On the up · 22 September 2015

The Cornwall Camper Company: Making sure holidaymakers are happy campers

Jess Ratty renovates old VW camper vans with her partner Ben Ford
Jess Ratty renovates old VW camper vans with her partner Ben Ford
The owners of The Cornwall Camper Company discuss the highs and lows of their business life so far, and ambitions for the future including transforming the “glamping” scene in Cornwall with outdoor hot tubs.

Ben Ford and Jess Ratty started putting the wheels in motion for their pet project in 2011. Ford had completed a business management degree and was always keen to run his own company, and Ratty’s background in communications meant the groundwork was in place for The Cornwall Camper Company.

Ford had a knack for engineering and the couple decided to restore VW camper vans to their former glory toprovide bespoke holidays in Cornwall. Now up and running, with five campers and a sixth on the horizon, Ratty spoke to Business Advice about the toils and troubles of getting vans in gear with a tiny budget and why there are no setbacks in business just navigational distractions.

(1) Who are you and what’s your business?

Jess Ratty and Ben Ford and we are co-owners of The Cornwall Camper Company a high-end bespoke VW Camper Hire company based in the South West.

(2) How long have you been around for?

We’ve been on the “Dub” scene for three years now just finishing up an epic third season of providing brilliant and fun VW camper holidays for tourists to Cornwall. We launched our first full season in 2013 after two years of planning and building our campers and brand. We started with one camper, then thanks to the Start Up Loans scheme we turned our 5, 000 loan into a match fund for a 10, 000 grant and boom we now have five campers on our fleet with the sixth just warming up her engine in our unit ready to go for the 2016 season.

(3) Howdoyou make money?

We make money by renovating and hiring out beautiful old Bay Window VW Campers we provide great holiday experiences and also campers for weddings and corporate hires, including movies.

(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?

We are different, frankly because we are all about the customer service and creating a really high-end offer for holidays in Cornwall. Travelling around on four wheels is a unique experience that means you get to see as much of Cornwall as you can possibly fit into your eyeballs. We believe in treating customers exactly as we would want to be treated ourselves.

That’s with brilliant personal service, catering exactly to what they want and need. We’ve always put ourselves out on a limb for our customers, and many of them keep coming back for more, so much so, we’d consider a whole bunch of them friends as they’ve supported our little business from ourfirst year.

(5) What was key in terms of getting started?

We’d not exist without that initial stage of funding. Our Start Up Loans provider the South West Investment Group was the first to officially believe in us and the confidence itgave us is the reason we are still standing, and growing, and expanding to this day.

We also knew we needed a strong brand to stand out and make our mark on tourism in a county known for excellent service and delivery. My networking skills meant we had access to a whole bunch of brilliant people willing to’support, share and advise us into existence.

The Cornwall Camper Company also rents out campers for weddings
The Cornwall Camper Company also rents out campers for weddings
(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?

Too many to name just one. We had a fundraising push to pull in 20, 000 to get launched, met the prime minister, appeared in eight national newspapers, won a best new business award, appeared in a national TV advert, were featured as a “Story of Success” on LinkedIn, and almost made it as a partner with notonthehighstreet.com still a way to go on that ambition though!


 
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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.

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