Sunday, 22 June 2014

The End Of The Self Drive Road

After lots of thought and debate we have reluctantly decided to stop offering self drive hire after the end of this summer season.

This is our third year of Custard Campers and I have ploughed my heart and soul and along with a good chunk of money to get it up and running successfully.  We soon found our feet and increased our fleet of campers.  Last year we had a tough to start to the season with Delia having numerous engine problems and being badly let down by the mechanic we then used.

We got past this, found a new very helpful and honest mechanic, got on with our season.  We ended having to replace 3 of the campers engines last summer, which was incredibly costly and stressful as each one is around the £2000 mark, plus all the time to fit them, and lost hires while the work was carried out.  This pretty much wiped out a lot of last years profit.

Through out the summer months we spend vast amounts of time at the barn preparing the campers for their hires and valeting them on their returns.  Dan despite working full time, ends up joining me at the barn in the evening to work on repairing the campers.  Something we have learnt a lot about and now try to do as much as we can ourselves.

I started this season refreshed and pushed forward with a rebrand for Custard Campers.  I spent thousands on Delia’s bodywork and she had a lot of welding work and a lower body respray along with various other jobs.  Everything was looking good for a successful summer and we were busier than ever with bookings for the season.

Then disaster struck when both Nigella’s and Delia’s engines packed up on the same weekend, despite spending time completely stripping them down, neither were salvageable and I had to bite the bullet and purchase another two new engines.  We obviously also had to let down the customers for that weekend something that I absolutely hate doing as it is awful to ruin peoples plans.  Mix it to that the idiot who sold us an engine for £800 online, we weren’t able to view first and took his word that is was ready to use, sadly it arrived and needs quite a bit of work, thanks for that mate, just what you need when your battling life!

All the campers are now running well and I believe we are on top of everything however the money it has cost has once again depleted a lot of our profit and therefore my wage.  Add this to the stress I feel every time there is a problem with the campers and things are not looking good.  It had just about got to the point where I dreaded the campers going out in case I got a phone call to say there is another problem.
This has taken all the enjoyment out of the business and for the time and hours we spend working it made me re-evaluate what we are doing.  I have 3 children and one is now an adult but the other two are still at primary school and I end up dragging them up to the barn every weekend and school holiday (they have no issue with telling me how much they resent this!)   We are unable to get away much in the campers as if we have any out on hire I feel we have to be around in case there are any issues that need sorting out.  Mix that with the fact you can’t take the kids out of school anymore and it makes it impossible to get away.

So sadly we have decided to stop the self drive at the end of August and concentrate on the wedding side of the business.   This is a lot less stressful as the campers do not have to travel so many miles and it is only us driving them.
Typing this does make me sad as I have no shortage of work on the self drive side but just not the will to overcome it all.

It has been a very tough year for us personally as a family, due to my lovely Dad having such a rapid decline into Alzheimer’s and having to go into a care home.  The stress of trying to find a place with absolutely no support or help from social services, pushed my stress levels through the roof.  Sadly he only managed a few weeks in the home before he passed away in April.  The speed the illness struck him down is something I am still struggling to come to terms with.  We have also had other issues to deal with,  bills to pay and work ups and downs. 

All of the above has probably pushed me into the decision I have made when another time I probably would of pulled my big girl pants on and battled on.

However the future for weddings is bright and we still have the summer to keep our lovely Delia and Floyd.  In September we will be putting both Delia and Floyd up for sale.  They are both still taking hire bookings for dates up to the end of August 2014.

Kerry x

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Holivan Vintage Caravan

I have neglected my blog but now I have my head back in the game as they say but for today I am parking up the campers and sharing another project with you.

I have spent the last couple of years dreaming of owning my own vintage caravan.  At the last house we had no room for a caravan so there was little point.  When we bought this house, it came with a 'secret garden' however there is no access but my husband liked the house and suggested we could crane a caravan in to the garden.

The Secret Garden

I think he thought I would go off the idea but I didn't and as some of you will know I finally purchased my very own space on wheels.  If it works out safe enough to tow then that is what I'll do but if I can't manage a good enough restoration than it will live in the Secret Garden.

Unamed Fisher Holivan

She is a Fisher Holivan believed to be from 1969 but I can’t be certain on this.  She is in a bad state with a LOT of damp, even more than I had originally thought.  However this does mean I don’t need to be too precious with her and worry about ruining her as she couldn't get any worse.

These are the pictures from just after I bought her.

You can't see the damp but the whole corner is rotten

The Workshop

The first issue was where to work on her, so the first few weeks were spent securing my very own workshop, helpfully this came about at the same place I store my campers so it has doubled as a work space for the vans. 

Give a week or two & bunting will start appearing in the workshop!

Once I had it sorted and cleaned I began work, stripping out the rotten parts of the Holivan.  There is lots but the worst is down the rear corners, the wood here has crumbled to nothing.

I have been very busy trying to get the campers all working correctly so I haven’t progressed much but this week I am determined to spend some time on the caravan.

Floyd setting off on another adventure

After checking Floyd back in yesterday and sending him back out on a new adventure, I got stuck into removing the other seating carcass in the Holi and stripping the ply off the back wall.

Today is time for shopping… of the list is a jigsaw as I managed to break my last one on some stupid DIY job that it probably wasn’t meant for! Thanks to the lovely Sally from the Vintage Caravan For Beginners facebook group I have a list of what else I need to purchase.  So a cup of tea and then I’m off to B&Q.

I will update again in a day or two and I might actually share some campervan news as well.

Kerry x

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Behind The Scenes At Custard HQ

Delia went in for some major work at the beginning of the year and sadly she is still not home....very nearly but she keeps throwing up new issues.  She should be ready to collect at the end of this week just in time to start her season.

She has had all her rotten bits removed and lovely fresh metal put in, a new front beam, her whole bottom half has a respray and she's had her brakes overhauled.  The inside of the pop top has been refurbed and a lovely floral canvas fitted.  I can't wait to drive her again.

Custard Camper's is also having a bit of a rebrand and revamp.  When I told people I was doing this, it got mixed reactions, some couldn't see the point as it was fine as it was and others liked the idea.  I was never really too happy with our webpage as I felt it wasn't quirky enough to truly represent our brand.  I try to do things a little differently to other vw hire companies and went with an unusual name for the company to try and make us more memorable and more fun.

I am happy to say we are half way through the rebrand process, I now have a lovely new logo, and matching designs for our social media pages.  The website is currently undergoing a new build and I have seen the draft version and I'm happy to report it truly reflects our brand ethos of been fun and quirky and even better there are polka dots....yellow polka dots no less!

Now I've just got to secure lots of bookings to pay for it all!

Kerry x
Custard Campers - VW Campervan Hire Essex

Monday, 10 February 2014

2013 Round Up Part Two.....(Better Late Than Never)

Nigella was out on wedding duty a lot, and Delia & Floyd were kept busy on self drive hires but managed to squeeze in a quick day trip to the Classic Campershow at Langford Museum of Power.

It was a scorching day & I had a headache from hell, but other than that it was a good day, nice and chilled.  There's a full write up here and photos here

The very gorgeous Alice....

August was just CRAZY busy, a mad whirl of self drive hires for the bays and weddings for the splits.  Each time the campers go out, there is a lot of work involved, it's not just a full valet inside and out, they also have to be maintained mechanically, anything broken needs fixing.  The stress of trying to get a broken camper mended in time for the next hire is awful.  During the busy summer season this involves A LOT of late nights at the barn trying to get the campers sorted, long days checking in and out the campers and add in the fact the kids are off school and no child care, it is a very tiring time of year.

Amongst all that work we did manage a few day trips out....first to VW Sweetcorn which was held locally at Barleylands.   This was a good day out, mostly as it was so local.  It wasn't massive but there was plenty of campers and other VW's to look at.  I also bought myself a cart, I thought it would be handy to put the pug in for Busfest, as she gets tired quickly, however she clearly hated going in it!


More photos here.

Just to show it's not all shows,

The girls fueling up before going off to weddings

Happy Hirer's

We made a flying visit to Whitenoise, more here

Bought this cool bike

Finally at the end of the month we actually managed a proper holiday, a full three days away in a camper.  We loaded up Floyd with bikes, dogs, kids and had a fantastic time.  We headed to north Norfolk, and then traveled back along the coast down to Southwold.  We would of loved to have stayed longer but work called.

We had planned a trip to Busfest at the start of the month, the idea was handovers in the afternoon.  Then load up Nigella, pick kids up from school and hit the road.  We should of known that would never happen....Mrs Beeton decided to throw a major strop, I'd got her out the barn fine, hirer's turn up and she refused to start.  We though it was a dodgy battery so swapped that over and off they went.  They got a couple of miles down the road, parked up and then she refused to start again.  The hirer's were not very impressed and left Mrs Beeton were she was and went home.  We hastily got over there and collected her before someone else did!  By the time all this was sorted it was too late to set off...cue some very disappointed kids.

All of the above led to a very early start on Saturday morning, I think poor Nigella was a little overloaded...

We finally arrived on site and had a really good weekend, well worth going and definitely on our list for this year.  I took loads of photos and they can be viewed here

Nigella was still busy on wedding duty...

Delia, Floyd & Mrs Beeton all had plenty of self drive holidays to keep them and us busy.  We managed to also pop over to Spike's Open Day, photos here.

This was still really busy with both self drive hires and weddings.

Nigella & myself at a wedding fair

This was also the month our daughter passed her driving test, I put it down to all the practice she'd had moving the campers round the yard.

Campers aside, something much more exciting happened, Perry & myself won first prize at the local greyhound show

Perry The Dragon

Little Tilly got third place with her unicorn.
Tilly not looking very impressed :)

This was a quieter month when everything calmed down, still a couple of hires and weddings.

I took the decision to actually take the campers off self drive until March so December meant just a few weddings and lots of time to spend on the family.  We did celebrate our 2nd Birthday on the 31st of this month so I thought I'd share the status I put on our facebook page that day.

Today is Custard Camper's official 2nd Birthday!!!
New Years Eve 2011 marked Delia's first trip out on hire, now two years on we've bought another 4 campers, sold one, restored one, replaced 3 engines, been to over 40 weddings, had well over 100 different self drive hires.

We've had delighted customers, cross customers, breakdowns, returning customers, good days, bad days and more stress than you can ever imagine!

We've moved house, upset our new neighbours with our campers, found better premises, met some really lovely people who have supported our business, met some not so lovely people who have let us down badly, but you live and learn, some lessons have been expensive some have been tough but you know what we're still here, more determined than ever.

2014 is going to see Custard Campers go from strength to strength, we will busier than ever with both weddings and self drive adventures and we'd love you to join us on this beautiful campervan ride.

Dublove and a fantastic 2014 to you all

Kerry & Dan x