Welcome to the first in our series of interviews with ‘Inspirational Entrepreneurs.’ We’ll be hearing the original ideas and creative flashes that set certain ventures apart from the rest. Our clients also reveal the challenges they’ve faced and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. This month we will be speaking to LandyCampers about how their lovingly converted Land Rover Defenders hand holiday makers the keys to adventure.
Insurance can often be labelled dull but fortunately, we encounter many unique and wonderful risks to keep us interested! We also have the satisfaction of knowing we’ve played a small in helping these companies on the path to success, where many other brokers may have struggled to find them suitable cover.
Whether you’re an aspiring business owner or an old hand when it comes to commerce, we think you’ll take something from these tales. On that note, please welcome Bella Böhme from LandyCampers as she answers our questions and shares insights about her business…
Who or what is LandyCampers?
We are hiring out a small fleet of meticulously maintained and individually converted classic Land Rover Defenders equipped with roof tents, storage unit and little lounge in the rear and all the camping gear needed for a self-drive outdoor adventure. All our clients have to bring is their luggage and some wanderlust and off they go exploring the wildest corners of the country. View this post on Instagram
A post shared by LandyCampers Defender Hire (@landycampers) on Oct 13, 2020 at 9:07am PDT
What inspired you or gave you the idea for LandyCampers?
Both of us being Surf Instructors, we tend to travel loads and spent all of summer 2019 living in and out of Max’s 30-year-old Land Rover Defender teaching surfing along the coasts of France and Spain. Some of our clients, a lovely French family, ended up inviting us for pizza in the neighbouring town, under one condition: that we would give them a lift in the Landy. They were so excited, and the kids absolutely loved it, and that was when we thought: everyone should have a Defender to go on a camping trip with. Recently I got a message from them saying that the kids are still playing ‘Spot the real 4×4’ when they are out and about – meaning that whoever spots a Defender first must scream loudly.
What did you do before LandyCampers?
Max initially finished his studies in Engineering but soon after realized he needs more freedom and moved to be a Surf Instructor working all over Europe and Northern Africa. Bela used to work in Digital Marketing and PR back home in Berlin, before needing a break and going to work in a Surf Camp in Morocco for a bit. That’s where we met and decided to tackle future challenges together. It’s fun to see how many of our personal skills and professional experiences now find a home in LandyCampers and how we were able to build a business around what we are good in and passionate about.
Other than COVID-19, what has been your biggest challenge or difficulty faced so far?
Personally, starting a business as a couple can either be great or a disaster. Even after having closely worked together before, finding a way of sharing the workload, helping each other when you get stuck without being patronizing and accepting that we have completely different work ethics ( Bela is German, so “Why is this not done yet?”) is a slow process and needs a lot of open communication. Also, separating the business and the relationship and switching-off at the end of a day needs to be done very consciously.
Businesswise, finding an insurance who would take us on was, apart from finding the right vehicles for the fleet, by far the hardest part and would have nearly nipped our business idea in the bud. We were a new venture in the car hire-business and renting just a small fleet of ‘old’, classic vehicles – so everything spoke against taking this on as a risk. After half a year without any luck with numerous brokers and motor trade insurances, we were referred to Plan Insurance Brokers. Right after the first call with them I suddenly found myself being told it can be done. This was such a relief! We are now able to confidently send our clients off on their adventures in our Defenders knowing they and us are covered whatever happens.
What has been your biggest success so far?
We’re going to cheeky and claim two biggest successes. The first was having our first clients come back from their trip to Devon and say what an amazing time they’d had, that no kit was missing, and that they loved the roof tent. That was a big confidence boost and made all the set-up work feel worth it
Second, at the early stages we weren’t sure if we would be able to secure a business loan. But a couple of months in, with already significant expenses but a solid business plan, we grew more and more confident in our numbers and a viable cash flow forecast. So, we applied for a Start-Up loan and were accepted within days. It felt so good to have a professional business advisor and a bank telling you that they think your idea is great and will work.
What is your favourite part of owning LandyCampers?
Whether it’s teaching surfing or renting the Landys: we love sharing what we are passionate about. It sounds cheesy, but seeing clients coming back with a big smile on their face telling us about how they loved exploring the East Coast in the Landy, were waved at by other Defender drivers and had the best night’s sleep in the roof tent is so worth it. Apart from that, we can be out and about camping all over the place ourselves and can call it a ‘business research trip’. Also, we now have the best excuse to do up our own Landy. After all, she is our original LandyCamper.
For someone starting a new business is there any advice you would give them, or is there a book you would recommend they read?
We got some very valuable advice from our family in the beginning: Build the business in a way it works for you and pays the bills, but also lets you sleep at night. There are a thousand things at once when you start from scratch and there will always be the boring bits of business plans, accounting and paperwork, but try to make sure your business also enables you to do the things you love: Max for example, being an engineer and having owned Landys for years, is responsible for the vehicles – that was a no-brainer. But he also is an avid photographer and suddenly has lots of reason to spent time behind the camera taking marketing shots and keeping our Social Media up and running and have his pictures seen.
Want to know even more? Check out their website here… www.landycampers.co.uk