Bell Tent Villages – big decisions for a small business

I’m writing this post on a quiet day… like many I don’t think I’ve had one of these since about March?? My 5 year old is at a sports camp all week ( hooray!! ) which means I have time to do things other than play Barbies, go to the park, tidy up toys, do crafts. ( urgh, if I never hear that word again it will be too soon! ) …

Many people already know me, and my daughter Esme and what else we have going on in life but for those who don’t, I’m a single mum also working as a Careers Advisor in a local secondary school 4 days a week. In a previous life, a little over a year ago now I quit a high level corporate job in recruitment.. it was a huge risk but one I had to take for the sake of my own sanity, and for the benefit of my daughter. I decided to retrain to do a job I loved and am currently studying for my Careers Guidance qualification whilst working. I volunteered at the school for an academic year and just loved it, and was lucky enough to be offered a contract right after lockdown was imposed, for the next academic year.

One of the huge benefits of having a term time only career is that it leaves me time to also grow my little bell tent hire business, at the same time.  In 2018 I bought one 5m bell tent and lent it out to some family and friends to test the water. I started the Facebook page for some local advertising and then in 2019  other people actually wanted to hire it and pay for it! So this year was going to be the year I would make or break it.

Fast forward to right now… a global pandemic, having my daughter at home for months, working from home, studying for a college course, and somehow, somehow, taking bookings for 5 or more tents every weekend since restrictions were lifted. This weekend every tent I own, 8 in total, will be pitched and enjoyed by families all over the local area. We have bookings in Northallerton, Richmond, Catterick and Hartforth this weekend. So many people have helped me this year – my dad, my friends, my family, and even my teenage nephew has dragged himself out of his room to come and pitch tents with me. I couldn’t have made a success of this year without them.

2021 will bring us to our first big bell tent villages for weddings and events – currently we have 3 weddings booked locally and I’m so excited. There’s something about seeing all the bell tents up and looking pretty together that makes me feel incredibly proud of what I’ve achieved.. but it’s also pretty scary to know that couples are relying on me ( and my friends and family who currently get roped in to help with all the donkey work! ) to set up the accommodation for their guess on such an important day.

I debated it for a long time – should I commit to something that will take so much planning, so much time, rely on so many other people to help me, carry an element of financial risk investing in more tents?… but someone very recently told me “it’s best not to think about these things too much and just do it”… so I’m taking her advice. However, I’m also taking the advice of my Godfather ( he really is like an actual cliche godfather, hardly ever see him but when I do he always offers some very good advice about something going on in my life! ) and prioritising myself and my daughter – building the business slowly and not jumping in too quickly, so that I can concentrate on the other important things in my life such as my daughter, completing my college courses, and focusing on my career and the students I will be supporting in school.

Bell Tent focus for 2021 will be on small, local bell tent villages of up to 10 tents maximum, with only one large event per weekend so I can ensure each event is perfect – that the bell tents look perfect, that the furnishings are perfect, and that the service I deliver is perfect. In addition, I’ll be offering as many tents as I can each weekend for garden glamping, sleepovers and parties.. and next year will see the launch of the childrens sleepover tents to include beds and furniture. I’ve also made the decision, for next year at least, not to include bedding other than fitted sheets in any of our glamping tents apart from honeymoon tents. Customers can bring their own sleeping bags or duvets – this means I don’t carry a laundry cost and therefore the tents can be offered at a lower price than other glamping hire companies who offer all the bedding.

One day, I’m hoping we can offer all the bells and whistles for every booking, but for now I’m looking forward to a fabulous 2021 with bell tent villages, garden glamping, sleepover tents and much more!

Right.. off to study… one bell tent up today and another 7 to go by the end of Friday ( and only 3 more hours of peace left today! )

Ruth x


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