Against all odds, Cassie Head launched the Rainbow Beach Hire-A-Camp business in 2009. Never having been a camper herself, all that her husband Ashley did to make the experience enjoyable for her sparked the idea for her business. Here’s her story…
What were you doing when you decided to create your own business?
I had relocated to Rainbow Beach to reunite my young family with their Dad who was never at home, leaving behind a successful contract bookkeeping service in Coolum Beach. So yes, I found myself a ‘stay at home’ mum in a fairly isolated area.
What inspired you to start the business? When did you officially start it?
Our Commercial Activity Agreement commenced on 2/12/09 so that is the official date. We had applied to operate in the Protected Area of Inskip Peninsula six months prior, having incubated the idea for many years. As we were such a new idea, it took many months to formalise our agreement. We were aware that trying to get a permit to operate a private enterprise in a Qld Parks & Wildlife Service managed protected area was going to be a tall order. Many steeled us to expect failure. I committed to make our application too good to refuse. We believed we were ticking all the boxes. We were increasing visitation to the area, increasing access, we needed no additional infrastructure or expense on behalf of the government to bring our product to the market. We were not erecting permanent structures, we would leave no visible human footprint, we would be environmentally sustainable, community responsible (as in the whole town would benefit from the increased visitation to the town) and we were providing a service that was a recognised growth area in national and international tourism trends.
Our inspiration to start the Hire-a-camp business was from firsthand experience. I was not a camper, but married into a camping (hunting/shooting/fishing) family. In order to get me to go camping at all my husband Ashley would do everything. He would organise, shop, pack, set up, cook, clean up, pack up. All I had to do was sit with a glass of champagne and smile. Believe me, that was often an effort. Ironic isn’t it, that I am now doing it all for other people. When the kids came along, I saw firsthand the value of a camping experience for all the family. It not only provides a total break away from normal routines, it is a great family connector, a chance to re-establish the real meaning of family. It also affords a freedom for kids to get back to the basics and be kids, real kids, like we did when we were young. Unstructured play. It is almost unheard of these days. Kids are meant to get dirty. In fact, kids love getting dirty. As parents, we need to let go of some things (that was hard for me) and let them go to bed dirty. It WON’T kill them. Camping makes them get active, breathe in fresh air, spend a lot of time outdoors, appreciate nature, wear themselves out, eat lots, go to bed early and get up early. Gotta love that simplification!
What was your start-up cost? How did you acquire the money and what did you use it for?
We were self funded, investing in camping equipment under the umbrella of our existing business company structure. Of course we, like most small start-ups, ran on the smell of an oily rag, depending almost solely on social media marketing to get the word out. Mind you, that was learning as we went. We ploughed our profits back into growing our equipment base and got a lucky break with the filming of the 4xxxx Gold Beer commercial the month we started. The art director hired our personal (ancient) camping gear to feature in the shoot. As a consequence we couldn’t credit it as our camping equipment as it was not our modern new additions. But it funded expansion and gave us encouragement. The actual business name was registered many years prior to that.
How did you rise above the tough days? Those days when people said no, things fell through or someone said they didn’t “get it’’.
I guess to a certain extent we are still going through that phase. WE believe in our product and the environment we operate. (lets face it, just north of Noosa overlooking Fraser Island, right on the beach). We believe that camping is an important part of a child’s rite of passage to adulthood. It used to be normal to have family camping holidays but in this day of time poor parents it has become more of a novelty. We want to bring that back. We also believe today’s kids are tomorrow’s caretakers of our National Parks and protected areas. To care for them they must first value them and to value them they must first experience them. So we are not driven by profits, it’s more of a passion.
How long did it take for your business to become profitable?
We will let you know when we are! It is not so much about profit as it is blending with family commitments, being home for our kids, and quality of life. We also enjoy making a difference in other people’s lives. Having said that, we have spent a lot of money promoting the concept. Last year we went to Sydney to present two theme streams at the Global Eco Tourism Conference at Taronga Zoo. The first being Private Sector Accommodation in National Parks and Marketing the Tourism Experience. (Ben & D’Arbie from Waves of our Lives is a total other story – Qld Tourism’s Million Dollar Memo Competition.)
What do you love most about being your own boss? What is the downside?
I love being there for our kids but it does blur the work time lines. I find that I am having to cram my workday into school hours which, unfortunately sometimes isn’t eight hours. That then leads to longer working hours fitting in around that. It is hard to switch off from work and put the mum hat on sometimes. Having said that, I can take my boys to work with me, as I am the BOSS. Hopefully some of my work ethic will rub off on them. My youngest professes that he is not a campingologist but a camping-lolly-gist. He gets it!
How have you been using social media to grow your business?
Yes, yes and yes. I have gone into social media in a big way. I started with creating my own website using a http://www.bounce.com.au template. Budget initially steered me in that direction. I have been loving the learning of social media marketing from the ground up. It is such a new phenomenon; it is a pretty even playing field. I have aligned myself with some fantastic mentors and teachers and am really enjoying the journey. While I am still a student, there is access to many experts to steer you in the right direction, for which I am eternally grateful. In turn, I am happy to pay that forward. I have also just discovered the power of Business Women’s networking. So I would say in this order, a good website, a functional social media presence, and belonging to a business women’s network would be a firm foundation.
Ben & D’Arbie in Waves of our Lives at Rainbow Beach. The promo team for Rainbow Beach Hire-a-camp. Follow them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Ben.and.Darbie
How have you been using public relations to grow your business? What strategies have you used?
My public relations has been, to date, social media and business women’s network.
Where do you work from?
Home, but operate close to home in a protected area surrounded by National Parks, managed by the Qld Parks & Wildlife Service.
Who are your entrepreneurial role models? What’s so inspiring about them?
They are having a crack at it for all the right reasons, they possess unlimited passion, are making a positive difference, and are achieving self fulfilment. Jakki Gooddall, Lisa Wain, Annie Infinite, Geoff Moller, Natalie McIvor, Kylie Patchett, Helen Barber, Tracey Carmichael, and Jill Chivers.
How have you acquired the skills and knowledge you have to make your business successful?
I am still gathering wisdom via webinars, online information and tutorials and workshops.
What is your favourite product/service that you offer?
Glamping. We offer Glamping packages for women to get away from the normal routine, grab some Gal Pals and have a pyjama party camping on the beach. Lots of fun, believe me.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
If you are passionate about what you are doing, go for it, the rest will fall into place, but get a good social media presence!
How have you acquired the skills you have for your business?