After starting and running a successful events bar business for the past 7 years, the owners of CamperVin Wine found themselves severely affected by the Coronavirus outbreak so had to look at alternative avenues for their business to survive. Read their story.
Introduce yourself and CamperVin Wine Online, what was your motivation behind starting the business and what do you sell?
Will started CamperVin 7 years ago – and over the years built a really successful events bar company. CamperVin supplied bars to really exciting events like Royal Ascot, The Oval, Badminton Horse trials and many more. 2020 was due to be the best year yet as Will had secured the food and beverage at both Gatcombe horse trials and The Cheltenham Literature festival. But as the pandemic hit – we watched event after event getting cancelled. Will knew that without a very quick change we were going to be in real trouble. And so we decided to get on with it and take the stock that we had and start selling it. We thought to begin with it would be a fire sale, having wine in the stores was of no use to us now and so we created a Facebook post to see if there was an appetite for home delivery.
You’re quite new to selling online, how long did it take you to get set up and how did you promote your new business?
I suppose we were lucky that we already have a small local following from running events like the Cheltenham Cricket festival – so we started there. We tried to use Facebook and Instagram to let people know what we were up to. But within two weeks we were receiving orders on FB, WhatsApp, and by phone. Three notebooks later and couple of missed orders – I tried to create an order page on the old events website and that helped a bit. But we quickly realised that there was a client base and we needed a much better order and payment system. So we contacted a local firm called Four Box and asked for some advice. That’s where we first heard about EKM.
Tell us more about your products
When we’d made the decision to start a wine merchant – we did what everyone would do we searched our competitors, they all had a great offering but we felt there was a less elitist way to approach wine sales. We call this the elbow patch rule. If we think the tasting notes and the bottle feel like a lecture – we avoid the product. We wanted exciting wines from all over the world that not only tasted great – felt new and vibrant. We quickly found like minded brands and started to create a wine list that we now refer to as “wine without waffle” They are the wines we would want to serve our friends – if we were ever allowed to have dinner with them again. The labels are less traditional, but the wine is superb. But to make sure we didn’t alienate anyone who came to the shop we added local craft beers, ales and ciders, we added great Gins and mixers. Whilst no one could go out for their Friday night we wanted to bring the Friday to them. We consciously keep our pricing lean to make sure that on top of a great service – all our customers get value for money.
How did you earn your first sale and how did it feel?
I think the first wave of orders came from friends, and it felt like support rather than business. The first time we received an order from a name we didn’t know – that’s when things got exciting. We began to think not only might we sell the wine we had in store – we might start ordering in. we started to see a way through 2020 after all.
Did you have any experience in selling online before starting your business?
None at all – we don’t even really sell the events service online, Will worked on reputation and recommendation. Together we have learned more skills in the last 8 weeks that we have in the last 8 years!
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced since starting your business?
Finding new clients, we have great retention of clients, but we know to make this work we need to build the client base. We are also facing a very limited marketing budget and so we are trying to use every avenue that we can. We would love to double to level of orders – but we suppose that’s what everyone is hoping to do.
What do you love most about running your own business?
Freedom – Will and I have both worked 9 – 5 jobs, and have actually both been really successful, but never found the roles gave us joy. Creating something from nothing and getting good feedback is great – especially if you can make it a successful business.
How have you managed with the effect Coronavirus has had on businesses?
In fact, is was the virus that created the business. We had less than a week from when lockdown began to make the first sale. We are now determined to make this a stand-alone business which we hope will run alongside the events business which is very summer oriented.
What are your plans for the future?
We plan to expand into wedding and party packages, and of course, we’ll be creating specialist Christmas packages in the hopes we will all be sitting down with family again by then. We would really like to focus on the local deliveries, we can offer bespoke services and in some cases even same-day delivery, but always next day which our customers are loving.
Why did you choose EKM for your new online business?
As self-confessed luddites we needed a platform that Will and I could both use, and maintain without incurring huge monthly costs. We knew we would want to increase the product line and so we needed a platform that could scale up as and when we needed it. We also wanted something that was crisp and modern, as we wanted the site to look and feel different from the elbow patch brigade out there. We hope we have achieved it, and we are making changes every day to keep the offering slick. If you wanted to a testimonial from CamperVin Wine Online – we’d say that if we can use it – anyone can. It’s a great platform and we are glad we choose you guys.