October 25, 2023 7 min read
This Saturday 28th October 2023 marks ten years since we incorporated Glawning Ltd! Happy glanniversary to us!!!
Strap in. Here's our story:
When we started out in 2013 we were simply a husband and wife in North Yorkshire who loved the Great Outdoors and had a vision for pitching something posh next to our beautiful vintage campervan instead of the nasty nylon awnings that seemed to be on the market at the time.
"There HAS to be a better awning than this?!", we would cry when it blew off the side of the van/leaked/looked rubbish/ripped (delete as appropriate). There wasn't. So we went ahead and invented a glamorous canvas campervan awning that has revolutionised our sector. One of us came up with the design and one of us came up with the name so totally 50:50! Ha
In 2013 Glamping was on the rise so we dreamed of bunting, fairy lights, toasting marshmallows on a crackling wood burner and generally enjoying the camping experience come rain, hail or shine. We couldn't believe such an awning didn’t exist so we carved out our very own niche in the market for what is now well known as ‘the glawning’ in which we do all of those things on a regular basis! This glamorous 100% cotton canvas awning has been a total gamechanger for us as campers, but most importantly for the hundreds of customers who own, love and rave about it too. We were renting out our two campervans at the time and rental customers loved the glawning experience too.
We went to the Harrogate SpringDub show with our protoype and the feedback was incredible so, with a start-up capital of £5000 borrowed from the parents, we decided to get a very small number of glawnings manufactured in Yorkshire, operating from home as a sideline, selling them on weekends at as many VW festivals as we could across the country. We were still working fulltime in our 'normal jobs'. When the first batch arrived we were terrified they'd be sat in our lounge for years but we needn't have worried...
Sales quickly escalated, and the product grew a large and lovely community, with customers setting up a Glawning Owners Facebook page. We ordered another batch, and another. And another. It wasn’t long before word of the Glawning reached further afield with custom to Europe, Australasia, U.S.A and even Taiwan. Previous commercial law knowledge from a day job in the legal world has given us a head start in registering the necessary Trade Marks and Design Rights early on.
Every year since then sales figures have grown exponentially most often with customers who own them spreading the word themselves about how the product has radically altered their camping life for the better. The ripple effect is real!
In January 2017, we decided to give up our day jobs as Solicitor and Reception Manager to work full time for the business and to look after our newborn daughter. The business moved into new warehouse premises, we started ordering glawnings from overseas to keep up with demand and a new chapter began for Mr and Mrs Glawning.
In May 2017 we held a small gathering called Glampfest, of 100 glawning owners at a campsite in North Yorkshire with our own marquee and bar and some local bands and food traders. Glampfest has grown to be an all-encompassing annual festival of over 1000 people to date. A fabulous event on the show calendar that we run with the help of the wonderful Mighty Eventsteam, and is being dubbed ‘a mini Deershed’!
There have been many challenges along the way, such as in streamlining the fulfilment, shipping and warehousing functions, and making use of external companies and resources to assist with this. We moved all stock to a Fulfilment Centre in Yorkshire in March 2019 to enable us to focus on other elements of the business such as Research and Development and Marketing.
The company has continued to go from strength to strength largely on the basis of customer referrals, a strong social media presence and our fantastic customer service - we aim to please! The team remains small – the two of us and we outsource a lot.
The glawning has had a bit of airtime so far featuring on the BBC's Caravanner of the Year programme and was subsequently mentioned by Chris Evans on Radio 2. Not to mention with the fabulous Johnny Vegas on his glampsite in the C4 ‘Carry on Glamping’ series 1 and 2.
It has received excellent reviews in a number of camping magazines and articles in The Sun, Metro and Daily Mail.
We have launched several new products since our flagship glawning and have been honoured to win multiple business awards, the highest accolade being the Federation of Small Businesses National Micro Business of the Year 2022 presented in Glasgow by Clare Balding!
Other awards include the Yorkshire Prestige Awards Camping Equipment Specialists of the Year 2021 & 22, Theo Paphitis Small Business Sunday on Twitter November 2021, and Brand Yorkshire Best Micro Business 2019. In 2018 we won the ‘Ones To Watch’ and Runner Up in ‘Small Business of the Year’ at Family Business of the Year Awards in London and Finalists in the Customer Services Category at the Yorkshire Choice Awards. Of course, being such a small business any award or recognition for all the hard work means the world!
Our vision for our customers when using our products has always been what we strive to achieve ourselves when camping - quality family time, connecting with nature under the stars and getting back to the rustic basics of camping without having to forgo comfort. This often means more members of the family are able to participate because the element of ‘roughing it’ is eliminated. An awning fit for royalty! Good old-fashioned campfires, toasting marshmallows, playing board games, and learning new skills al fresco all contribute to the personal well-being we’re trying to promote by making camping more accessible to all family generations. Our products turn camping into glamping, without the hefty price tag. And they double up for use in the garden so a wise investment all round.
COVID-19 threw many challenges our way such as the cancellation almost overnight of all 52 shows and festivals we had booked to trade at during 2020 and the disbanding of 22 new reps just trained up and ready to go.
The 500% increase in shipping costs and other associated shipping headaches such as lack of HGV drivers, the Suez Canal blockage, lengthy production delays due to supply chain issues and port congestion/closures and very unpredictable sales levels all featured too.
We were out of stock on products for 6 months over peak season due to these pandemic related issues and had to rely on preorder sales. Running the business with all of these trials plus home schooling and illness wasn’t easy, but we changed our business model and channelled all our energies into online marketing. Our business model (working from home and outsourcing as much as possible) held us in good stead for the pandemic. The increase in sales levelled out the increase in shipping costs for us and we’ve been very lucky to be able to adapt our business quickly to meet the changing demands that COVID-19 brought to the world. Our hearts go out to the businesses that didn’t make it through.
Other happenings on the business rollercoaster have been moving fulfilment centre four times in the last 24 months, striving to attain a better service; Brexit making export to Europe incredibly difficult/almost impossible; and fluctuating sales skewing stock ordering as buying habits normalise following the pandemic. All makes for an interesting ride!
Onwards and upwards, we are planning some new products for 2024 as well as a new event – The Vanlife Awards- and we will be featured in the second series of C4's ‘Carry on Glamping’ with Johnny Vegas when it airs in the new year.
The future is simple: spread the Glawning love. For us this means making the Glawning accessible to a wider range of leisure vehicles with our high top range and also going global. We switched to polycotton from the heavy 100% cotton canvas three years ago to make the glawnings lighter weight and easier to care for. We launched in Germany during 2022/23, attending some big shows in the EU and now have a German rep, website and socials. We are augmenting our product portfolio constantly - with very cool roof tents this year!
Being a husband and wife team has its ups and downs and we have very different working styles. Let’s just say it’s a miracle one of us isn’t under the patio by now. But we make it work.
Success for us isn’t measured in monetary terms. It’s being able to earn a living from doing what we love – being outdoors, living under canvas, cozily drinking wine by a woodburner even when it’s blowing a gale outside our tent. It’s being able to ditch the daily commute and work from the office we’ve installed at the bottom of the garden. It’s attending Glampfest annually, seeing hundreds of glawnings in a field, their owners enjoying something we created. Glampfest raises money for a different local charity each year and brings everyone together for a shared appreciation of glawnings, glamping and Yorkshire. It's such a special weekend for us!
If you're still reading, thank you! Drop me an email - firstname.lastname@example.org - and I'll send you a little something for getting this far.
We are so proud of what we have come up with - the glawning is a ground-breaking product - and how we have grown it from a side-line hobby to the thriving business it is today on a team of two. Inside the space of a few years we’ve gone from storing our stock in our lounge and selling it every weekend to fulltime directorship and operating from a fulfilment centre, and we still only have two members of staff. The workload is real, what with designing the website, the artwork, the marketing campaigns, running social media, answering all queries, tracking orders, orchestrating overseas stock orders, organising our festival, trading at other peoples festivals. And much more. So we’ll be popping open that bubbly this weekend to toast to ten years more hard graft and glawning magic!
Comments will be approved before showing up.
Sign up to our mailing list and you will be in with a chance of winning a Glawning this Christmas. Simple as that!