Most people go on holiday to take some time off from work, but not Sarah Guy! It was a holiday that gave her the idea that would result in starting her own business - Isle of Wight Campervan Holidays. She shares her story and her top business tips with us.
HOW DID YOU GET YOUR IDEA FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
Originally from my own experience; I flew into Cairns in Australia with my family and we went to collect a campervan, and found there was nothing in it. I thought how simple an idea it would be if we kitted them out and hired them to holidaymakers travelling on the Isle of Wight. I started to research the business in 2006, and by 2007 we had our first hire. Initially we had one campervan which I used to test the market.
HOW EASY WAS IT TO SET UP?
It’s not the easiest thing I’ve ever done but was very rewarding. There are many elements involved, many of which were new to me, so I got my head down and took each step at a time. As the motor trade is historically a male-dominated industry I found the attitude towards me starting and running the business often challenging!
After buying the first campervan, marketing and building a website were the next steps. I put together information about my business and contacted every magazine and newspaper, local and national, and kept updating the information monthly. Eventually magazine editors and journalists started taking an interest and we had some great press coverage which of course helped enormously. I was even asked by GMTV to make the Victoria Sandwich cake (which accompanies every campervan hire) on the show.
WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED IN BUSINESS?
Looking back to the first three years, the main struggle I had was doing too much myself. I knew I had to learn to delegate, which was my biggest challenge because I knew how I wanted things executed so the business would work.
Initially, as with any business, it has to be created by you with your vision, so you get it right, but after that you need to learn to let go and delegate so you can move into different areas and move the business forward.
Trying to do it all did take its toll on me, but it was a learning process and wouldn’t happen again. A lot of entrepreneurs on the everywomanNetwork say they often find this to be hardest part in their businesses, which is reassuring. Nowadays I love delegating, and I have learned I am quite good at it.
WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR HIGHLIGHTS SINCE STARTING YOUR BUSINESS?
Seeing all of the campervans in a row, all lined up, ready for arrivals and having people come back, knowing they have had a great holiday are the greatest highlights. Another great personal moment was when my bank manager phoned me to say he wanted to nominate me for an everywoman Award (Sarah won the 2011 NatWest everywoman Hestia Award).
WHAT ROLE HAS PERSONAL MOTIVATION AND CONFIDENCE PLAYED IN YOUR CAREER?
I try and stay motivated all the time; I read motivational books and stay active, so I stay positive. The main thing is that I try and stay away from negative sources and opinions – in fact I have learnt to block them out. If there is something that is draining you, it really can be quite damaging. Confidence naturally grows with experience, and knowing you are getting it right.
HOW DID YOU DEVELOP YOUR TEAM LEADING SKILLS?
I have led many teams in the past and I am very central to the day to day running of the business. I will do anything I ask anyone else to do. I always try and keep the team motivated by arranging fun staff activities. Keeping things fun encourages people to work well together.
HAVE YOU SET YOURSELF BUSINESS GOALS AND SUCCESS MARKERS?
I always have business goals. As I reach them I go onto the next one. I write down everything I want to achieve; I am a visualizer, so I see what I want and how I want to achieve it. I work in a very niche business so there aren’t that many competitors, but that doesn’t stop me from aiming high and moving into new areas.
My business ideas come from everyday life and experiences. I see great business opportunities every day, everywhere I go – it can be a pain, but an exciting pain nonetheless!
SARAH’S TOP BUSINESS TIPS FOR FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS
- When I get a new idea I look initially at what customers want from a product or service, rather than what I can offer to make money. I look at current trends and create the product and service around my market.
- Always provide value for money - make the customer know they are getting a good return. You will never make a success long term if you thinking solely about what you are getting rather than what you are giving in return.
- Stay away from negativity - surround yourself with like-minded people who motivate and inspire you. Negativity is draining and stifles progress.
- Ignore negative opinions, they will always be there in life but you can learn to block them and walk away.
- Believe in yourself and what you are doing; visualise the outcome and stay focused.
- Read motivational books and testimonials. It is a real boost learning about other people’s success and how it happened for them, and it is surprising how many common denominators there are.
- Go with your feelings, you know deep down whether something is right or wrong, successful or unsuccessful.
- Delegate! The hardest part of stepping up in business is delegation, but once you've mastered it you are well on your way.
- Be confident - if you are confident in your product your customers will be too. You will succeed!