Member of the Month: Claire Passos

Member of the Month: Claire Passos
Claire Passos
Claire PassosCaracol Glamping

Posted: Wed 22nd May 2024

Congratulations to our Member of the Month for May, Claire Passos, founder of Caracol Glamping.

Claire describes herself as a risk-taker but a planner, while her husband, Ade, is risk-averse yet decided to "come along for the ride". Now in their third season, it seems that the gamble has paid off, with both quitting their other jobs to make Caracol Glamping their sole focus.

Ade is the operations director, managing the maintenance side of things while Claire deals with marketing, business, networking and collaborations. She explains:

"We are in our third season (opened in June 2022) but without trying too hard, we're booked up almost every weekend until September. Other than it being a ‘glamp site’, where individual guests come, we've got eight bell tents in the field and it's a perfect space for groups."

Did you always want to start a business?   

I left school at 16 and just got a job straight away. I didn't really know what I wanted to do apart from travel. That was my focus, so I became a travel agent and travelled a lot. I then worked in business development roles for PR and marketing agencies but wanted to get off that train.

I wanted to do something for myself and more to the point, sell something that I loved because I loved selling travel. I was passionate and enthusiastic about it, less so when I worked for an agency, selling websites and marketing.

I love camping and glamping and wanted to do something but thought it would happen much later on when I retired. I'd buy some land and get a house with a couple of bell tents on it.

Then COVID-19 happened. It instigated the opportunity as I was furloughed from my agency. This gave me time to explore.

How did the idea for the business come about? 

We watch Countryfile every weekend and they talk a lot about farm diversification. So we decided to put it into the ether to see if anyone was interested. I put an ad in the National Farmers Union newsletter and fortunately, Michael Bourne from New Park Farm and Groombridge Farmshop, who owns a fruit farm, got in touch with me straight away.

He grows asparagus and you have to leave the field fallow for four years to regenerate. He had a field that wasn't doing anything and this worked well for both of us.

Once we decided to rent the space from Michael, we had to go through the planning process, which was massive. We are in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so we had to tick a lot of boxes in terms of ecology and sustainability. This whole process took 18 months and surprisingly, we had no objections from the local community.

When did you know it was a viable business?

You need to have a level of trust in your offer. I wouldn’t have left my employed job any sooner as I didn't have as much faith in our offer as I do now. The fact that we just opened and are fully booked all summer, gave me the level of comfort to say I want to take a punt at this full-time.

Where I need to make more money is the midweek stuff, which is corporate retreats, away days and events. Working on it as a side hustle, I just didn't have the time.

Because it's a seasonal business, it's never going to sustain us year-round. The ultimate goal is to earn enough money in the summer to travel in the winter.

Caracol Glamping tent

Tips for running a seasonal business.

You've got to be good at your marketing. Our business is hugely word of mouth so we need to engage with the local community and get press in local magazines.

We sponsor local schools and offer charity prizes for their functions. I network and am looking at other opportunities like brand partnerships. I want to work with lots of health and wellbeing suppliers like yoga teachers, meditation and sound bars. You’ve just got to be everywhere!

Claire and Ade

What’s next for Caracol Glamping?

I see it growing in terms of an event space. I want to develop that side of the business so we’re discussing a Thursday evening music session in the summer, where we’ll collaborate with the local musicians and artists. I want to explore the possibility of micro-weddings and making Caracol Glamping a great space to entertain.

I am also thinking about expanding as there is a real appetite for it and we're turning business away. I am up for it, especially now that this is my full-time job and I can focus on it.

We've got some amazing local businesses in Tunbridge Wells. There's a good brewery not far from us and they've got a piece of land they may want to do something with. There's also an amazing café that I want to approach to see if we can expand the Caracol brand.

When did you first become aware of the Enterprise Nation platform?

I came across Enterprise Nation when I first started and the e-learning resources were great. I want to explore it more now that this is my only job!

I have just joined the Online small business meet-up networking group and will also be using a lot of Enterprise Nation’s articles.

Want to be part of the Enterprise Nation community like Claire? Sign up for free or upgrade to adviser membership.

Claire Passos
Claire PassosCaracol Glamping
Hello, I am the founder of Caracol Glamping, a business that was started with a dream to one day owning my own glamping business.  Having worked since I was 16, I knew that I'd gain the skills and knowledge to one day set up my own business doing something that I loved. My career to date has provided my with a brilliant background in marketing and communications, this has help enormously with the set up of my company.  I'm so happy to have found Enterprise Nation and look forward to exploring all of the useful features and benefits that will help me on my business founder journey.

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