He’s pitched to Richard Branson. He’s got an ex-Apprentice star on board. He’s set up a business that’s preparing to take the world by storm. And he’s only 19. With the launch of the StartUp Loans scheme on 28th May, we spoke to young entrepreneur Jacob Hill, founder of The Lazy Camper.
Where did the idea for The Lazy Camper come from?
I went to my local supermarket the day before Leeds Festival to buy all my gear. I spent quite a lot of money and woke up the next day with my tent under water!
So I thought we must be able to offer a solution at a cheaper price. The Lazy Camper is a complete outdoors kit with everything you need in one bag, including a tent, sleeping bag and cooking stove.
Is it mainly aimed at festivalgoers?
This is our first year of trading so at the moment it’s just aimed at festivalgoers, but we’ll be looking at other markets: people who go fishing at the weekend, go on bike rallies or novice campers. We could market it as a family camping kit.
There are a lot of festivals around the world – are you thinking of exporting your product?
The idea is to eventually export to Europe, America and Australia. We’d like to have a warehouse in other countries where someone runs a similar operation – distributing domestically, rather than just sending one item overseas at a time.
How did you get the money to start The Lazy Camper?
I actually raised £30,000 for the first 500 Lazy Campers. I put some of my student loan towards it but raised the majority from fellow students and family friends.
Have you been working with any festivals?
We have started sponsoring festivals. Global Gathering gave five Lazy Campers away as a prize on Facebook, which got 2,500 likes and 1,000 shares. This drummed up lots of interest on our Facebook page too, which was great.
What differentiates The Lazy Camper from its competitors?
There are a few similar products on the market, which I happily tell people about because we’ve managed to do something where we’re better – we’ve got a higher quality product at a cheaper price of £59.99.
We also think about the environmental impact of our product and encourage people to recycle and reuse. To prevent people throwing The Lazy Camper away after a festival, we’re going to offer them £10 off their next purchase if they hand it in at a designated drop-off point.
Where do you source your products?
We source from China, the UK and France. We actually used DHL to bring samples over from China. Any sample I ship in, I use DHL because it’s the quickest and most affordable.
Sourcing internationally was scary. I was wondering: “how do you know who to trust?” So I use Alibaba and their trusted suppliers.
I’m very thankful to Alibaba. I’ve found someone I trust in China and I speak to them on Skype all the time.
Is this your first venture into business?
When I was 14 I was selling sweets into schools. And then when I was about 16 I started organising music concerts for students in Huddersfield and Halifax.
Is anyone else involved in the business?
I started it up and got the ball rolling, but I’ve now taken on a business partner (Andy Bray). We have gained partnerships from other businesses such as Virgin Media Pioneers, The Scouts and Global Hand. All sorts of different charities and large businesses want to support us.
How do you motivate yourself?
Most people want to earn money I guess but that’s not my goal. I want to make something of myself. I like the idea that you can turn nothing into something.
How did you find yourself working with Claire Young?
I’m on an Enterprise Development course at University of Huddersfield. In September we watched Claire talk at the Royal Armouries, and I introduced myself.
Not long afterwards she was speaking at a place in Halifax and I went to meet her there. I asked if she would be interested in speaking at my launch party. She said yes and said she’d be happy to mentor us.
Can you tell us a bit more about your university course?
Enterprise Development is the idea of finding entrepreneurs and assessing a person’s level of entrepreneurialism. The course representative is Theo Paphitis.
We are encouraged to start a business by year three. I decided to start up in year one to give myself the best chance possible.
Have you had a lot of support through university?
Yes, it’s been really great. Particularly Business Mind, a business advice and support center. I managed to get my first bit of funding from them; they gave me £400 to buy the logo, surveys and samples. That really got the ball rolling.
The Government recently announced the launch of StartUp Loans.
Yeah, I was part of that – I’m Virgin Media Pioneer‘s Yorkshire ambassador.
Instead of a student or accommodation loan, you get a business grant or loan. I think it’s amazing. I wish I’d had the opportunity.
Have you ever thought of going on a programme like Dragons’ Den or The Apprentice?
Yes. I enter every competition I can, because I believe that the more opportunities you take, the more chance of success you have.
We recently came runners up in a Virgin Media Pioneers competition, where we went to Sir Richard Branson’s house and pitched our business to him and his business partners. It was an amazing experience.
I also came close to being selected to appear on the Junior Apprentice.
What would be your top tips for other young people who have a business idea?
Listen. Some advice will be terrible, some will be good, so listen to as many people as you can.
My biggest tip is to take every opportunity possible. Enter every competition and meet every person you can. You never know who’s going to see your product.
At the time of writing, StartUpLoans is being launched to help young entrepreneurs like Jacob. The loans are aimed at people aged 18-24, living in England and thinking about starting a business. As well as the business loan, entrepreneurs receive essential business support and invaluable mentoring.
Jacob Hill set up The Lazy Camper in September 2011. It is a complete outdoors kit with everything needed in one bag from £59.99. The Lazy Camper is recommended by South Yorkshire Scouts for its high quality and low cost. Find out more at www.thelazycamper.co.uk.