Updated: Nov 28, 2019
To introduce ourselves, our names are Paul and Naomi Harris, we are in our mid-fifties, who enjoy going on holiday in our caravan. We have been avid caravaners for the past 28 years and have enjoyed every minute of it.
Last June whilst on holiday in the New Forest, we decided to take the plunge and set up our own business. This was due to myself facing redundancy for the second time during my working career, my husband Paul who has been driving trucks for the last 30 years for a living, and spending long periods of time away from home, was now looking for a career change, so he can spend more time at home.
So, we started planning for several months to what type of industry we could start a business in. Having spoken to several friends and associates whilst on holiday and at home who are caravan and motorhome owners, we found a common problem with obtaining the genuine parts and accessories for both leisure vehicles. They had to resort to the internet and wait for it to arrive through the post due to the lack of local accessory shops for this industry. This prompted us to go in this type of industry as we have built up knowledge over 28 years. After a few further months of planning we registered and started our business in May 2018, Leisure Mania Ltd specialising in genuine parts and accessories for Camping, Caravan and Motorhomes. We are based in Geddington Village 8 miles in either direction of Kettering and Corby in Northamptonshire. During 2018 we attended most of the Caravan and Motorhome Shows around the UK, to showcase our business. We also have an on-line shop that you can visit all year round at www.leisure-mania.com.
We didn’t have sufficient funds to open a shop at the start, due to high rents, also the council did not help us as they were not able to reduce the business rates, meaning our overheads would be too high. In addition to this we looked at Industrial units on the outskirts of Kettering, unfortunately these also had high overheads with further costs applied to keep the hedges and road sides clean, trimmed and in good order, and we would have to apply to the council for an A1 retail licence.
We decide to showcase our business at the Caravan and Motorhome Shows around the country, at first we had a small pitch of 3m x 3m, which we expanded to a 6m x 3m after a couple of shows. We took a gamble with some of the shows as the rents were high and there was competition from our businesses selling the same type of product, these businesses had been doing the show circuit for a number of years so were established and had a regular customer base. Honestly at some of the shows we made a loss. We looked at our products and expanded our range after listening to comments that people made when visiting our store.
As the summer went on we found that we were getting returning customers, also customers were referring us to their friends, this gave us encouragement to continue.
When the show season finished for this year we worked on our on-line store and started to sell through Amazon. This is itself posed a few issues, to be able to sell on Amazon Prime we needed to sign up with Royal Mail for them to make collection from us daily, to achieve this Royal Mail wanted us to meet certain criteria. We went back to Royal Mail and said that as this was our first year of business we couldn’t guarantee that we would be able to meet their criteria, especially as this business is a seasonal one. Royal Mail have allowed us to have a trial period to see how our sales would trend, so we are now looking forward to receiving our Prime badge from Amazon.
Although we have taken risks we have found the journey worthwhile and rewarding. We have made new friends and met a number of lovely people at the shows, also some of the other traders (including some of our competition) were willing to give us advise and encouragement, it felt like being a member of a good community and we look forward to seeing them again next year.
Our plans, over the next 2-3 years is to open a shop either in Kettering or Corby, and a workshop for Servicing and repairs to be carried out locally on leisure vehicles.