Continuing along the theme of setting up a camping business we investigate how important it is for a business to find its unique selling proposition (USP). This is a marketing term that describes the product or service a business offers to set them apart from their competition. This can be the main force to push it to become hugely successful and can help give it an edge when it comes to branding and publicity.
We found a camping company in East Sussex, UK set up by Nick and Anna Eastwood called The Original Hut Company, that demonstrates this perfectly. When developing their boutique campsite they recycled old caravans to build beautiful and original huts, allowing them to offer ‘Staycations’ with a modern eco twist. They illustrate perfectly that it’s quite possible to make the most of what you have, think about your unique selling proposition, build a successful business and brand, and yet still manage to remain earth friendly and sustainable. This is what Anna had to say.
A couple of years ago we found ourselves in quiet an uncomfortable position, I was about to start my maternity leave expecting our second child, and our small marquee business had been hit very hard by the financial down turn. The only thing keeping us going was our holiday cottage in Camber. Although this was working hard for us it was not enough to support a family. We needed something else but had nothing available to finance further property investment especially with the mortgage situation being as difficult as it is.
My father in law farms in Bodiam, the land flanks the river Rother and looks out across to Bodiam Castle. We were aware that the ‘Staycation’ was becoming increasing popular and felt we had a site that would suit that type of holiday well. Following a bit of market research we realised that Yurts and Tipi’s were very much done in the area, and we wanted to be a bit different.
We have observed that many holiday offerings available can have a negative impact on the area around them. The area around us is stunning. We are so lucky to have to opportunity to enjoy it everyday. We had to create something that blended into it and had a positive impact rather that the opposite. We are also keen to appeal to those of a similar mind-set feeling that they in turn would have a greater understanding and respect for the countryside. The challenge was set.
In bygone days, agricultural workers working away from the farm were often accommodated in huts; be this a shepherd during lambing, a game keeper on a large estate, or a gillie on a valuable stretch of river. There were of course manufactures of huts, but very often these quirky little abodes were fashioned on the farm from surplus materials.
Our huts are based on the idea of an old Shepherd’s hut. What makes them unique is that (in true agricultural fashion) they are built using reclaimed, recycled and locally sourced materials wherever possible. The aim of this is to make them of the lowest possible environmental impact. The huts are constructed using recycled chassis from clapped out old touring caravans (this also makes them considerably more manoeuvrable than those on traditional iron wheels), the roofs are made from an old corn bin which would have been left in a farmyard to rust away, and the timber for the work tops and seat covers is sourced from sustainable woods on the farm.
The remaining timber used in the construction is all from responsibly farmed forests. The paint is ‘Farrow and Ball’ which are dyed using natural pigments. The 12 volt lighting system is powered via a solar panel on the roof. Storage is supplied using redundant wooden apple boxes. The huts are fitted with tiny little wood burning stoves (handmade in Dorset), these are fuelled whilst supply allows with prunings from our own orchards that previously would have been a waste product. All these factors reduced our build cost and continue to reduce the running costs, as well as reusing otherwise redundant materials
Visitors to the huts are also encouraged to recycle as much of their waste as possible. There are the obvious choices such as glass and paper recycling facilities. We also have a worm farm on site to help us process the organic matter into compost. We are also working in partnership with other farms and local food producers in order to promote produce from our immediate area.
We are so lucky with so many elements of our campsite. The farm runs right up to Bodaim Castle, an amazingly beautiful Medieval Castle, and The National Trust third most visited site in the country. Also The Kent and Sussex Steam railway runs into the farm where it terminates. The river Rother runs through the bottom where one can hop on a tiny ferry down to the next village, or sit and fish on its secluded banks though the farm. If you are a foodie, we have 4 pubs within walking distance as well as the only Mitchelin starred restaurant in East Sussex in the Village. We have ‘The Lighthouse Bakery, an Artisan Bakery school’ in the lane opposite and Sedlescombe organic Vineyard a short walk across the fields. A little further afield there are the Historic towns of Rye, Hastings, Battle and Tenterden all within 8 miles and the amazing beach at Camber. Yep, we’re very lucky!
Guinness, who processed their hops there, at one time owned quarry Farm. This was a huge operation, Londoners would come down on the train that still runs into the farm and stay for the hop picking, and they used it as their summer holiday. To celebrate this we are about to launch a brand new tiny campsite!! (we’re quite excited, I think it’s going to be great) This is set in a little wood a short distance from the huts. In here we have restored an old hoppers cookhouse, this will offer campers a covered area with a huge inglenook style fireplace to relax and keep warm and dry – quite necessary during a typical British summer!
To complement this site we have also added a shepherd’s hut with loo’s, showers and washing up facilities on board. We have also planted a small hop garden for our visitor to see. As the area around the huts develops we intend to add an allotment type area where visitors can harvest fruits and vegetables of the season. We hope to stock up with Friesian bullocks and lambs. Both unfortunately are generally considered to be by-products of modern farming, and from these we will produce meat for both the holidaymakers and ourselves. Maybe one day we could start a little farm shop, or maybe run courses on foraging, outside cooking, or maybe even a secret pop up restaurant the list goes on.
It’s amazing once you raise your level of awareness of waste, the environment around you and what is produced locally, as well as what you can produce yourself and how you can live both more cleanly and cheaply, you find yourself on a rollercoaster of sustainable ideals.
I love it and personally think it’s one of the best things to come out of the current recession that helps to provide lots of lovely people with a great place to stay!
Picture Credits: Nick and Anna Eastwood, The Original Hut Company