London leaver: 'I was exhausted by London hustle culture — then I met a farmer from the Cotswolds'

Entrepreneur Samanah Duran (Handout)
Entrepreneur Samanah Duran (Handout)

Fast talking, ambitious, and thoroughly immersed in London life, Samanah Duran never saw herself as a lady of the manor type.

And yet Samanah now finds herself buried in the Cotswolds countryside, engaged to a gentleman farmer, and surrounded by thousands of acres of family-owned farmland, complete with a partridge shoot and racehorses, and a manor house to call home.

“Living in the Cotswolds is just a different world,” said Samanah.

“My life has changed threefold. But I have always worked and grafted and although I am in the very lucky position where I don’t need to work now I don’t want to be a kept lady.”

Samanah, 33, was born and brought up in Cambridge, but headed to London as soon as she left home with dreams of making something of herself. “I never wanted to be a big fish in a small pond,” she said. “The bright lights were really appealing.”

Aged 22 she founded her first company, a retail start up called Critics Clothing.

The company took off after she bumped into Rita Ora at a club and presented her with a t-shirt. Ora was photographed in the shirt, and Samanah suddenly found her streetwear brand all over social media. In 2017 she was named on the prestigious Forbes 30 under 30 business leaders to watch in retail and ecommerce.

By then she had sold Critics to a Swiss investor and set up a new company, BEYOUROWN, a members’ club for women in business.

Growing a business has its ups and downs, and Samanah describes her life back then as “champagne and baked beans”. “I made a lot of money, lost a lot of money, and learned a lot,” she said.

Home was a rented one bedroom flat in West Kensington which cost £1,600 a month, but by 2019 Samanah was beginning to have her doubts about London life.

“I didn’t want to be at the opening of every envelope anymore,” she said. “But London has that hustle culture, and it was exhausting.”

Then the pandemic came along and Samanah decided to go and stay with her grandparents in Lincolnshire, where she could decompress and rethink.

Single and stuck at home she decided to make her first stab at online dating, joined Hinge, and got talking to a farmer from the Cotswolds.

“With the pandemic it was really tough to meet anyone and nothing was open, so we had to be really cautious,” she said. “There was a lot of Facetiming and texting. It felt like I’d known him all my life.”

When Samanah was finally able to meet Ean Branston she discovered that his farm was actually a family-owned country estate close to Bourton On The Water, Gloucestershire.

After much deliberation, in 2021 Samanah consented to move into 46-year-old Ean’s six bedroom house on the estate, which includes the main house where his mother lives, staff houses, a thriving shooting business, extensive farmland, and a racing stables run by the trainer Ben Pauling.

The couple’s daughter, Cressida, is now 20 months old, and the couple are engaged.

Over the past couple of years Samanah has had to learn to juggle her new life as a country-living mother with her business commitments.

She zips up and down to London regularly to host events, while simultaneously feeling slightly guilty about Cressida spending time in nursery while she is working.

“I could stay at home all the time, and Ean would probably love it, but want to create and expand and do new projects,” she said. “I also want to be a role model to my daughter and not just be known as someone’s spouse.”