North-east camper business motors on with Start Up Loan funding boost

An Aberdeen-based adventure travel business is gearing up for further growth after securing financial support for its expansion plans and riding the staycation boom during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Set up in July 2020 by ex-oil and gas sector manager, Eileen O’Farrell, Camperceilidh Campers has secured £25,000 of funding from DSL Business Finance to purchase its second VW campervan, building on an initial £25,000 loan package which was delivered as part of the British Business Bank’s Start Up Loans programme.

With bookings rising 175 per cent on the same period in 2020, Eileen is also evaluating the funding package’s potential to acquire a third vehicle this winter and Camperceilidh Campers is on track to deliver a profit in just its second year of trading.

Customers enjoying summer staycations have so far welcomed the company’s accommodation offering, with the business regularly receiving five-star ratings.

Before setting up Camperceilidh Campers, Eileen was a chartered accountant and consulted for clients such as Halliburton, PSN (now Wood), and Centrica.

Following the oil price downturn in 2015, she left the oil and gas industry to pursue a new adventure and joined parts of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race before becoming a Royal Yachting Association-certified commercial yacht master.

With the hospitality and sailing industry hit hard by the social distancing requirements of Covid-19, Eileen turned her love for adventure into her own business, securing a loan from DSL and the British Business Bank to help growth.

Eileen, director of Camperceilidh Campers, said: “I’ve had the adventure bug since backpacking around the world in 1996 and, during Covid-19 lockdown, decided to jump in at the deep end and set up an adventure travel business.

“For it to be profitable and worthwhile, I knew I would need more than one vehicle quite quickly.

“From my experience in sailing, I knew there was demand for adventure holidays across a broad spectrum of people.

2I’m passionate about Scotland and know how much it has to offer.

“With the right infrastructure and services, we can compete with the likes of Canada and New Zealand as the top adventure destination.

“When I took the leap to set up the business, I first approached high street banks and managed to secure in funding in principle, but I couldn’t get the package I was looking for at the right price. “The funding from DSL met my requirements and I very quickly had access to the capital to buy the second campervan.

“DSL was highly supportive and very engaged throughout the process.

“For anyone thinking about setting up a business for the first time, I would say don’t give up!

“You are never too old to be an entrepreneur.

“It took me a few years thinking and planning for a Scottish adventure business and I had trawled the lending market – which at that time was risk averse towards new starts – but if you are committed and dedicated you can do it.”

Camperceilidh Campers is one of more than 360 companies in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire to receive a Start Up Loan from the British Business Bank. Combined, entrepreneurs in the city and wider region have received just over £3.7 million in funding to set up their own businesses since the programme was launched in 2012.

Mark Sterritt, UK Network Director, Scotland at the British Business Bank, said: “Start Up Loans were created to support entrepreneurs like Eileen in building their businesses.

“We invest in creative, ambitious talent of any age through our network of delivery partners across Scotland and the wider UK.

“In addition to loans, we can help individuals with the practicalities of setting up a company – whether by creating a business plan, accounting, or marketing – and provide access to learning partners, such as The Open University.”

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