Kate and Alan Sefton, the first franchisees of The Club, had always wanted to live in the country, away from their urban roots in the Black Country. Over time, their dream of a rural lifestyle began to grow, prompting them to investigate ways of achieving their ambition and also to identify an opportunity that would enable them to earn a decent living.
At the time, they lived in the West Midlands where Kate was a deputy head teacher and Alan was head of support services for computers in education. Keen campers and caravanners all their 25 years of married life, they decided to buy a campsite – long before they knew anything about franchising.
Their first attempt to become campsite owners was disappointing as the sale fell through on the day of exchange, so Kate and Alan elected to stay put for the time being. Some time later, they decided to have another go and registered with an estate agency which, coincidentally, had been appointed by the Club to help find suitable sites across the UK. The agent suggested that Kate and Alan might like to go to a meeting to find out about the Club’s franchise.
“To be honest, at the time we weren’t interested,” Kate said, “but we went out of politeness and because we thought we might learn something,” she continued.
Going to the seminar proved to be worthwhile as they learned a great deal about the benefits of franchising and they left the meeting with plenty to think about. Still undecided though, they continued their search independently for a site, whilst still considering becoming franchisees.
Kate and Alan found a campsite in an idyllic spot near Priddy, one of the most historic villages in Somerset, which they purchased privately in July 2004. By this time, they were convinced about the benefits of franchising and opted to join the Club’s franchise network.
Kate commented: “We thought it would be good advertising for our site and ensure a steady stream of bookings if we could become part of the Club’s network. We definitely wanted to work for ourselves and franchising seemed to offer a safer route than going it alone.”
Kate and Alan had been impressed by many of the other benefits of being franchisees, particularly the Club’s ability to market their sites and services so widely and effectively. “If you’re a one-man-band, how would you know which websites or magazines were best to use for an advertisement?” Kate commented.
“Now we enjoy a consistent stream of bookings, both from Club members and holidaymakers generally. Club members tend to make their bookings exclusively with Club campsites because they are assured of high standards and members tend to stay longer than the casual camper. The Club reaches a huge audience and has the facility to arrange advance bookings through its contact centre or online 24/7 booking system, which is more efficient and offers much more scope than if you tried to do it alone,” Kate continued.
Kate and Alan had management experience and had handled big budgets but neither had any actual business experience before becoming franchisees. “The Club’s expertise has been invaluable in many ways, particularly in staffing matters. When we need extra help, we sub-contract people who have been trained to a high standard by the Club, which also takes over the headaches of PAYE and NI,” Kate explained.
our years on, Kate and Alan are very settled and enjoy working together in their own business. “We love working for ourselves and we love the place,” Kate said. “We have enjoyed developing the business, for example our shop which is very popular with local people as well as our campers. We have a good reputation as we specialise in all types of local produce and also have our own on-site bakery. As a result, the shop has become a very large part of our business,” she continued.
Kate and Alan say they would recommend becoming franchisees with the Club but they believe it is important for people to be realistic about the commitment they are making. “Some people might think that living and working in the country sounds like paradise but they must remember a franchise would be their business and responsibility,” they cautioned.
“That having been said, neither of us would change what we have and we never want to go back to our old jobs,” Kate said. “And we’d certainly hate working for other people again.”