Roughing it in the wild has been a long standing past time for many generations but has become slightly lost in the past few decades in favour of cheap Bali trips and other elaborate overseas adventures. However, with people experiencing more and more stress and busyness in their everyday lives, and wanting to cut back completely, getting away from it all has become increasingly popular. There is something magical about waking up with the sun, sleeping under the stars, and having the most complicated task of the day being how to nail oatmeal on the gas stove. Additionally, with so much to do and see in Australia”s back yard, it seems a shame not to experience our beautiful outdoors this way.
Then there is something to be said about completely removing yourself from the world and going into nature but obviously, with today”s modern society, people have come to expect a certain level of comfort in their down time. If you read my Glamping in the Grampians aka “Glampians” series on Couturing.com, you would of seen how much fun I had in my Homecamp Flinders Bell Tent. It was literally like Cirque du Doleil – being 4 metres wide the entire trip was super comfortable. It is such a luxury to be able to fit a queen air bed, stand while getting dressed, and have ample room for storage, all while being in nature. It”s like cheating camping and you get the best of both worlds – the calm of nature and the comfort of home.
The smart lady behind these amazing tents is Stephanie Francis. She and her husband Doron love camping and have spent a lot of years camping in their bell tent but couldn”t find anything similar in Australia. After many years of use and lots of comments from envious friends and family, they decided they would bring some much needed cool to the world of Melbourne camping. It”s not just about looks though – all their products are super durable, extremely comfortable and come with brand values that line up with their own personal beliefs – “buy it once” & “leave nothing but footprints” – camping gear should last a long time and the bush, desert and beach should be enjoyed for all for generations to come.
Today Steph shares her story on how she started, her successes so far and what it is all about…
What did you study and what was your original intended career path?
I went to university straight out of high school and studied a Bachelor of Arts (Public Relations) at RMIT. Based on the fact that I enjoyed and seemed to be quite good at communication, PR/communications was my intended career path.
Give us a brief background on your career to date:
After university I worked for a PR agency for a couple of years before heading off on a year-long backpacking adventure with two girlfriends. After I got back I landed a job at Undertow Media and worked my way up through the ranks there for about six years. Last year I left Undertow to focus on Homecamp and also delve into the world of freelancing.
How did Homecamp come about?
My husband Doron and I had always talked about starting our own business. Doron in particular is very entrepreneurial with lots of creative ideas.
We had owned a canvas bell tent for a few years that we took to music festivals and camping trips and every time we brought it out we would get heaps of comments on it. We started thinking it would be cool to design and manufacture our own version of the bell tent under a brand and ethos that we believed it.
We then began doing some research, particularly what was happening in the States, and could see there was a growing wave of ‘new school’ camping and outdoor brands emerging that were focused on simple, well-made products. We couldn’t find anything like it in Australia so decided to create a brand that included the tents but also other quality, well-designed products for camping and the outdoors.
We are both very much into the outdoors and have done some great camping/walking trips in our time, from climbing volcanoes in Russia, hiking in South America, the Milford Sound trek and walking the Lycian Way in Turkey. Nature and exploring excite us and we wanted to build a brand around these ideals.
We also decided to offer the event services/camp accommodation side of the business, inspired by a company in the States, which only a handful of people were doing here.
[line][pullquote width=”600″ float=”left”]I am not about ‘roughing it’ and believe that the right gear, a bit of effort and some organisation can go a long way to ensure a really comfortable and fun camping experience.[/pullquote] [line]
Doron and I love camping. In this insanely digital and connected world, it truly is the only time where you can completely switch off and just enjoy and connect with nature. Sitting by a campfire with loved ones as the sun goes down and the stars come out is one of life’s true joys (preferably with a nice glass of red too!). But I am not about ‘roughing it’ and believe that the right gear, a bit of effort and some organisation can go a long way to ensure a really comfortable and fun camping experience.
We saw a huge gap in the market when it came to camping – either it’s cheap and nasty gear that lasts one season or the uber technical stuff which can overwhelm regular people and often only appeals to guys. Homecamp is about inspiring people and equipping them with the necessary tools to get outside and enjoy nature. Whilst we enjoy camping, we don’t claim to be ‘experts’, we just get out there, give it a go and have fun. That’s what we are trying to encourage with Homecamp.
What are some of the most exciting parts of running your own business?
The thrill of knowing that you are in charge of your own destiny and success is pretty huge!
Creating our own brand and our website was one of the most exciting parts – working with the talented team at The Company You Keep to bring our vision to life was super fun.
I’ve also been excited by the level of learning that comes with running your own business. It’s amazing how much you learn when you are completely thrown into the deep end!
Meeting lots of like-minded people through the business has also been a highlight. It’s always exciting when people you respect and admire like what you’re doing.
And of course being able to work with my wonderful husband to create something we believe in.
What has been some of the biggest challenges for you?
There have been plenty! I think making big decisions on which direction to head has been a challenge. There are lots of different opportunities thrown at you and deciding which road to take can be daunting.
Cash flow! This is a big one, which I think all businesses (large and small) struggle with. But with that challenge has come a lot of learning about numbers which has been a surprising bonus – I have never been great at managing finances!
Time and juggling has also been a challenge. We are not yet in a position to do Homecamp full time so it’s lots of weekend and night work while you do other things to pay the bills.
I think overall the pressure involved in running your own business is a daily challenge, the buck stops with you, but that is also so rewarding.
How did you fund Homecamp?
We are self-funded.
What are some of the unexpected results of having your own business?
Despite how much people warn you, you are probably never fully prepared for how much work it is. And particularly if it’s something you’ve never really done before, the learning curves are huge. For example, we jumped fairly naively into the events side of the business without having any idea of how much hard work it involved!
On the positive side, the new sense of purpose has been great – there’s this feeling of drive and determination that I hadn’t felt when I was working for someone else.
The positive response to what we’ve been doing has also been wonderful. You never really know how people will respond until you’re out there in the market and we’ve been so happy with all the feedback we’ve received.[line][pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]Define your belief, what you stand for and why you are creating the business and always remember this in everything you do – if it doesn’t fit with your values, don’t do it.[/pullquote] [line]
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own business?
Firstly I would encourage them to go ahead and do it! It’s been the best thing I’ve done.
Define your belief, what you stand for and why you are creating the business and always remember this in everything you do – if it doesn’t fit with your values, don’t do it.
Outsource what you need to and get advice from experts. You can’t be expected to know everything and it’s good to acknowledge where your weak points are so you can focus on what you excel at.
Always invest properly in the things that matter – for a business like ours this was the branding, the photography and the website. We didn’t skimp, we worked with great people and it was worth it.
Always be open to meeting new people from all walks of life – sometimes the best ideas are hatched over a casual up of coffee!
[line][pullquote width=”600″ float=”left”]Always be open to meeting new people from all walks of life – sometimes the best ideas are hatched over a casual up of coffee![/pullquote] [line]
How do you define success?
Success for me is fulfilling your potential, having the freedom and flexibility to create a lifestyle you love, creating something you truly believe in, making a difference in the world and having fun every day.
What would you say to your 21 year old self?
You don’t know it now, but there is an entrepreneurial spirit in you! Believe in yourself. And maybe slow down on the drinking too… Haha.
What person dead or alive would you invite to a dinner party and why?
That’s a really tough question. First thought that popped into my mind – Arundhati Roy is the author of my all time favourite book ‘The God of Small Things’ and is an outspoken political activist – I think she’d be an entertaining and enlightening dinner guest.