Campervan business a soaraway success for former oil and gas worker

An adventure travel business is gearing up for further growth after securing financial support for its expansion plans and riding the staycation boom during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Set up in July 2020 by ex-oil and gas sector manager Eileen O’Farrell, Aberdeen-based Camperceilidh Campers has secured £25,000 of funding from DSL Business Finance to buy its second VW campervan.

It follows an initial £25,000 loan package delivered as part of the British Business Bank (BBB) Start Up Loans programme.

Camperceilidh Campers is on track to deliver a profit in only its second year of trading.

With bookings up 175% year-on-year, Ms O’Farrell is mulling the acquisition of a third vehicle this winter.

Customers enjoying staycations in the UK have welcomed the company’s accommodation offering, with the business regularly receiving five-star ratings.

Before setting up Camperceilidh Campers, Ms O’Farrell was a chartered accountant and consulted by corporate clients such as Halliburton, PSN (now part of Wood), and Centrica.

Yachting exploits

Following the oil price downturn in 2015, she left the oil and gas industry to pursue a new adventure and joined parts of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race before becoming a Royal Yachting Association-certified commercial yacht master.

With the hospitality and sailing industry hit hard by the social distancing requirements of Covid-19, she turned her love for adventure into her own business.

She said: “I’ve had the adventure bug since backpacking around the world in 1996 and, during Covid-19 lockdown, decided to jump in at the deep end and set up an adventure travel business.

Scotland can compete with the best

“For it to be profitable and worthwhile I knew I would need more than one vehicle quite quickly.

“From my experience in sailing, I knew there was demand for adventure holidays across a broad spectrum of people.

“I’m passionate about Scotland and know how much it has to offer.  With the right infrastructure and services, we can compete with the likes of Canada and New Zealand as the top adventure destination.”

She added: “When I took the leap to set up the business, I first approached high street banks and managed to secure funding in principle, but I couldn’t get the package I was looking for at the right price.

“The funding from DSL met my requirements and I very quickly had access to the capital to buy the second campervan.

“For anyone thinking about setting up a business for the first time, I would say don’t give up.

“You are never too old to be an entrepreneur. It took me a few years thinking and planning for a Scottish adventure business and I had trawled the lending market, which at that time was risk-averse towards new starts, but if you are committed and dedicated, you can do it.”

DSL Business Finance executive director Stuart Yuill said: “As the only Scottish headquartered delivery partner of the British Business Bank scheme, we are delighted to have provided the start-up funding to Eileen such that she was able to establish the business and, having noted the success of that, make additional loan support available to assist its growth.

“She has made a great start on her entrepreneurial journey; one that we will watch with interest and optimism.”

Scots’ firms tap into BBB support worth £46m

Camperceilidh Campers is one of more than 360 companies in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire to have received a start-up loan from the UK Government-owned BBB.

Entrepreneurs in the area have together received more than £3.7 million in funding to set up their own businesses since the programme was launched in 2012.

More than 5,500 small businesses and start-ups throughout Scotland have received BBB start-up loans over the same period, drawing on £46m of support.

Mark Sterritt, UK network director, BBB, said: “We invest in creative, ambitious talent of any age through our network of delivery partners across Scotland and the wider UK.”

Recommended for you