Derry claims he had never seriously considered external funding before working with the Access to Finance Lancashire team following a business event in Ormskirk. Secret Garden Glamping began in 2020 after Derry initially built a single glamping pod for his children during lockdown. When he shared the pod’s construction process on Facebook, the business began to appear in several media outlets. Derry then listed the pod on Airbnb and it quickly became fully booked for more than two years in advance. From there, he began to organically grow Secret Garden Glamping through the construction of more pods which were funded through the advance bookings.
He said: “We had almost unlimited customers but very limited availability. Our model was to grow using income generated by bookings to build more pods, but this meant our growth was limited by our revenue. “Funding just wasn’t on my agenda. By 2023, we had just been granted planning permission for five new units and I was keen to grow at a faster rate than we were, but I didn’t think a glamping site which had only recently launched would be taken seriously by finance providers.” Derry attended an event held by West Lancashire Borough Council in Ormskirk which was also attended by Boost; Lancashire’s Business Growth Hub as well as Access to Finance Lancashire. Following an initial conversation, he worked with Access to Finance’s experts who guided him through the full range of different finance options. The Access to Finance team identified a loan from Lancashire County Council’s Rosebud Finance as the best option for the business and worked with Jonathan Nelson, senior loans manager at Rosebud to prepare Secret Garden Glamping’s application which included developing growth and cash flow forecasts.
“Speaking with Access to Finance really changed my perspective about funding. Having someone impartial who could guide me through the different options was really important and made me realise that external funding could accelerate our growth,” Derry said. Access to Finance Lancashire is available to Lancashire businesses and is operated by a team of former banking professionals and finance experts which works with businesses to understand their needs, identify their finance options and help them secure finance suited to their ambitions. In addition to help from Access to Finance Lancashire, Derry received support through Boost to strategically prepare the business for the accelerated growth. Secret Garden Glamping secured the Rosebud loan in May this year and the site has now expanded from 7 to 12 glamping pods available for hire. After starting with just Derry, the company is now employing 14 staff and recently won Leisure and Tourism Business of the Year at BIBAs 2023.
However, with demand to book the pods still outstripping supply, Derry plans to continue to scale the business, which involves acquiring and developing a second location close to the current Secret Garden Glamping site. He said: “Each time we have expanded, demand has increased in line with availability, and I’ve always wanted to expand again quickly. Our current site may not give us scope to continue to build further pods and I want to know that we could add 10-20 new units quickly – the new site will allow for that.” To support the site acquisition, the company is in the process of agreeing a new six-figure loan from a commercial provider and has again received support from Access to Finance to prepare its funding application. Derry said: “The process of applying for the second loan has been very quick. The support from Access to Finance initially meant we now have our figures, forecast and other documents available – they just needed to be updated ready for the second loan.”
He believes many businesses simply don’t consider external funding, because of a lack of knowledge, but urges those looking to grow to consider the possibilities and seek help when they need it. “A lot of business owners just don’t understand what’s out there. There’s a lot of different options and navigating them can be hard, but taking on funding has meant we have grown exponentially, and we’re now set to continue on that path,” said Derry. “There is a wealth of funded business support available both to help business grow and also to gain the funding to fuel that growth. By making that move to access to support you can open up opportunities you didn’t know existed.” To find out more about how the Access to Finance Lancashire services can benefit your business, visit: https://a2flancashire.growthco.uk/