Bee Inspired - Business in a Campervan
Buying campervan for both business and pleasure was Robin and Alison’s plan, and they bought their Manhattan from Sussex Campervans in 2018.
Since then, they’ve transported their Beeinspired exhibition stand and all the products from their home in Thames Ditton, Surrey, to numerous country shows and local markets around Britain.
Alison explains, “Robin designed a flat pack shelving system for the stand. It all goes neatly into the roof area of our Sussex Campervan, held in place by batons across the top. Where would we all be without ‘really useful boxes’ – all the stock is stored in those, which stack neatly against the kitchen area, then the tables stack against them, and the three-square metre gazebo fits neatly into the storage cupboard and floor area nearest the sliding side door – we have it off to a fine art!”
2020 has been a strange year, especially for Alison and Robin, whose life usually revolves around going to two or three shows a week, exhibiting, selling and camping there. Luckily they have a website.
Alison says, “We’ve been to Craft In Focus events at Hever Castle and Trentham – four-day events, when we camped in the van. We were much better organised than usual for this, as we took food for all nights, rather than relying on pubs as we used to. This saved money, and we found it less tiring, because we didn’t have to book all our meals in pubs and then drive to them, after long day on the stand. The campsite for Trentham was really well organised for Covid security, so we were pleased.”
At Hever Alison carried on sewing in the campervan, because they can’t make the masks fast enough to keep up with demand this year. She took the sewing machine, and they borrowed an inverter, so that she could finish making more of the colourful fabric masks in the evenings.
“I’ve also made a glorious throw for the van from all the scraps of fabric left from making the BeeswaxWraps and Masks – it goes with the orange floor in our campervan – waste not want not!” (See photo below)
“The Craft in Focus events are a dream, as we’re surrounded by some of the most creative and talented people in the country,” says Alison. “All exhibitors are the artists, craftsmen and makers and nobody is selling mass-produced goods. It was certainly my ‘happy place’ as the atmosphere of creativity is inspiring. I love meeting like-minded people, both among the visiting public and our fellow exhibitors. The events are always held in beautiful places, too, so the walk to and from work is a delight! Whenever we have a lull I spend my time looking around and talking to other exhibitors, making a wish list, as there are many things I covet!”
When she is not working flat out making products for BeeInspired, Alison has a part-time gardening job, and uses the campervan to travel to work. There’s plenty of room on board for all her gardening tools, too. And of course it provides a very handy shelter if the weather turns against her during the day’s work.
Alison’s passion for bees began on their allotment, when she got chatting to beekeepers there. She took up beekeeping, and the business grew from there. She says, “The natural healing benefits of beeswax and honey are well known; including having antibacterial, antiseptic and antifungal properties. They make superb natural moisturisers for our skin, and work beautifully to nourish wood and leather, too. What’s not to love?”
When they are not attending craft shows, Alison and Robin use their campervan to drive to Chamonix, in the French Alps, to stay with their son, who is a ski instructor. There's no room for them in their son's flat so they sleep in their Manhattan campervan, just outside the apartment block in Chamonix, at the foot of Mont Blanc.
Ever the inventor, Robin has designed a folding shelf system for their son’s flat, which they took in the campervan during their visit in February.