Have wheels, will work (and travel)

Alternative uses for their homes on wheels.

For most people, owning or hiring a caravan means the freedom to hit the road and go off exploring – perhaps hitting the North Coast 500 or finding a hidden gem off the beaten track.

Scotland’s newest caravan and motorhome show, Love Touring Expo, is to pitch up at Aberdeen’s P&J Live events complex and arena from October 25-27, with the aim of showcasing the latest caravans, motorhomes and campervans and inspiring holidaymakers.

However, two local business owners have found alternative uses for their homes on wheels.

Beauty therapist Lauren Donald operates her Flawless Beauty business from a Fiat Swift motorhome, which gives her the flexibility to travel to her customers.

She previously had a salon with a swimming pool and leisure facilities and wanted to continue to stand out from the competition when she went mobile five years ago.

“I have a fully working treatment room in the motorhome, with running water and heating, and I don’t have the hassle of taking my work things into clients’ houses and setting up – it’s all there ready for nails, facials or whatever treatment I am doing.

“I’m based in Udny Green and go all the way up to Peterhead then to Stonehaven and round Aberdeenshire. The great thing about having a motorhome is that I can meet them wherever they want and at a time that suits them.

“Some clients are happy for me to park up outside their house or we can meet at their work or in a car park. I can drive there in time for them coming home or fit treatments around kids’ activities.”

Lauren (38) has two young children of her own and fits work around her responsibilities at home, as well as being able to use the motorhome for family holidays with her husband, Mark.

“I have a great wee business that fits round my kids,” she said. “I have also attracted new clients as people see me driving round and they love having a service that’s so flexible.”

For Andrew Castles, a vintage Airstream caravan has proved to be the perfect base for his Coffee at the Kings business, based in Cullen.

A former outdoor instructor who led personal development expeditions with participants ranging from 16-65 years old, Andrew turned his passion for good coffee into an unusual business.

“There are lots of quirky businesses in Cullen, but no one had tapped into the idea of using the car park near the beach to sell coffee, despite there being a clear opportunity with regular visitors and beach users,” he said.

“I had previously worked as an outdoor instructor and led some expeditions down through Nicaragua and Costa Rica, their coffee was a cut above what I was use to back home and made a real impression on me, so it was a business idea that was tucked away in the back of my brain for a while.”

Andrew (42), who has a young child and a second baby on the way, wanted premises that would catch the eye and encourage people to be curious and pay him a visit. His in-laws had an Airstream Bambi, which they’d imported many years earlier, and after a discussion plans were made to refit the Airstream for a new life in coffee.

“My pitch is in Cullen, one of the most beautiful villages on the Moray coast. With a sandy beach, coastal walks and a collection of unusual antique shops, Cullen is a busy place that attracts a growing number of visitors and tourists from throughout Scotland and further afield”.

Coffee at the Kings offers premium barista coffee, luxury hot chocolate, specialist teas, delicious traybakes and a selection of ice creams from Simpsons of Buckie.

“We took a long time to source the right kind of product and I’m very careful about who I work with. I use the ‘Highland Roast’ coffee from Inverness Coffee Roasting Co and luxury hot chocolate from The Pittenweem Chocolate Company in Fife,” said Andrew.

“Our packaging is sourced from Vegware, which is both plant based and 100% compostable, an important value for our seaside business venture.”

Andrew made some alterations to the van, including removing windows to install a serving hatch, and replacing beds with counter space and storage areas.

“Caravans are an easier entry to trading – they are relatively easy to maintain, can be adapted to suit your needs and don’t attract the same business rates as bricks and mortar. Of course, having a caravan means that my business is mobile which opens up the potential of trading at events and private hires,” added Andrew.

“We get a lot of vintage/ vehicle enthusiasts and people who holiday in their caravan at the coast – the unusual aspect of polished aluminum on a Moray beach means a lot of people comment on it, with many questions about its history and the story of the conversion. This all adds to the business feeling quite personal to the customer – their coffee caravan at their beach.”