all about using the local knowledge of people- the experts that are there on the land- and making sure that it happens at the right time.
Other than doing conservation work on the land, we also support the local community in any sort of conservation work that they do. We team up with local schools, welcoming schoolchildren throughout the year who’ll come and do various nature products. We also give grants to schools for the various nature conservation projects they do.
Tell us more about the Highland Titles Nature Reserve at Glencoe Wood.
Glencoe Wood was the first nature reserve we had. It’s 250 acres (170 Football pitches) large and gets between 5 and 8 thousand visitors per year– visitors who come visit their plot. It’s busier in May to August, which is in the summer.
We have coach parties coming now as well and we also get people passing by. These people will come, see the nature reserve and the work we do, and they’ll buy a square foot because we sell the plots now on the land. So we have a welcome hut now– a shepherd’s hut on wheels. It has free tea and coffee when you come along, so you can stay in the dry and not get wet. And then we have a Gator buggy that takes people around to find their plots.
What are your tips for an easy, jet-setting lifestyle?
In my career for sales and marketing, not just for Highland Titles, I’ve done a lot of travelling. So I think your body just gets used to being “thrown around”. When I’m in America I try to keep my sleep patterns on the same time zone, on English time. I get up earlier and sleep earlier. I also try to fly during the day.
Other than travelling, what are some other activities you enjoy doing in your free time?
I’m a bell ringer. So I ring mainly church bells in the United Kingdom– the big bells in full-circle ringing. I’ve been bell ringing since I was 14.
I enjoy bell-ringing because it’s a great team effort. It’s not too physical, but physical enough that keeps your brain active, because you have to learn patterns to move your bell amongst the other bells. When all the bells start ringing, they start moving in and out of each other to create different musical tones which when rung rhythmically sound really nice.
Bell-ringing is my relaxation from so much travelling, although it can be quite stressful! But it’s a hobby that I do when I have some down time. I also met my wife when I was doing it. You get to meet different people from lots of different walks of life as well, but when you’re all together you’ve got that one thing in common, which I think is very nice.
What do you enjoy most about working at Highland Titles?
I love the outdoors. I’m very much an outdoor person, I always have been. And I’ve always enjoyed travelling, actually. I always like being out and about and meeting different people. And the thing about Highland Titles, when I go to the different countries and I meet the different lords and ladies, they share the common interest in conservation. They love the fact that they’re a lord, they love the fact that they’re a lady, and they love the fact that we’re conserving Scotland. So that’s what drives me in doing this.
What do you think contributed to your success?
I think it’s being honest. I like being honest, and I like to chat. I don’t have any hidden agendas, I just try and get on with everybody. And I think that’s what the success for me has been in my career. They say there’s no such thing as an honest salesman, but there can be and that’s me. And I have been a salesman since I was 18, and it’s been a great career.
Our motto at The Hedonist is “You can be do and have anything you want.” What’s your take on such a statement?
If you have a dream and you put your mind to it, then just about everything is achievable. And I think what Highland Titles has shown that without any government funding or private investment, you can still achieve a well-respected and well-run nature reserve. And that I think goes quite nicely with your motto.