A night out with her mothers’ group gave rise to a brilliant business idea for mother of two, Kath Clements, who has struck the perfect work/life business with her tent hire business, Under The Little Top, which she operates from her home in suburban Perth.
“We were literally having dinner one night, probably this time two years ago, and we were all sitting there, having this chat about ‘what’s next’, having mid-life career crisis, as you do,” Kath explains.
“And then, one of my friends told me she’d been trying to hire a teepee for her son’s birthday and couldn’t get one in Perth, and was like, ‘You should buy a couple of them, Kath, and set them up for other people!”
And just like that – the business was born.
Kath, who had previously held marketing roles for big corporate companies, was keen to start a small-scale business that would allow her the time she craved to be at home with her young family.
“I literally went home and was like, ‘How hard can it be? I’ll buy a couple of tents, get some mattresses and cushions,” she says. “That was two years ago – I bought my first two tents in January last year, and now I’ve been going 18 months.”
In that time, Kath has watched her little backyard business grow exponentially – from an initial capital outlay of just $3000 and two tents.
She credits her success with a stroke of ‘right place, right time’ good luck – and lots of hard graft.
“I think I probably subscribe to the philosophy of the lady who owns Boost Juice, who was, like, ‘Yeah, I just went out and bought some oranges and started squeezing them!’” she laughs. “So, I bought the tents, bought some stuff to go in the tents, took some photos and put an ad on Gumtree – and it just went from there.”
Although she makes it sound easy, Kath spent a good 12 months fine-tuning her business, working on her online presence, and nutting out the every-day logistics of assembling and storing her product. She was also mindful to stay on top of her outgoings.
It was during this time that she discovered the solution to a problem she wasn’t even aware she’d have when starting out.
“We have bought a shed to store the tents. But we live on a really small block, so I can’t even set one of them up in our yard – I’m short by about three metres,” she explains. “And, actually, I found a lot of people were in this position – they just didn’t have the space.
“So I went out and bought some tents that were a lot smaller, and had a smaller footprint, and didn’t require guy ropes. Straight away we had people booking them.”
One of the biggest challenges for Kath has been managing the growth of her business. While she’s been tempted to expand quickly to accommodate the burgeoning interest, she knows this might not actually be the best strategy.
“I get lots of enquiries from people wanting me to do their weddings, or to set up a venue with, like, fifty tents,” she explains. “In the beginning I said I wasn’t just going to do one style of party – I do slumber parties, ‘glamping’, kids slumber parties and heaps of hen’s events – I try not to pigeonhole myself. But one of the reasons why I wanted to do this was because I was sick of working in the corporate world.
“I was sick of working for other people, and I wanted something that was my own. I have to keep telling myself when I turn down business that I don’t want fifty casual staff and trucks. The money would be great, but I still want to be home to do the school run.”
Fast forward 18 months, and Kath believes she’s struck the right balance. Although she finds herself working weekends setting up other people’s parties, she only takes on as much as she can handle. She now has five tents, one trailer, and a car for transporting – and she still does most of it herself.
“I said, ‘What do I want? I don’t want to work a day job. I don’t want to work two jobs’,” she explains. “Once I really started to give it more focus and attention, it became a much better lifestyle for me.
“I’m so glad I did it.”
The above post was contributed by Clare Rigden. Clare is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist with over sixteen years experience writing about entertainment, fashion and lifestyle. She has worked for every major publication in the country, including The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, The Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun, Courier Mail, Woman’s Day, New Idea and TV Week. She’s interviewed everyone from Beyonce to Toadie from Neighbours, but still loves nothing more than curling up on the sofa with a good book and a nice cup of tea. In 2008 she went freelance, operating her business, Written and Illustrated, from her home base in Melbourne. She is available for freelance commissions. Please contact me for her details or look her up on LinkedIn.