For William Jarvis, starting his small business Honest Camper was the result of a passion he discovered when he took his son on a road trip in a retro camping van a few years ago. That experience sparked a journey that led him from office worker to successful small business owner.
Today, Honest Camper is a thriving business that rents premium kitted-out camping vans to road trip fans who want to explore the pacific coast and interior. Operating out of British Columbia, Jarvis also has a satellite operation in San Francisco that keeps a revenue stream flowing during the winter months when business slows down in Canada.
The Small Business Dream
When Jarvis went on that first road trip years ago, he was at a bit of a crossroads. While he had a successful career in digital marketing, he was ready to move beyond what he calls the “desk experience.” To have better work-life balance, he wanted to create a business that didn’t take over his life and could still provide enough income for him and his family. After that first trip, he was convinced there had to be a market out there for what he felt was the perfect business idea: a high-end, unique road trip experience.
The Business Plan
Passions and dreams are essential ingredients for kickstarting a new venture, and so are the fundamentals. Jarvis started laying the foundation for his business by working with a business plan expert through Small Business BC, a service that cost him $300. “That was definitely among the best $300 I’ve ever spent,” he says. “I ended up with a 45-page, high-quality plan. It was really in-depth and made me dig deeper into what I was trying to achieve.”
Through the process of writing his business plan, Jarvis did a competitive analysis and discovered there was a gap in the market for premium camping van rentals at a premium price, so he decided that’s where he would find his niche.
With a solid business plan in hand, Jarvis headed out to seek financing for his new business, and that’s where he came up against some roadblocks. Though he was a homeowner and had a good credit score, banks and other traditional lenders turned him down. Fortunately, he discovered he was eligible for a young entrepreneur loan through Futurpreneur and BDC. “It was very difficult to get financing and I’m so grateful to Futurpreneur and BDC for this support,” says Jarvis.
Working with a Mentor
Young entrepreneurs who receive loans through Futurpreneur are also matched with an experienced mentor who can help them avoid pitfalls and recognize opportunities. Jarvis was matched with mentor Chris Chernoff, who runs a successful commercial photography and videography business. Jarvis says the relationship has been a key factor in his success so far, especially because Chernoff gives him frank advice. “He genuinely cares and wants to see me succeed,” he says. “He tells me the truth very candidly, even things that were hard for me to hear. He even took one of the campers out and offered me very useful feedback.”
Small Business Success
Although he’s only started his business journey, Jarvis already considers it a success. He pays himself a salary and, most importantly, has achieved what matters to him. “It’s transformed me from a person who did not want to go to work to someone that’s genuinely excited about it. Being able to take control of my own destiny and put myself in a better place has been most rewarding.”
Learn more about Honest Camper by visiting honestcamper.com.
Visit futurpreneur.ca to see more stories about young entrepreneurs and find tools and resources geared toward helping small businesses thrive.