Do you have a business that you think would go down well at festivals? I asked four such entrepreneurial types, with ventures in T‑shirts, vintage tents, gourmet coffee and holistic massage – about their experiences as festival traders. Is it a combination of fun and profit, and are you guaranteed enough time out to catch a favourite band? One seasoned festival trader and three relative newbies tell their stories.
Harry Collett lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire and together with his father, started boutique tent venture, Vintents (retro canvas tents), which began trading this year. They recently finished their successful inaugural stint as festival traders at Deer Shed Festival in North Yorkshire
How did you get started?
Harry: I had worked over previous summers in the boutique camping scene. I’d seen how big it is growing, and the demand for it. So together with my father, we started collecting canvas frame tents from the 1970s and early 1980s. My dad has a passion for them. It has to be said, they aren’t easy to track down. They’ve been stowed away in people’s garages and sheds, and finding them in good nick has been hard – we’ll only take them if they are in good condition. But we’ve managed to accumulate around 25 now. We’re lucky in that we’ve got a real old-school repair workshop near us in West Yorkshire, and we’ve been able to get the stitching re-done and zips repaired.
How did your first festival work out for you?
It was really successful. We did it pro bono, as a try out and to test the market. Delighted to say that everyone was pleased with how it went. We did Deer Shed Festival and they used the tents for VIPS – John Grant’s musicians and manager were amongst those who stayed in them, they loved them. And the festival ran a competition with the prize being one of our tents for the festival – they enjoyed it too.
So what’s the next step?
We are already on the phones, seeing if we can sell the idea to more festivals. When we started, most had already got their plans sorted for 2015 and weren’t looking to start on 2016. Now we’re back from Deer Shed, we’re looking at 2016.
What about costs? And storage?
We had a storage facility anyway, so we’re able to use that. And we borrowed a caravan to transport the tents to the festival. Obviously we’ll have to look to hiring a van as things build up, and eventually perhaps buy one, but we’re not at that stage yet.
Did you get to see any of the bands, or was it all work?
Yes we saw lots! Our hardest work is before the festival setting up, and at the end. During the festival, we always made sure that someone was on hand and able to sort out problems, but it’s the sort of business that allows us to have time out to enjoy it too.
In the 1990s, Simon Jones and his partner created Mental Peace, a clothing company, in Amsterdam. Glastonbury and Womad were just two of the festivals they traded at regularly.
Chris Kingshott started his gourmet coffee company, King Shots, a mere 12 weeks ago. Chris, from Cheltenham, has already done his first festival and there’s another on the horizon
What made you want to start a coffee company?
Chris: When I was younger, I went travelling and ended up in Australia, where I learnt to be a barista and absolutely loved it. The place I worked was serious about their coffee, and I developed a passion for it. Earlier this year a friend here at home was selling their coffee van. I decided it was the right time to go for it, so I bought the van, rebranded it and bought all the equipment.
So how are things progressing?
I was lucky as my first booking was a private event for restaurateur and presenter Pru Leith at her house, and I had an incredibly positive reaction from everyone.
You started as a festival trader earlier this year, how did it go?
I started a bit late for this year’s festival season but I did Rovin’ Fest in Cheltenham, which was a great experience and I learned a lot. The atmosphere was really good and there was great camaraderie amongst the traders. The next one I’ll be at is Stroud Fringe [free family festival]. The plan after that is to compile a database of all the festivals, and email hundreds of them for 2016.
How are you finding the expenses for festivals?
A lot of them want the money up front. Then there’s insurance, PAT testing on electricals, and hygiene rating.
What coffee do you use?
It’s a special roast, roasted for Green Bean Machine in Cheltenham. I tried lots of coffees before selecting this one. Obviously this venture has to make money, but it’s about more than that, this is something that is my passion. Every coffee we make is freshly ground to order, and customers can have it however they want. I get the beans every week to make sure they are at their freshest.
Are you a seasoned festival goer?
Yes, I used to go to the Isle of Wight, and 2000 Trees. I love the atmosphere and I knew I’d enjoy working at festivals.
Nina Milburn is a professionally-trained masseuse and has been working at festivals as “Massage for Wellbeing” for three years
What kind of therapy do you offer?
I offer holistic massage, it’s is designed to improve your mental and physical state, which is why my professional name is “Massage for Wellbeing”.
I have been going to festivals all my life with my family, and after doing the massage course thought it would be a great way of going to them each summer, and a way of making some money at the same time.
Nina Milburn – firstname.lastname@example.org
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