Treveague Farm Campsite
Rowena and Graham moved to Cornwall in October from Reading, buying Treveague Farm campsite from the owners of the farm and holiday cottages next door.
This new venture for the couple was a big leap from their day jobs; Rowena was a warden for the elderly and Graham was manager of a bike shop for 17 years, but it was their passion for Scouting that really made the decision to have a change of lifestyle.
They were spending most evenings helping out with the Scouts and the dream was to do something similar as a full-time job. Making the decision to start a business they recognised they needed some help.
“We didn’t know or understand what to look for so doing the course with The Real Business Club in Reading helped us decide on the right business for us.
“It was a big change, initially we were looking for a bed and breakfast but because have a scouting and outdoor background, that was close to our hearts, Seeing the young people grow and develop without iPads and iPhones is just amazing. From that we decided that camping was for us.
Starting a business is a bit like a whirlwind and my head is like spaghetti!
“We’re not afraid of hard work, but we didn’t know about budgeting or the financial acumen and that course taught us lots. We found that I was good at one thing and Graham was good at other things so that blended really well.”
Deciding on camping, the hunt was on for the right location, coming over to Cornwall for flying visits on weekends to find the right business to invest in.
“We were looking for a campsite with potential to grow as we have quite a lot of ideas. As soon as we found Treveague Farm it felt right, it was the right feeling.”
“It was a big decision to stop our jobs and move, as then we had no income”
After putting in an offer on the site they were welcomed by the owners into their home, looking after the farm in the Autumn and letting them get a head start on making the site ready for the season. The site needed a lot of TLC, so work started on cleaning, upgrading the washing facilities and repairing the kids play area. Their credit card was stopped after an unusual amount of shopping for bathroom accessories, with Rowena having to convince the bank that yes it really was her buying 14 sets of shower curtains!
Rowena and Graham are certainly not doing anything by half measures for their first season. Opening the site and café for the whole season, April to September, whereas the previous owners only opened for the summer holidays. They are also serving breakfasts, cream teas and opening the restaurant in the evening with plans to start building a house on site after September.
“All hands on deck”
Moving family with three children and dog Indie down to Cornwall was a big decision but it has paid off for Rowena, with all the kids helping out with the business from creating a new website to taking bookings. For son Sam things might go a step further with the move offering an opportunity for a new career.
“The kids love being outdoors, riding on the mower. My youngest has really taken to the cooking with the café and the restaurant here on site. We are hoping to encourage that and get him on some courses after the summer and make this a real family business”
“I have bought a campsite – help!”
“I came to the Growth Hub looking for grants for disabled facilities for the site, and Christina came to visit us in the farm house in our first week down and offered us lots of courses to help us as a start up business. Unfortunately, we have been so busy we will be looking at picking this up after the season. We would be really interested in our son Sam looking at this for managerial courses to help him to run the business with us.
Christina also put Rowena in touch with Lee from Cornwall Council Business Regulatory Support. The team gave her lots of information to help the business with regulations and licensing like health and safety and food hygiene.
“I went on the first Cornwall Council licencing course to help with applying for a alcohol licence, which involved a day of training and a mock test followed by the test for real. “It was really good, I really recommend it, At first I was thinking, Oh gosh am I still going to be awake at four o’clock, but it was fine!”
If she has any questions Rowena gives Lee a call. “There is the odd thing that you don’t think about at the time, but when we have a problem we know where to go. There is an ogre-ism about The Council but they have been really helpful.”
“We were told that it didn’t snow in Cornwall”
The Beast from the East was an unwelcome first visitor to the campsite, which Rowena describes as a baptism of fire. Working 12 hour days, hoovering at midnight and then up to serve breakfast and putting on a smile to keep the demanding guests happy was a challenge!
When they are not working their long days and juggling bookings and making meals they like to take their dog Indie for a walk and enjoy their views alongside their holiday maker guests. Rowena and Graham describe running their business for the first few months as having a lot of learning curves but ones they are happy to take on.
Big plans for the future
The 80 pitch campsite has a good reputation and with a lot of repeat bookings. It is on the coastal path from three popular beaches they get a lot of passing trade for cream teas, which the locals have educated them in the correct way of serving. Rowena and Graham are running the season as it is for the first year and then looking at expanding and bringing in new ideas for next year onwards. They want to offer some glamping and maybe yurts but their big idea is for en-suite camping with pitches having their own private bathroom with shower and loo. All the outdoors fun without the oversharing says Graham!
With their campsite up and running and plans for the future in place, what advice to they have for other start-ups?
“Sometimes starting a business, you don’t know where to begin” says Rowena. “It can be like spaghetti and so daunting. But don’t give up and take the bull by the horns and get hold of the help out there!”
Rowena and Graham have taken over a campsite and turned to the Growth Hub and Cornwall Council Business Regulatory Support for help. Find out more or call us on 01209 660 708