If you start a small glamping business with your kids for something to do because your existing transport business has failed due to the pandemic, is it realistic to think you might get booked out for 2 years in advance, gain hundreds of thousands of social media followers and will soon need to expand your site as the awards keep rolling in? Well, apparently it is as that’s just what The Secret Garden Glamping has achieved.
Derry Green is the founder of The Secret Garden Glamping and in this podcast episode, he shares the inspirational story behind his business, the catalysts that caused it to take off so fast, what his key successes have been, his social media growth strategy and where he thinks the industry is going right now.
From Pandemic Failure to Glamping Success
In the latest episode of The Business Of Glamping And Unique Holiday Rentals podcast, founder Sarah Riley interviews Derry Green, the founder of The Secret Garden Glamping, a small glamping business that achieved incredible success in just a few months. Starting the business with his kids during the pandemic, Derry never expected to be booked out for two years in advance and gain a massive following on social media.
During the episode, Derry shares the key factors that led to his success, including his social media growth strategy and the awards he has won. He also discusses his plans to expand the site to accommodate the high demand. This inspiring story shows how a small business can achieve incredible success and provides valuable insights into the glamping industry.
If you’re looking for inspiration and tips on how to build a successful glamping business, then this episode is a must-listen. Derry’s story of resilience and success in the face of adversity is a reminder that with hard work, dedication, and the right mindset, anything is possible. So tune in and discover the secrets behind The Secret Garden Glamping’s incredible success.
If you enjoyed this please leave a review and share your thanks and comments with podcast host Sarah Riley and her guest Derry Green.
Contact Derry at The Secret Garden Glamping
Contact Sarah at The Glamping Academy
The Glamping Business Podcast Shownotes
Additional Resources And Links Mentioned
- Contact Sarah Riley through Inspired Courses
- The Ultimate Glamping Business Guide
- Guest Booking Success Marketing Masterclass
- The Glamping Business Facebook Group (+ Unique Holiday Rentals)
- Tools and resources in the Inspired Courses VIP Lounge
- How To Start A Glamping Business
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THE GLAMPING BUSINESS PODCAST TRANSCRIPT
Derry Green: So the secret garden, we opened in August of 2020, and since opening, we’ve been fully booked for at least two years in advance. So our bookings have, have been phenomenal all the way through. So to try and get in is, is very difficult for most people at the moment.
Sarah Riley: So if you are interested in exactly how Dairy did that and the catalyst behind the success of his inspirational story, then keep listening. Welcome to episode 57.
Sarah Riley: Glamping and unique holiday rentals are surging in popularity with the growing desire of customers to book holidays that deliver an experience. They are also the new business of choice for those wanting to improve their work life balance. So how do you build a strong business like this that gives you the life you need and a great investment I’m Sarah Reilly, and I want to share what I’ve discovered after being immersed in this industry for over 20 years to inspire you to find out more about what’s going on. Welcome. This is the business of glamping and unique holiday rentals.
Sarah Riley: Thank you so much for joining me, Dai. It’s brilliant to have you on. but I wanted to get you on because I saw you on, I’ve seen you on various things on the television, which is impressive in itself. Yeah. There’s a lot of glamping business owners who would be, give their back teeth to be able to have the opportunities that you’ve had. So we’ll dive into that in a little bit about how you managed to open that opportunity up. Mm-hmm. . But I wanna get an idea of the timeline of when you opened and how that all started. And I understand you started from say a little thing that you just put up and decided to then go through the planning process. Tell me from the beginning, how did it start
Derry Green: Yeah, so it’s, it’s, it’s something that was all new to me when it started. So back in the first lockdown of 2020, before this I had a, a European transport business. So I used to spend a week in France on a week here and come back in two. And I got stuck here in the first lockdown. So when we went into lockdown, I was supposed to be going back 10 days later, and that never happened. So I was stuck at home with the kids, you know, supposed to be, homeschooling and everything else, but nothing to do in the daytime, gorgeous weather outside. And I hate being bored. It’s just something I can’t do. I have to be doing something. So the first night we camped out, me and the kids camped in the garden, great next morning, woke up like, you, you do when it’s camping and it’s, you know, dewy on the grass.
Derry Green: And everything else was like, oh, that’s, you know, bit bit miserable in the morning. So I thought, right, let’s build a deck to Campon for the second day. And then it went from there. And each day as lockdown went from days to weeks to months, I just kept doing a bit more and a bit more and a bit more just to keep the kids entertained. And by the end of the first lockdown, I’d ended up building this full well glamping pod. I didn’t realize it was a glamping pod at the time. It was meant to be just a project for me and the kids somewhere to spend time. We wasn’t obviously gonna be going away on holiday anywhere, so it was finding things that we could do outside. We all loved being outside. And so, yeah, I built this first pod and then I’d been updating my own social media back then in 2020.
Derry Green: Social media to me at the time was saying happy birthday to somebody or putting some pictures of the kids on. And I was putting it on my Facebook. And every day people were commenting about what I was doing. And a friend of a friend of a friend worked at Unilateral and had seen what I was doing and said, can we do a story on you So when everybody was building home bars and, and things like that, unad did a story on what a dad had built in lockdown. That was the, the, the story of it. So they did that the first day, the second day they’re owned by lad Bible, lad Bible took the story and put it on lad Bible. And from there it just blew up. You know, that that one post had something stupid, like 15, 20 million views. It was crazy.
Derry Green: and then I had people contacting me saying, can we come and stay Which was yo crazy at the time. I was like, it’s, it’s in my garden, basically. but you know, I I, I’ve seen these people contacting me. So I put it on Airbnb and I thought, you know what Let’s see, let’s see what happens. And I put it on Airbnb and within three days it was fully booked for two years in advance. Airbnb had took it cuz I, I assume with their algorithm and, and obviously seeing what had happened before they took it and put it on their homepage and boosted it to everybody. So it was amazing. And I thought, wow, there’s, you know, there’s, there’s legs in this. And so from there I then decided to go through the planning process. I technically opened in August of 2022, so in that weird kind of bit between Lockdowns, and did the planning process and, and gained planning permission on the four acres of woodland that I’ve got here. in the, so it was sort of end of February, start of March of 2021. And that’s when I then started building the secret garden lump. And so I’ll start from that one pub with the kids.
Sarah Riley: That’s crazy. And, and so I mean, you’ve the fact that you did that with the children as a single dad Yeah. Unexpectedly. And it’s, I’ve got children, I know how hard they are. I know how much time it takes. Especially as you were doing the homeschooling at the time as well. Yeah. And I mean, my mouth is dropping open from everything you’ve just said there. And actually you started, you started a business that is very successful right now. So how, how did you manage that with the children
Derry Green: It, to be honest, it was hard at the time as well. It was really scary. So my previous business, my transport business was really successful, but the customers we had were private individuals. So people who were moving out to Spain or France or having a second home. So over that, in that first lockdown, within three days, my whole business collapsed and had no business. We had no income coming in. In fact, in that first lockdown, I had to, had to sign on for Universal credit cuz I had no income coming in. And to be honest, it was, it was just, I was trying to every day find something that would distract not only me, but the kids as well, because the kids will know if I’m down about something or upset about something. I mean, they’re only little, at the time they were six and eight.
Derry Green: but I wanted to try and keep us busy and keep our minds occupied. And, and, and it is, it’s always a juggling act. But with my two, especially my son and my daughter both love being outside. It’s, the reason I bought this property is that the property was horrible. but it came with four acres of woodland because I wanted to spend more time outside when the kids and finding things to do, you know, literally exploring the woodland. and it is a lot, you know, I’d spend from six in the morning till till 10 at night building stuff out there and, and sorting the kids out and doing the homeschooling and everything. And it is, it is a lot. And it’s been a lot for the, for the first 12 months especially. It was literally just me doing everything. I did all the building, all the social media, all the emails, all the bookings, everything. And I barely slept is the, is the, is the top and bottom. But it was all to get to a point where we’re at now where it, you know, we can take people on and, and expand the business more. And it becomes a lot easier, although it comes with different stresses there. Mm-hmm.
Sarah Riley: So there was a huge amount of stress that was felt across the whole industry in the glamping industry because of that time. Very similar to you. Lots of other businesses just were halted and people like yourself were thinking, is this it, is my business gone now A lot of people, you know, probably sat down and maybe got a bit depressed, maybe just thought, I’ll wait and see what happens. But you were very, very motivated and active to do something about it. I mean, where does that come from Is that something that runs in your family or is that just something that’s in you
Derry Green: Yeah, no, to be fair. And is it, it’s, it comes from my dad. So my, my dad started his own business. He, he actually started his business with 25 pounds and he dug his, he dug my grandma’s back garden up to get clay. And he got some motors from a, from a junkyard to, to build a Nome. So any Christmas grottos you’ve seen in the uk, you know, at shopping centers and things like that, any you’ve ever seen with my dad’s, he started it and, and came up with it all. And he did sets for TV shows and movies and rides for Disney. And he, but he built it all up from a, from a little garage in Golden, sort of 10 minutes from here. we’re 25 pounds. Cause he had the, the motivation to do something more. And, and that was al that’s always been run through me and my brother.
Derry Green: We’re, we’re both in the same, we’ve always wanted to do something. We’re not some, you know, we’re not, we’re for sitting round, you know, kind of, kind of on our hands. If, if something happens, you have to kind of roll with it and, and try and be creative and, and, and come up with different ways of doing things. And that’s exactly what I’ve done here. and it is, you know, know, it’s, it’s scary and exciting in, in, in equal measure. So whenever I’m doing anything, I’m always passionate about it and I love doing it. But then you, you do have that fear factor of is this gonna work Is it gonna do well even now, you know, even at the size that we’re at now, it’s still there. And I, but I love that kind of balance of the two.
Sarah Riley: Mm-hmm. . Cause there is a lot of investment at the beginning. It’s one of the mistakes people make when they’re thinking about setting up a glamping business. They think, oh, that should be cheap. I should be able to set that up quite easily. Bit of canvas, a little bit of this, a little bit of that. And that’s not the case. It’s cheaper than bricks and mortar for sure, but it still needs investment. And that must have been quite scary at a time where your business had stopped and all income had stopped. How did you get yourself over that kind of confidence thing of Yes, this is where I should be spending my money right now
Derry Green: To be honest, it, I mean, it’s always been hard even at the start. So when, when we did the first one and, it sold out for two years in advance on Airbnb, that was amazing. But as with Airbnb, although we had two years worth of bookings, we had zero income from it because obviously you only get paid out 24 hours after they arrived. So it was great. But I couldn’t do anything with that. I couldn’t, I I had to try and figure out a way to capitalize on, on, you know, the, the publicity that we’d had, but have zero capital to go forward to build anything. And this is where, this is what ties in with now my social media marketing and, and the way I promote the business is because I had to the, the second one, which was called the Lodge, I had to launch that even though I hadn’t built it.
Derry Green: And even though I had nothing to launch with, I had to launch it to be able to take pre-booking, you know, build up a booking system, take pre-booking so I could take some deposits in to be able to actually build the product that I was gonna then sell. So kinda like crowdfunding basically. Mm-hmm. And, and it, it was trying to work out whether I could get to the finish line in, in the first place and, and see how to be able to do it. Because as with everything, your banks and, and, and lending and everything else, nobody wants to help you n at the start if you’ve got nothing to go with, nobody. And it, it absolutely greats on me all the time. It grates on me now even more because now we’re doing great and it’s been a success. Everybody wants to jump on board, everybody wants to help you out, but you do, where are they when it, when it’s at the start, it’s not there.
Derry Green: And it is, it’s hard to prioritize where to go. But I, I had to try and work out which was gonna be the best kind of direction. That was a lot harder when we actually got the full planning permission and went into the woodland because that was literally starting again. That was everything from infrastructure, power, water waste, septic tanks, footpath, sliding, everything, where the first ones were relatively easy because they were near the house. All the, all the, you know, water waste, that sort of stuff was all relatively cheap to do because it was all tied into the house. So that wasn’t too bad. But as we expanded it was trying to work out which was the best direction to go.
Sarah Riley: Mm-hmm. I think what you’re talking about there about the crowdfunding style launch that you did. Yeah, I, I mean this is something that so many other people, really struggle with. You know, I need to do this. I can’t do that till I get some funding. How am I gonna get my funding No one’s gonna support me. There’s no bank out there that will, invest in something that doesn’t have either assets or something that they can, you know, put their loan against. and one of the, recent, stories that’s come out about crowdfunding is a company in America where they crowdfunded their, their glamping experience, which was happening in a desert. Mm-hmm. , got a huge amount of support for it, drummed up all this support, got huge, huge amounts of funding and were successful in achieving what they needed to be able to set up and launch within the first 20 minutes, 15 minutes of actually announcing their crowdfunding, you know, plan. So it was, it was brilliant, but they hadn’t gone down the permissions route first. They couldn’t get their permissions and then suddenly they found themselves in debt with all of these people who had invested money into their project and they couldn’t get it off the ground cuz the permissions weren’t there. I mean, how did it, how did it work with your permissions Because you are talking about a woodland there and Woodlands can be quite tricky.
Derry Green: Yeah. So from the planning side of things, I’ll be totally honest, the ride throughout all the planning has actually been really good. And I, and I see it all the time on the glamping forums, how, how people struggle so much with planning. but for me it was, it was quite easy. When I look back now, we’ve just done another set of planning permission, so we’ve just gained planning permission last week for an, for an extension to a further five on the site now. but like you say, the, the piece of land I had was agricultural green belt, woodland, you know, usually it’s a no-go. but at the start of the planning process I took on an amazing planning consultant called Claire. And she took me through everything, advised me in the right directions on everything. And again, before we did anything at all, it was going to the relevant people, you know, neighbors, local businesses, the council, the sales, speaking to everybody about what we wanted to do and what we wanted to achieve and why we were doing it as well.
Derry Green: Because that’s always kind of a big part of it. You know, if you, when I came to this, it wasn’t about making money, it never was. That’s the whole thing was me being able to spend time outside with the kids. That was the top and bottom. I mean now it’s, it’s got to the point where it’s a great business and we’re doing really well, but that was never the intention in the first place. And it was genuine reasons where, so if you sit down and speak to everybody, like, like I say with the neighbors and the council and everything and get those people on board, it’s a, it’s so much easier to go through the journey with the planning. We still have to go through all the hoops and jumps and everything else that you need to with the, you know, environmental studies and, and land registry and everything else.
Derry Green: But getting ’em on board and getting on the right side of people at the start to, to let ’em know why we were doing it and what we were doing really, really helped. I think. And the, the council have, have been on board with us at the start, when they came down, they assumed, I guess like most people would with, when you say a GL site, you, you, you think a field with a load of pods on basically, where I want to incorporate the woodland within every unit. So I didn’t wanna take out a single tree. I didn’t want to, you know, impact the environment at all. I wanted it to be organic and be around. And that was challenging at first. And we got the council to come down cuz they just wanted to know exactly where it was gonna be, how big it was gonna be, what direction it was gonna face, where actually it was, well we want to put it around here, but there’s some trees here, so if that’s in the way, we want to move it this way or we want to incorporate that into the design. But we can’t tell you exactly until we’ve done it. So when we went through the planet again, everybody was really great and it was, it was a long process I guess looking back now or longer than it, it should have been. But by the end we ended up with a full planning commission that we needed. Everybody was on board with it and you know, we’ve been able to move forward with the business now.
Sarah Riley: So you’ve gone from one tent in the back garden to now, how many units
Derry Green: So with this new set of planning permission now it’s 13. So we’ve currently got, yeah, we’ve got eight that are built and open and have guests in. And then we’ve got, five more that are now under construction. So we’ve got the newest one, which we launched last Friday called the Oasis, that’s opening in seven weeks time. and then we’ve got a further three to open this year and another one for next year then.
Sarah Riley: So how are you going about with, you talk about social media, social media’s been one of the things that’s really catapulted you into, various opportunities that were unexpected. How have you managed that as your business is growing, how have you gone through those steps of, do you have someone who does your social media for you Is it still very much you
Derry Green: So again, I kind of mentioned it at the start, the start for me as a business, social media was nothing, you know, it wasn’t, didn’t really mean anything to me. I didn’t know much about it. I didn’t know about algorithms. I didn’t know, I didn’t have an Instagram account or TikTok account. I had Facebook and that was it. but one thing that I like doing is I like learning. I, you know, anything that that engages me or anything I get excited about, I want to know everything about. And it’s like, it’s like a game. And social media, although I don’t like social media personally to use, it’s not, I, I I, because now I know the darkest side of the, the background of how it works. I don’t like the principle of it. I know I need it as my, you know, as my main driver for the business.
Derry Green: So it was learning, it had, I’d spend from 10:00 PM at night till two, three in the morning watching different videos, searching the internet, trying to find different things, and then testing different things with my own social media and seeing what works and seeing what doesn’t work and then when something does work. Okay. How did, why did that work Why was that better Was it the images, was it the videos Was it the texts and working all these little things out to the point now where we can, you know, command hundreds of thousands of, of views per post, you know, with on a, on a daily post of millions when we do something big. so yeah, it was, it was a steep wording curve and it was it trying to figure it out. And at the start up until, what, six months ago now, the whole social media has been just me on my own.
Derry Green: because I have a, a strict vision of how I want it to be and how I want it to look. Cause it does come down to little tiny details that really make the difference between a post that was good and a post that was viral. It’s not, you know, everybody’s 90% there. It’s that last 10% that really, really makes a difference. And that’s where I’ve always altered stuff. But now I’ve got Chelsea, my partner, she now runs, she started doing the TikTok for us, and then Instagram stores and she now runs all the social media side of the business now. although I still sit and go through the posts and, and kind of have my input on, on which direction I want to go with different things and scheduling that sort of stuff. But again, as we’ve got bigger now, I’ve had to delegate different things out because there’s no way I can do everything on my own anymore.
Sarah Riley: So is that for you now Is it a team of two or do you have other people helping you with the build How does it all work now
Derry Green: So now we are, we’ve just taken on a new member of staff. She starts today actually, so we’re now up to 14. so we’ve got myself, obviously who’s run the business. I’ve got Chelsea does all the social media. I’ve got Gemma, who’s our site manager. she then has, eight cleaners underneath her. I have my mom working in the business. She kind of, well, she does what she wants. She wonders in and out and comes and does things. we then have, Rey, a good friend of mine who we took on about a month ago now. So he is now customer relations, but also along with, with my side doing the building. We have a full-time groundskeeper Paul, he’s great. He does all the maintenance and that sort of stuff as well. So yeah, it’s really, you know, building more and more as, as we go along now.
Sarah Riley: So it’s quite interesting. A lot of people that I work with and that I communicate within my various networks, they’re, they often talk about, I’d, I’d love to grow, I’d love to grow my business, I’d love to get bigger. but I just can’t cope with it with the time, the management, the things that I’m doing. what do you think comes first employing the staff to relieve you of those things, but obviously that means it’s an investment of financial investment. or is it really to push yourself for a while until you’ve grown enough that you can actually pay for the staff Is it better to go first before you’ve got to the point of breaking point or Yeah. In your opinion, how does that worked for you
Derry Green: So do you want that, that was one of the hardest steps that I’ve done in this entire business is letting go of parts of it. But then also, like you said, he’s finding the right time to do it. So for me, it’s neither of those two. It’s, it’s literally banging the middle. So the hardest part for me was when I took on Paul, now Paul as a, as a full-time groundskeeper and maintenance and stuff, I knew it was gonna be expensive for the business. and I couldn’t really afford it, is the honest answer. So when I took him on, I couldn’t really afford it, but I knew if I did take him on then over the next six months is probably when I was gonna need somebody. So before I got to the point of needing somebody, I took him on and took the hit then and it worked.
Derry Green: I, I couldn’t believe how much it worked or how, because what I didn’t take into account was I just saw the physical things that needed doing each day, whether it be the change over the washing, the toilet seat that needs fix in the, the light bulbs that need changing. They’re all physical things that need doing each day, but I didn’t take into account the time it had free up for myself to be able to push the business forward. And each time I’ve taken on, a member of staff, especially in a more prominent position like Chelsea with the social media or Gemma with the site management, I’ve been able to step away a little bit from the business and go, you know, and, and do, like they say, bigger picture thing. So I’m, I’m thinking on a daily basis now instead of, oh, I need to go and get that toilet seat from B and q or I need to repaint one of the walls.
Derry Green: I’m thinking, right, you know, what, what contacts can we make today What units can we build next Where can we advertise next What can we do on social media better So my mind, all the, the cloud was like lifted, all the fog had gone and I could see different things in the business. And then as I push the business forward a bit more, I always take the hit before I need to. And yes, it is a financial hit and it’s a struggle, but I, it, it is the confidence I have within the business now to know that in the future it will pay off. It might, it might not do now. And the wage bill now and, and you know, some of the staff to be fair, are on more than I am because I’m still not taking that, that wage or the, the kind of benefits from the business as it is currently. But I know I will do in the future. And that’s, that’s the point I wanna get to is always down the line, 2, 3, 4, 5 years down the line as opposed to what we’re doing today or tomorrow. Mm-hmm.
Sarah Riley: That’s the whole thing of bringing up the captain to be the proper captain of the ship and to know which direction you are going in, where are you steering towards and also where the money is because you’ve gotta be thinking of the money, haven’t you You’ve gotta be generating the money and that’s ultimately your decision. How am I going to get this business generating more revenue That’s
Derry Green: The thing is, so I, I kind of seen it quite early on that a lot of pitfalls, especially within glam, is people get stuck within the businesses. I could have quite easily been stuck doing changeovers every single day and fixing bits on the site and, and it, it’d take up my whole day easily without you, without trying, let alone trying to do social media, trying to do marketing, doing different TV shows or, you know, promoting the business in different directions, whatever it might be. I could see that really early on. And now that, that I’ve stepped away and the more, as I said, the more step away you, you do focus on what you should be doing within the business and that’s what then makes us drive it, you know, further forward.
Sarah Riley: Do you think that your background is doing your business before has really helped you hit the ground running with this business
Derry Green: Yeah, massively. To be fair, I mean, within every, any business, the all run typically the same. You know, you’ve got a product and you need to sell it or you know, just service that you wanna offer to people. And it, so they all run very similar. So I’ve, I’ve been within businesses again from being younger, seen what my, my dad used to do. so I’ve been around and been running businesses for a long time, so that certainly helps. But then as with every business, it has totally different challenges. Mm-hmm. so when I was doing transport, you might have broken down trucks or you might need to mot vehicles, whatever it might be. And, and here it’s customers that need extra attention or you need to change a layout or something like that. So there’s always gonna be differences, but the, the, the, the key kind of components of it have, making money and making sure that, that whatever you’re doing is profitable is, is always the same.
Sarah Riley: So in your time doing this, have you found that your ideal audience or the person that’s most likely to book one of your stay is a particular person So are they a particular age they have particular likes or dislikes Is that something that you’ve found that your audience is, you know, in a particular segment
Derry Green: So it is hard because it obviously as, as a marketing, you know, kind of project, you should be looking for your ideal target guests. You don’t wanna mix different groups of guests, they don’t get on well and you end up appealing to nobody. But we have, what I say is two different signs to the business. So we have the glamp in business itself, which is driven by the social media side of the business. So the social media side of the business now we’ve got over half a million followers. There’s no way on God’s green earth, if I was here for the next a hundred years, I’d be able to accommodate all them people . So a lot of the following are actually just following us. Cause they like seeing what we’re doing, whether it be the new units that we’re making or you know, stuff we’re doing, doing down here on site, whatever it is, you know, a big part of the following is now social media content creation because that’s what they wanna see on a daily basis.
Derry Green: So our following is one side of it, which is 97% female between the ages of, 22 and 45. That’s our core group of followers where what we’re actually running over to as far as guests, it’s a wide range. You know, we have a lot of people coming for birthdays, anniversary, stuff like that. We have a lot of, groups of women who come to get away from the kids, from their husbands to have a relaxation, you know, get away and, and spend some time in nature. And then we do have the younger families as well. so it’s couples with, with younger kids, you know, between the ages of, you know, zero and six, that sort of age range. so it is a mixture of different people that come, although our following is totally different to what, you know, people actually come and today.
Sarah Riley: And how do you think the, well, if you were to give yourself one kind of perfect success story, how have you been most successful at attracting guests Is it through your social media Is it through a particular booking platform you’ve used Is it through your TV appearances What, what’s the thing that really kickstarted it and started to the momentum
Derry Green: Yeah. The, the, the absolute number one is social media. By by country mile. That’s where 99% of our audience has come from. Although from that we’ve done other things like different TV shows and stuff like that. It has all been from the social media following and building that up has been my main focus at the start as well as going forward now as we’re growing and the social media audience grows and as that grows, more people see us. So I thought, again, when we started the business, I thought, you know, looking back now, but building one unit and getting bookings for that was relatively easy at the time when I look back now, but doing it to get eight units fully booked or 13 units fully booked, or 20 units as we go forward fully booked, we have to keep growing the audience to make sure that we can, you know, fill that space. But social media has been by a country mile the biggest driver that we’ve had and, and absolutely the, the main thing that we’ll focus on going forward.
Sarah Riley: And the two, from what you said earlier, the two, platforms that you are using the most are TikTok and Instagram Stories, is that right
Derry Green: So our, so now our biggest driver is still Facebook. so we’ve got 300,000 followers on Facebook. About 50% of the bookings come through Facebook. Our second biggest driver now is TikTok. so it used to be Instagram, Facebook was the biggest then it was Instagram and then TikTok was just kind of coming up, where TikTok is actually taken over as the second biggest driver, not only of of followers. you know, we’re about 120,000 on TikTok, something like that. but that also correlates to bookings cuz it is our second biggest booking platform driver as such. Mm-hmm. just behind Facebook then, then we’ve got Instagram, then we have, you know, other smaller streams when it’s TV shows or newspaper articles or awards or whatever else it might be.
SSarah Riley: Mm-hmm. . So, in my time in the industry, I’ve come across all kinds of business owners, from resorts to smaller hobbyists to people just doing it to raise a little bit of an extra income, to people like you that have got big view of where you wanna go and how big you wanna grow. and often I say to them, how do you measure your success How do you figure out what’s working for you and what’s not And often they say, well, I don’t know, I’m just, I just get a sense of, I just get a feeling. But you are very clearly talking about, oh, we get most of our bookings from this platform and that platform. So you’ve clearly got your measurements in place. Mm-hmm. , is that something that you set up Are you very much into that kind of thing Or have you had someone help you do that
Derry Green: No, so again, as with everything, everything’s done through here today or, or these days, companies like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, they’re all monetizing now. Your Facebook did it first, then Instagram, then TikTok. So they’re giving you the tools to find out all these details to find absolute minute information about every single guest that either wants to book or has booked or is following you or likes the stuff that you’re doing. And they want to give you the tools to do it because at the end of the day, if they give you enough information and say, you know, we’re the best, they want you to spend money with ’em, that’s the top and bottom. You know, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are all businesses. When we talk about social media, this is slightly off it, but I have three customers, although we’ve got half a million followers, they’re not my customers.
Derry Green: They’re Facebook’s, Instagrams and talk’s customer. I’ve only got three, which is Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. They’re the only three people who I do business with on social media. And then they promote me to their followers. And so yeah, with, with social media, they give me the tools now to be able to see all these little details and we can tie it into the website and see where the traffic’s coming from and see where the bookings are coming from so you can really know where to focus now. Cause if I didn’t, I would assume if I didn’t look at any of the analytics that we have in the background now, I would assume Facebook’s the biggest cuz it’s got the biggest number and Instagram’s the second biggest cuz we’ve been on there the longest. But I wouldn’t know something like TikTok for example, was driving so much further past Instagram without having the analytics in the background
Sarah Riley: Mm-hmm. so many times I say get your analytics in place and I have people roll their eyes at me. But it’s, you are just confirming, it’s just incredibly important. You get so much amazing data from that and it’s completely free once it’s set up. It just is ticking along in the background doing all the work for you. It’s fantastic. so do you do many social media ads or is it more organic things that you do
Derry Green: Yeah, so the, the whole following through social media has been a hundred percent organic. I’ve, I’ve never done any Facebook ads, Instagram ads. Having said that, I say none. I think my total marketing budget on social media is about 130 pounds over the past two years. And what I’ve done is I actually, I’ve put on like five pound at a time to test, you know, on an A to B test across seven different adverts to see what Facebook thinks is good. cuz at the end of the day, as I said just a minute ago, Facebook is my customer. All I’m trying to do is impress Facebook. And Facebook will show it to their customers. And the more I impress Facebook, the more customers they’ll show it to. So if I know on a, on an ad set that Facebook thinks ad number three is really good, then I know that’s the content or the type of content or the type of wording or the hashtags or whatever it might be that I need to use in my organic post to make Facebook see it better, is the top and bottom. So I use it as like a little testing platform. That’s exactly what I used to do with TikTok. So when TikTok first came on board would use TikTok as a, as a, that sort of ad testing area so we could see stuff that worked on TikTok and we’d take that and put it on Facebook and Instagram, which would also do well. So it’s all about testing different things and that’s what I do use ads for as a, as a general kind of thing, not for marketing itself.
Sarah Riley: And do you think that you are getting much, organic traction now because there’s been a lot of, ups and downs with how much platforms like Facebook will actually show you without you having to Yeah. Pay for it to your own audience Is that something that’s concerning you at the moment or is it okay
Derry Green: No, you absolutely correct. It’s, it, it’s dialed it down massively now Facebook again, because they were the first ones to come along and do it, they are now about advertising. So it’s really, really hard to get to the, to the point we are at now organically. And it, it, it may be near impossible to do unless you have something outstandingly different to anything else that’s ever been done, then it’s really hard to get there. So we were really lucky to get to this point before that happened, you know, two, three years ago when it was still able to do it. That’s why I like TikTok as a platform now because TikTok is very similar to what Facebook was, you know, pre the ads push, because Facebook is all, sorry, TikTok is all about discovery at the minute. So they’re trying to build their algorithms and find what people like so they can monetize it down the road and they’re already starting to monetize it more and more, but it’s still in the background. So you can still get massive organic reach on TikTok where you can’t really get that anymore on, on Facebook. Although, because we’ve got such a big following on Facebook, you know, 300,000, general day-to-day posts still get in excess of a hundred thousand, you know, reactions per post. So because we’re so big, we still, although it’s still only a smaller percentage, it still works out for us. But then on a smaller scale, it’d be really hard to push on Facebook and Instagram without having that big reach in the first place.
Derry Green: I have, the, the privileged opportunity of analyzing a lot of people’s ability to book where their bookings are coming from, stuff like that. So I do a lot of projects where I’ll look at the, the data behind the scenes. Yeah. So I kind of get to see the trends across the board. So multiple businesses in multiple countries. and yeah, Facebook, even on, four businesses where Facebook, they haven’t got as many followers on Facebook. Facebook always seems to bring the people who are eager to look, eager, eager to click through and and find out a little bit more. So it’s quite interesting. But definitely Pinterest is one, that you might wanna look at as well. Mm-hmm. so I’m assuming on your social media you share things like your epic breakfasts, , which I think are absolutely delicious and yeah. Amazing. would you share other things What kind of theme of things do you share on your social media I mean, people can have a look at social media and have a look, find out, but what’s the general theme
Derry Green: So the thing with the, especially Facebook now this is kind of goes back to the Facebook TikTok thing. Facebook, we, we are kind of limited on what we can put on there now. because we have, we’ve narrowed down to a point where we know exactly what a post needs to say, what hashtags it needs to have, what content it needs to be for our following to wanna see it. So although we can put, you know, today for example, we’re we’re having our new a hundred percent renewable battery storage, extended. So we’re, we’re doing more with it in solar and I’d love to put that on the social media, but the post will bomb. Yeah. Our followers don’t wanna see that. They don’t wanna see what we’re doing in the background. They just wanna see the amazing new unit when it’s all done and all shiny and sparkly and looks great.
Derry Green: So our social media is very much pointed at, as I said, the social media side of the business, which is creating content around the pods themselves about how each one’s individual and trying to get new photos and new content of, of that side of things. It’s hard to find, cuz there’s lots of content that I’d love to put out, but we just, I just know the audience won’t react to it. And then we have the issue of Facebook, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a, it’s a buildup thing. So whenever we do any social media campaigns, which will be for the Oasis for example, that launched last Friday, it’s a three month plan to build up each post to stack on the next one, on the next one, on the next one to end up with that one at the end that goes viral. So we’re very, specific on what we put on social media, which is to do with, you know, what people wanna see and then any other content can go onto the website.
Derry Green: That’s where, you know, if people do wanna see what we’re doing in the background, then they can, they can look through it on there, which won’t have an impact on our social media standing as such because it, that’s it, it, it’s a ranking system that is the top and bottom. You know, if, if Facebook our content to be good and other people content to be good, they’ll push it for us. So it’s very hard. We’ve gotta be very careful on what we put on social media, to make sure that our following, you know, are happy with what they’re seeing. Mm. Which is a, it’s a shame because I see so many people putting an amazing content out about different things that they’re doing. It might be, you know, different projects they’re doing around the glamping sites or, but as soon as I look at ’em, I know instantly that that’s not gonna get any engagement and that’s gonna be a detriment to the social media side of the business, which is a real shame. You’ve gotta play the game with them. Like, as I said at the start, I don’t like social media, but I know tool for, for driving the business.
Sarah Riley: And so when you are on social media, do you ever check out what your customers are sharing, using No doubt you’ve got a hashtag of your own. Yeah. do you make that particularly easy for them to share things and and do you monitor that
Derry Green: Yeah, well that’s been, you know, one, again, one of the main drivers. So the question I get asked a lot is, do we have, you know, do we work with many influencers The answer is not really. We have people contact us 10, 15 a day, probably, you know, an influence from a different market wanting to come and do, and we have done stuff before, but it’s never really made any difference to us because content these days is, you know, again, back to TikTok, they’ve proven the point. People want genuine content and they want genuine reviews. They don’t want somebody to be paid, I dunno, a thousand pounds to come and stay and say it’s great because you’re just paying them to say that they want customer feedback and they want them, you know, genuine photos and videos. And that’s what TikTok is. It’s authentic. So when customers come, and this is where we’ve done really well, every customer wants to share what they’re doing here, you know, whether it be, you know, we’re giving ’em opportunities to share photos in front of the neon signs or the hot tubs or the bar areas or whatever it might be.
Derry Green: And they’re authentic and genuine posts. So the friends of theirs who’ll see those, you know, the 50 or a hundred friends that they have on Facebook will take that as a genuine review and they’re more likely to book with us as opposed to an advert that we could post out, to, you know, a hundred thousand people on Facebook and you I’m paying for that. So they don’t believe that anymore. You know, that that’s what’s really changed within the marketing. So getting our own customers to be able to push the content themselves, which is free, just by giving the opportunity to do it, makes a massive difference.
Sarah Riley: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. So I’ve gotta ask the question. Have you seen any of your customers do anything really silly or share anything really silly on social media This is something I love to , love to dive into .
Derry Green: I’m trying to think if they’ve shared anything. I mean, do you what We had a a prime example that because the people that we get come and stay in now are from all walks of life, from all parts of the country. You know, we get, we, we get a lot of people from down south, from London, Essex, Cornwall, Kent, places like that. And a lot of people have never been into a woodland. They’ve never been outside of, you know, a, a city center or whatever. And we had, last night was the perfect example. A guest phoned up last night and said the under floor heating wasn’t working, went down and had a look, said, you know, we’ve turned the controls on, but, but the deckings not getting warm. . I was like, sorry, what And stood outside for 45 minutes assuming that the decked area outside would be under floor heated and it’s just a piece of wood.
Derry Green: And I’m like, eh, no, that’s not quite out the works . And then, then they couldn’t get the, they couldn’t get a fire going. They, they’d used some kindling as a, as a as tried to use it as a lighter, I think to try and light a, a piece of wood with a lighter. And it was just like they’d never been into an outdoor environment. And, and, and it, to me it’s baffling. Cause you know, as a child we used to play in the woods and things like that. But yeah, people, we get people coming from all sorts of walks of life and, and who’ve never spent any time in nature. But again, at the end of the experience, they go away loving it and they, you know, they’ve learned something, you know, every day’s a school day. And that’s, that’s, you know, how it kind of ends up being.
Derry Green: And the way I like to think about it is if you encourage people to do these things, they grow to love nature. And if they grow to love nature, they’ll do more to protect nature as we go forward. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it Doing, doing things with which are a little less impactful and the environment and maybe educates few people on why it’s so important to protect our world and our earth. I love that story. That’s fantastic. So what do you think it is specifically about what you offer that people like your guests like
Derry Green: So the main thing that they like, again, this came from Covid and I’ll, I’ll be honest, that was really lucky at the time. So when I did the unit, it’s totally enclosed. So a lot of units that you’ll find across the country are either in a row, across a field, or they’re very close to each other and they’re, they’re overlooked by other sites. So each unit’s totally enclosed, so it’s not overlooked by anybody else. So it’s your own piece of the woodland. It’s not, it doesn’t feel like you’re sharing it with anybody else. And when Covid came along, obviously that was, you know, people were looking for spaces that were on wrong without shared facilities. You know, people were scared about being around other people at the time. That was the reason for it. Where now it’s, it’s more that they can come away and come to a site like this and spend time in the woodlands and feel like it’s theirs.
Derry Green: That’s the, the, the main part or the main experience that we offer is to be able to offer it just for them. So you get this exclusivity, you know, you see it a lot now, people with private jets or private villas or whatever it might be because people want their own space. And that’s kind of what we give them here. On a smaller scale, it’s, and it’s not necessarily their own space because there’s eight other units within, you know, a five minute walk of each other. But it feels like it is, and it’s all about that feeling. If you feel like you’ve got your own space, you’re far more relaxed, you’re far more, there’s far more potential for you to enjoy yourself and have a great time and, and spend, whether it be with your loved ones or your kids. If you feel like your kids are safe and you can relax, it’s just, it’s getting that stress away. So I think that’s the main thing. When guests and customers come, that’s the thing that they’re looking for and that’s the thing that they’re going away with. As a, as a kind of main point,
Sarah Riley: This industry has been around since pre 2010, but as it evolves, where do you think it’s going Where do you think this, the trend is right now for where it’s going You are obviously expanding, so you are very confident about it. Where do you think in general it’s going in, in the UK and, and potentially the world
Derry Green: So customers are always more demanding year on year. They want, they do want more. They want, you know, all these different websites, whether it be booking.com, Airbnb, give people the option to shop around now and people can see everything from a attempt in a field to a glass building in a tree that looks amazing. And it is, you know, there’s some phenomenal units out there. You know, I, I say this all the time, I know a hundred different glamping sites that are all better than mine. I know ’em, and, and I can see ’em on a daily basis. So there’s lot, there’s lots of competition out there, but I think the lower end of the market, you know, you sort of bell tenture, pop up sites, that sort of thing. People aren’t, there’s, there’s a lot of them now. I don’t think people are really looking as that as a glamping experience now.
Derry Green: and then you’ve got the very high end of the market, which is, you know, stunning structures that are, you know, eight, nine, a thousand pound a night, whatever it might be. Those two ends of the market, I think they’re always gonna be there because they’ll be a market for it. But I think they’ll be a lot smaller the now people want to be able to have an experience wherever it be and have certain things. You know, they, they, they want to be able to relax like they’re at home, they want, you know, heating, lighting, you know, internet if you’re taking the kids, things like that. So they wanna be able to relax, but they do want to reconnect with nature. So the, the more, again I say authentic, the more the area can, can enhance what you do in there. So in my case, it’s a woodland, it might be, a coastal view, it might be lakes, it might be mountains, whatever it might be.
Derry Green: being able to get people outdoors out of the unit. So one thing I noticed when I was doing mine, and this is again back to when we was talking about stepping back from the business, I assumed each unit I did was getting bigger and, and, and kind of better as a unit. But actually when I looked at what I was doing organically, the units weren’t getting any bigger and they weren’t having any more than, you know, a bed to bathroom, a soul for a TV that was, you know, basic fa kind of things. I was never really changing the interiors. What I was doing was extending the outdoor space and giving people more and more reason to spend time outside of the unit, not inside. Cause if you sat inside, you may as well be sat on your sofa at home. Yeah, there’s no, no difference.
Derry Green: And what we try and do is try and make people spend and give them reasons to spend as much time outside as possible because that’s where they’re gonna create the memories. They’re not gonna create a memory sat on a, you know, pull out sofa bed in a small pod in the woodland. They’re not gonna, but they, they are gonna do, if they’re gonna be outside playing a game of cards around a fire pit for example. So the outside areas are by far and away the most important part of a glamp inside now, not the units. Although if you go to the glamping show, everybody will tell you their unit’s the best unit and that’s the unit you need. units are, to be honest, are secondary to what you are creating outside of that space. Because why compete with the Hilton on a, you know, stone suite that they’ve got when you’ve got all this outdoor space that they don’t have. So, you know, concentrate on what we’ve got over what hotels or bed and breakfast or whatever else we’ve got. We’ve got outdoor space, we’ve got outdoor areas, we’ve got Woodland, we’ve got fields, we’ve got lakes. That’s where we need to focus.
Sarah Riley: Mm-hmm. So is this the, methodology that you were apply to your franchise So you are now looking to offer franchises Tell me a little bit about that.
Derry Green: So yeah, so at this point now, this has been on my mind for the past 12, 18 months is what to do with the audience that we’ve got. As I said earlier on, you know, we’re over half a million followers now. There’s no way on God’s earth we could host all them in a million years. And, you know, the only detriment to the clumping side of the business is not having enough availability. you know, our waiting list is 44,000 now. we’re turning away around five or 600 bookings a week just off the phone of new people who are following us, let alone stuff that we’ve already got in the pipeline for, for this year and for next year with different TV shows and things like that. So the audience is gonna get bigger and it’s, it’s, although we’re not losing any following, we’re losing those bookings for this year because if somebody’s coming for the 30th birthday, they’re not canceling it for and doing it on the 32nd birthday when they can get in.
Derry Green: They’re still going somewhere this year for the birthday, and they’ll come back to us in a couple of years time for something else. So it’s finding where to go. Am I the one vein or the one thing that I really don’t like, it’s within every industry to be fair. Now, it’s kind of spreading out you, your just eats in the takeaway industry or Airbnb and booking.com. In the travel industry, I didn’t, I could have turned the platform into another OTA and just had, you know, cuz at this point we’ve got more followers than Canopy Stars, so we could have turned us into an OTA taken on other sites. But I don’t like the model. I really don’t because it’s an ever decrease in model. You, you know, if you, you start out with a great principle of having the, let’s say the 10 best sites in the uk but then you need to, you know, it needs to grow as a business and then you’ve gotta take on 10 more that aren’t quite as good.
Derry Green: And then some of them leaves you take on 20 more that aren’t quite as good as them. And it’s always going down. You email@example.com now, I’m pretty sure a portal in a field could get on booking.com. Now it’s, it’s ridiculous. So I didn’t wanna go down that way. And then the other side is, the reason I started this business was so that I could spend time outside in the woods with my kids and do things. So if I went now and I could get financing for it and open five or six more sites across the country, I’d have to be traveling the country again. And I’d have to go to these places and sort ’em all out. And then I’m, it, it then takes it away from what I was doing in the first place, which again, I didn’t wanna do. So with the franchise model, we can have other amazing entrepreneurs, amazing, you know, glamping site owners who want to get on board and who want to run a business that we can help with.
Derry Green: So we can solve our availability problem, which, you know, is always gonna be there because if I had 50 more of these units, it’d still be fully booked with the following that we’ve got currently. And it would also solve our social media problem because there’s a social media organization, we need content and if, if I stop, you know, once we get to 13 on this site, that’s the planning permission done here. So I have no content for the social media business to go forward with. So again, we need to keep building units, we need to keep evolving and keep the business moving. So it solves a lot of different problems without going down the route of causing myself more problems with OTAs and things like that. And it dilutes the brand, you know, people know the Secret Garden now. They know what they’re gonna get with.
Derry Green: And this is why our units sell out the Oasis. You know, we put that online on Friday, that’s sold out in 47 minutes. Nobody has any clue what we’re building. Nobody knows anything. They, they know it’ll have similar features to other things we’ve done. So they’re confident in the brand that it’s gonna be something amazing and that’s why we get the bookings. Whereas if we took on 20 or 30 other random sites that is diluted and people don’t have the confidence then, so we want to keep the brand solid, but still be able to expand and, and meet the needs of our customers.
Derry Green: No, it’s really interesting. It reminds me very much of what Under Canvas did in the usa. I dunno if you know much about that. They started very much like you, very small, and they grew and they grew and they just had this great brand and it’s just suddenly taken off. And now they’ve had major investment, they’ve made, it’s a huge amount of money. They’ve got seven, eight sites more in the pipeline, I’m sure. yeah, so I I mean it’s fantastic what you’ve, what you’ve built there, what you’ve started. I love the ethos. You, you are not willing to be distracted from what your aim is, which is to be outside, spend time with your kids and your family and your loved ones and just say, well, you know, I’m running a business but I don’t have to do all of this on my own. yeah, and I think that’s really inspirational and I hope very much that listeners will be able to take something from that. How do people get in touch with you
Derry Green: So you can get in touch Easiest way, social media, you know, Facebook, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok are all the same at the, the Secret Garden glamping. you can email me directly on info, the secret garden glamping.uk, or just gimme a bell. my number’s on, on the websites, on the, emails, things like that. So I’m always open to talking to everybody. You know, I have, I have lots of different, I I know probably six or 7,000 of our followers are gl site owners from different parts of the country in different parts of the world. And, and the odd one or two will message me and ask me questions. And I’m sure there’s lots of people out there who want to message but maybe feel a bit cheeky about it or maybe people don’t wanna talk about it or whatever it might be.
Derry Green: But I’m like an open book I’ll tell everybody because the, the community as a whole always an amazing community within glamping and I love being part of it. I love helping out with it. and anything I can do, cuz I’ve made so many mistakes over the past, you know, two and a half years and cost myself literally hundreds of thousands of pounds in, in mistakes that I’ve made along my journey of learning. But if you don’t have to make ’em, I’m happy to let know how to, how to not do that and how to avoid doing that. So yeah. if anybody ever wants to have a chat, just gimme a bell.
Sarah Riley: Oh, it’s been really inspirational chatting to you and I and I hope very much that your, new expansion plans go really, really well. And if you have any stories whatsoever you want to share again, do make sure you come back to me. .
Derry Green: Yeah, I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s it is been great. so yeah, I’d love to do, there’s more. Anything you ever need, I’m always
Derry Green: Here. Great. Thank you so much. Well, lovely to speak to you and see you soon.
Sarah Riley: Very welcome. Take care.
Sarah Riley: What an absolute star he was. Well, I’m sure you will join me in wanting to thank de for his time on the podcast sharing his expertise and his experience and basically getting you all fired up and inspired to move forward. So you can do that just by dropping a review into the platform that you are listening to this podcast on. We both really appreciate it. And if you wanna go and check out the show notes, you can do that by going to inspired camping.com/ 0 5 7 as this is episode 57. We do that for all of our episodes. Or you can check out all of the podcasts and all of the platforms that they’re on over on inspired courses.com. That’s where I have all of my masterclass and lots of lovely support there where you can get all the answers to all the questions that you’ve got. There is even agreed very kindly to come into my club and to give some extra details, some juicy details about exactly the steps he took to get success he’s had. So without further ado, make sure you subscribe to this podcast so that you don’t miss out on future episodes to really get your inspiration bubbling. Take care. See you soon.
Thanks to The Secret Garden Glamping