Running Our Own Glamping Business : The Highs and Lows

Once we’d come up with ‘The Best Campervan Awning Ever’, we then needed to set about imparting the joy of the glawning to others and actually making it into the business we believed it could be. This involved a lot of hard work and fun, in equal measure. With his own bare hands my husband designed our website using Adobe Muse by watching hours of online tutorials to teach himself web design.  Meanwhile I set up all the social media known to man to plug our products.  The joy (and curse) of the smart phone means I can blend every tweet/facebook/instagram/pin/like/retweet/blog into everyday life, often doing so as I walk to and from my other job, narrowly avoiding being run over a few times.

We attended as many VW festivals and shows as physically possible, up and down the country to show off and sell our glawnings, stoves and coir matting, meeting lots of avid campervan fans along the way, not to mention lots of lovely kids and cute dogs.  There aren’t many occupations where you get to drink on the job (definitely one of the highs).

It extends the camping season so much that when we’re not showing and telling we’ve been able to go away ourselves even in the dead of winter and still be all toasty in the glawning – all in the name of ‘market research’ of course.  We’ve even had a Christmas glawning party in the back garden! It’s a standalone tent / driveaway awning so it doesn’t need the canopy and campervan to work.

2014-12-26 18.43.57-1

It hasn’t all been a walk in the park.  We’ve had our setbacks and we’ve learned first hand what a steep learning curve it is to set up your own business.  When we started out we were storing all of our stock in our living room.  It wasn’t a lot of fun wading knee deep through glawnings 24/7.  We didn’t have a trailer so every time we went to a show we’d pile about eight glawnings and stoves into the back of the van, drive for hours and then have to decant any that we didn’t sell back into the house.  We’ve had major production delays, we’ve had horrendous weather at shows, we’ve had van breakdowns, we have round the clock enquiries to respond to, and much more.  All this whilst still having day jobs and running Retro Runaways VW campervan hire.  At times it was NOT pretty.   But as time moved on and the business evolved we got ourselves a little trailer and we now have a lock up near our house to store all the paraphernalia…such luxuries.  We’ve also just sold Retro Runaways VW campervan hire so that we can channel more of our energies into glawning world domination.

We have had hundreds of chats and lots of feedback from our wonderfully supportive customers and potential customers which has led to us change supplier this year and make some improvements to the glawning in the form of a darker sandy colour of canvas, zipped in luxury ground sheet, luminous guy ropes, heavy duty stakes and pegs, zipped on canopy, and more, not to mention bringing back the highly demanded 5m version.

Here is our new glawning2016:

It has all been quite the adventure but the best bit is seeing our customers enjoying the product we created. There is already a superb community of glawning owners out there, growing daily, whose support, kind words (and photos*!) we are indebted to.  One day, we’re all going to meet up for a festival of our own, I promise.  In the meantime, glawning owner or not, if you find yourself at a show where we’re exhibiting please come and see us.  You’ll receive a very warm welcome.

This is where I’ll be:


2014-09-13 08.53.07

*Photos of our customers doing us proud (thank you):

2016-02-03 21.13.00.jpg


How the glawning came to be…

We’ve camped A LOT since 2010 when we tentatively joined the VW campervan owners world by spending our life savings on a brand new Danbury conversion called Babs. We took to our new way of life like ducks to water and never looked back.  Anyone with a campervan knows the joys of being able to hit the road at a moments notice and be set up at a campsite with a beer within a couple of hours, away from the house and all those odd jobs.  Bliss.004

We well and truly caught the bug and added another Brazilian Bay to our collection (Jemima) so we could build a business hiring them out in between our own camping trips.

It was on one such trip that the first seeds were planted for the creation of the very glamourous awning we sell today. However great campervanning is, we’re always on the lookout for ways to make it even better, and on a trip to Scotland in 2013 we decided we’d had enough of our nasty nylon awning.  It was dark green (boring).  It had ripped off the side of the van in the middle of the night during gale force winds in Scotland (scary).  It was freezing in there (brrr).  It was a dumping ground for all our junk (yuk).  On the whole, it was an embarrassment to put alongside the campervans we were so proud of. We were convinced we could do better.  We started a series of ‘what ifs’.  What if we could get an awning that was made of canvas and didn’t rip all the time?!  What if we could get an awning that was pretty and nice to sit in like a mini living room?!  What if we could get an awning with a little wood burner inside?! Thinking that our ideas, if they were possible, would probably have already been done we started researching with a vengeance to find the perfect awning we’d had in our minds eye. It didn’t exist.  Anywhere.  Not to be outdone we drew a design of ‘Our Dream Awning’ and approached a bespoke tent making company in hope.

Voila! Here it is on its first outing at How Stean Gorge Campsite in Yorkshire:

How Stean Gorge

It fitted to our gutter rail using a pole and clamp and all we needed were a few tweaks here and there to the canopy before it was pretty much spot on.  We fitted an Anevay Frontier woodburning stove in it using a flashing kit and had a glamping weekend that we thought only dreams are made of.

The unpredictable British weather did its worst but we were toasty everywhere we went with our glawning and woodburner. Some rugs, bunting and Moroccan lights later and we had a home from home that we were so proud to attach to the van.  And one that doesn’t go into orbit in high winds either.  The stability of the glawning is excellent because everything is tensioned on one central pole and pegged out at twelve points with strong guy ropes and pegs.

Our first interior photoshoot:

Glawning Interior How Stean

We got so much attention wherever we went that we were sure it was a marketable product.  We decided to christen our glam awning the ‘glawning’ (geddit?!) and to trademark the name and register the design rights. With shaking hand we placed our first bulk order.  We needn’t have worried. With glamping being so popular the 4m and 5m glawning soon took off as many campervan owners were on the lookout for something more luxurious and robust than nylon to while away their camping weekends in.  And this was just the beginning! Tune in again soon for the next instalment on the glawning timeline –  ‘Running Our Own Glamping Business:  The Highs and Lows’…

2015-12-31 18.34.15