We are really enjoying meeting so many of our WKBN businesses and discovering what a diverse bunch of folk we are!
In this Business Spotlight one of our regular event attendees, Ann Currie, tells us more about her and her Wirral Campervan Hire business.
When did you first set up your business and what motivated you to do so?
Wirral Campervan Hire was officially launched on 1 December 2017. I was finding my work as a solicitor increasingly stressful. I thought to myself that enough was enough and decided to change direction completely. I love my camper van and wanted to share that experience with other people. I qualified for the New Enterprise Allowance and advice from their business advisors was invaluable in helping me identify that there was a gap in the market for this on the Wirral and for the confidence to go for it!
What are the main products/services your company offers?
I rent out our VW Transporter T5 campervan. It is a modern well-appointed Hillside conversion with a pop top roof, sleeping 4. It has 2 gas rings and a grill, a sink and a fridge. Diesel heating keeps it warm and toasty if need be. It comes fully equipped with cutlery, crockery and pots so that you just need your bedding, clothes and food and you are good to go. We also rent out the awning that attaches to it, along with a bike rack and other separate tents.
Who is your key target audience?
Anyone who loves campervans! It has been mostly families who have rented it to date. Some of those families were considering buying a van themselves so they have taken the opportunity to try it before they buy one as it is a major investment.
I am a keen runner and triathlete so I have used it as a support vehicle for the races and events that I have entered. The bike rack makes it ideal for that. There is nothing better than arriving back at your own van after a race and being able to eat your own food and relax! So, it is ideal for that audience.
But really, anyone can hire it. I am looking at how best to capture the overseas market for next year.
Has it all been plain sailing (please pardon the seaside pun!)?
It’s been a very steep learning curve for sure but it’s been a relatively smooth ride so far (pardon the motoring pun). I have worked as a solicitor for 20 years so do not have any direct business or marketing experience so I have been learning on the job.
How have you found it working for yourself?
I enjoy the freedom it gives me to set my own schedule and be available for my family without having to check in with the boss. When I first started, I felt I had to be “at my desk” 9-5. I have gradually evolved so that I take time during the day to do things for me as I may be working and answering queries after 5pm.
I miss the interaction with colleagues but I now arrange to see people occasionally for coffee/lunch so I don’t go stir crazy.
What does a ‘normal’ day look like for you?
There is no ‘normal’ day for me! If the van is not on hire, I check emails, answer queries and manage the social media. I update the web site and write blog posts for it. When the van is going out on hire, it’s all hands on deck (so many sailing puns!), to get it cleaned and ready to go out again.
What type of advertising do you find works best for you?
When I started, I took out an advert in Let’s Go magazine which is distributed to all the primary schools on the Wirral. It resulted in a booking but I have since found that most of my business has come from recommendations, social media and simple Google searches. I have a few 5 star reviews on Google and Facebook and this helps enormously as people feel they can trust you.
I have a Facebook page which has the most interaction. The business also has a Twitter handle. This has proved useful for connecting with other businesses and sharing ideas but I have also had a few bookings from Twitter.
If you were able to go back and give yourself one piece of advice when you were first starting out, what would it be?
Be more bold! And learn about credit card processes by speaking to people who already handle these types of transactions…this was my steepest learning curve.
What is the next step for your business?
I am considering buying a second van for next year. It’s a big step as I would be taking out a loan to buy it but I am doing some research right now and will decide in the autumn.
What are your ultimate goals for the business and are they within sight?
The goal would be to have a fleet of campervans, along with premises to house them all! This definitely a long term goal but another campervan for 2019 would be a great start.