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Self-Starter Stories: From Agile Business Analyst to Starting a CamperVan Rental Service

This week's #selfstarterstory features Mary Hamley, Co-owner of Wanderlust on Wheels, a rentable campervan company based in the UK.

#PickYourselfUK caught up with Mary to learn more about her entrepreneurial journey.

Looking back, what lead you to be where you are today?: Having the courage to take out a loan and invest in my first campervan.

What was the most challenging part of starting a business?: There's a never-ending learning curve, from understanding the difference between an LTD and sole trader and which is best for me, to which van would be the most reliable and marketable.

But the most challenging part was realising how valuable marketing is for any business and how it needs to be a huge part of day-to-day activities. However great your product or service, no one will use it if they don't know it exists!

What did you want to be when you were a child?: A Vet, as I love animals.

What was your last job?: I still work as a Business Analyst in Manchester and focus on my business on evenings and weekends.

When did you choose to PICK YOURSELF instead of waiting to be chosen by someone else?: I did enjoy my job as a business analyst but over time I began to realise the routine of 9 - 5, and being stuck in an office wasn't for me. I wanted to be my own boss, choose my own hours, and create my own success.

Do you do everything yourself? What do you outsource?: I like to do most things myself to keep costs low while the business is still starting out. I've had to outsource a lot of the work on the van such as certifying the gas hob and fitting the fridge as I simply couldn't do that myself. I have seen courses to learn to convert your own van so that's something I'm considering for when I expand my fleet.

What is your productivity secret?: Mobile technology helps me to be productive even late at night. I like to reply to customers almost straight away and with my phone by my side, I can answer calls and reply to emails at any time.

What is your favourite app?: That has to be the WIX website app which notifies me of bookings as soon as they come in. I also like the Google Analytics app which gives lots of information on visitors to the website which is really encouraging and pushes me to keep making improvements on the site - it'll never be completely finished in my eyes!!

How do you market your business?: I have been trying a variety of ways:
1. Facebook groups - I never realised before just how many people are in small local groups on Facebook
2. Instagram - I started my Instagram account as I love the app and looking for inspiration on others' photos. But I've now got over 700 followers and often have people message me asking to hire the van, which I was surprised people found me that easily. I also use Twitter but not as regularly.
3. SEO is very important to me and most of my customers have found me organically through searching on Google. I've got several great reviews up now too which I think helps me to stand out from the competition. 
4. I've just printed some leaflets that I hope to put up around local towns so it will be interesting to see how that goes.

Wanderlust on Wheels Website September 2017

Wanderlust on Wheels Website September 2017

When you first launched, how did you get your first paying customers?: My first customers came through AirBnB and wanted to take my campervan to Glastonbury! So it was an exciting first trip out, and I was so nervous about how comfortable they would find it and if they would have a good time. Of course, they loved it, and it was such a relief to hear their stories when they got back, and how they want to invest in their own camper now!

How did you get your first traffic to your website?: By using WIX my SEO was pretty good and my first traffic arrived before the camper was even available and ready to go out.

What would you say to someone who is toying with the idea to start a business but haven't yet?: Get the courage together and go for it! It's far better to try than to sit there wondering what could be...

To stay up to date with Mary's journey, follow her on her social media channels below:

Mary Hamley has qualified for the #PickYourselfUK Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year award 2017. If you'd like to enter yourself or nominate a small business entrepreneur for this award, please submit your story below.