Ever camped in your backyard as a kid? UK-based startup Camp in my Garden is reviving that rustic charm by allowing homeowners to offer up their gardens as campgrounds to anyone for a reasonable price. Think of it as AirBnB meets the outdoors.
Campinmygarden.com is the brainchild of Victoria Webbon who gives (VentureBeat syndication partner) VentureVillage the low-down of the world’s first garden camping community…
VentureVillage: Hi Victoria, tell us more about Camp in my Garden.
Victoria Webbon: We launched in March last year, and since then the reaction’s been amazing. I expected it would be a slow-burning development over a number of years rather than what became a matter of months with so much press interest. … I never envisaged it’d grow quickly and become so popular in such a short time.
We now have 600 gardens on the site and are getting between six to 10 new gardens a day. Currently, half of those gardens are in the UK and half are international. On the website, you can narrow down your search by location, or see what’s in the area of any big upcoming event or festival. You can also narrow down your search by facilities provided, such as barbecues, extra tents, and showers.
VV: What was the inspiration behind the idea?
VW: The idea came to me when I was at Wimbledon three years ago … and since then it’s just become more and more apparent that we could do with more camping options in the UK and abroad as well.
I love camping myself, and in the UK the campsites that we have are now very, very, over-populated because camping’s become really popular in the UK. What I’m attracted to with camping is being out in the open and having space around me, and at a lot of campsites that’s no longer possible because of popularity. So, I wanted to create more opportunities for campsites to pop up in all different locations – not just in the countryside but also in towns and places where there aren’t many camping options.
VV: Tell us bit about yourself and your team.
VW: I’m a chartered surveyor and still am part time, and that’s what I’ve done since I left university. My brother Robert helps me and has been very much involved from the start. We also have Hamish, who is focusing on marketing and then our website designer Aaron – who’s fantastic. Aaron has been involved from the start and out of all the website designers I’d met with, he understood the idea the best. As for me – I’m really looking forward to working on Camp in my Garden full time.
VV: Who are your competitors?
VW: AirBnB have a few garden-stay options, but our competitors are mainly commercial campsites. What we’re doing is unique as we’re more like the boutique hotels of camping rather than a place full of campers. Camp in my Garden is a more quiet and private option.
VV: How will you make money? Does Camp in my Garden take a cut from paid bookings?
VW: At the moment, no. However that’s in the works, and it’ll be made clear to everybody who has or will put their garden up on the website. Up to now, it’s been a free promotional period so people can try it and see if they like using the site and for us to get Camp in my Garden up to scratch. As with most young websites, we’ve had a few teething problems. We’re now confident that the website is working well, and there’s still a few things we need to do with the booking system, but in time we’ll be taking a very small percentage from garden owners. We’ll also be looking at advertising opportunities for the website.
VV: Is there something that you’re missing? An employee, an investor or an office?
VW: I think we could always do with more people on the team, but at this stage it’s all been done on goodwill. They’ll all be given a share of the company, but I think you can never have too many hands on board. Fortunately, it’s a fun project and we have people who are interested and willing to put their time and faith in it. We’re 100 percent bootstrapped, but are preparing business plans so that we’re in position to take it to the next level. We’ll need an investor on board later on for wider marketing.
VV: What’s your dream garden to camp in?
VW: There’s one on the website that’s amazing, and I probably will stay in it before summer ends. It’s a garden that has an outdoor cinema, a fire-pit, and in a word it’s just beautiful. There are so many others I’d like to stay in, and ultimately I’d love to do a global tour of various campsites around the world.
VV: What advice would you give to fellow startups?
VW: Don’t underestimate costs, for a start. It costs more than you imagine, even to just have a website. It does put you under a lot of financial pressure, so make sure you’re realistic about figures. Also, it’s important to have a niche – especially if you don’t have a huge budget. It should be important enough for the press and public to take an interest in. If I hadn’t had any press interest, I wouldn’t have gotten this far in a short amount of time.
VV: Where do you hope to be in a year’s time?
VW: Hopefully working on the site full time with my brother and, ideally a few more people. By then, I’d like to think that Camp in my Garden has continued its expansion – worldwide. I would definitely like to be bringing in an income of sorts!
This story originally appeared on VentureVillage. Copyright 2012