STUMBLING across two badly rusted VW camper vans in a field after a summer holiday proved the catalyst for a business that aims to entice more families to enjoy the attractions of the West Country.
The Cornwall Camper Company is gearing up for its first tourist season while rapidly expanding thanks to a £5,000 Start-Up Loan.Company founder Jess Ratty says it has unlocked further funding and given her breathing space while restoring her fleet’s third and fourth camper vans.She said: “The loan came at a time when we really needed it. It gave us time to launch our business without having to worry about money coming in. Knowing there were people out there like James Caan who believe in helping young people realise their ambitions also meant a lot to us.”Jess, 28, from St Austell in Cornwall, works in public relations for green company energyshare, based in Newquay, and previously worked at the Eden Project, near her home town.She jumped at the chance of running her own business with partner Ben Ford, 40, an adventure instructor who is also a trained mechanic. They have a 14-month-old daughter, Lilly.They had talked about starting a company during a camping holiday in Sennen, near Land’s End, last year and the next day passed a field containing two rusted 1973 VW camper vans.
After buying them for £4,000, Ben set to work on restoring them to mint condition, when they can fetch £25,000.
Jess used £2,500 from her Start-Up Loan as match-funding for a £10,000 grant from East Cornwall Local Action Group, which allocates money to boost business in rural areas.
Jess Ratty and Ben Ford
The other £2,500 will be used to finish restoring their second camper van and buy the equipment needed to start work on their third and fourth vans, while covering their overheads until the season starts and money comes in.Jess got the loan 10 days after applying for it as she already had a business plan in place and was being mentored by Belinda Waldock of Grow Cornwall, another body aiming to promote economic growth in the county.She will pay back £100 a month for five years and is aiming for a turnover of £30,000 in their first year, with more than 20 bookings already. Their vans can be hired for £265 for weekends in the off-season, or up to £800 for a week in peak season. Workaholic Jess has no plans to give up her PR job but Ben is working full-time on their venture, which they both hope will help boost Cornish tourism.She said: “We want to be part of the reinvention of tourism in Cornwall. We provide hampers in the vans with Cornish produce and have links with activities to do, like surfing.” For details go to thecornwallcampercompany.com.
The loan came at a time when we really needed it. It gave us time to launch our business without having to worry about money coming in.
The Cornwall Camper Company founder Jess Ratty