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How we set-up strawberry Fieldz!

5 years ago I was about to head back to my very boring job following maternity leave, to work as a Relationship Development Consultant at a well know insurance company. My husband Adam was working in a planning role, which he had done for many years and was fairly bored. His main passion has always been music, gigging with his Dad from the age of 5 and playing in bands all through is life, teaching guitar, and running his own recording studio also. So we find ourselves at a small local festival, with a badly erected tatty party tent, with a tiny stage, and really badly managed sound where no one on stage could hear themselves. We sat in the sun after his performance and agreed we could do this set up better. So we did. Simple as that!

Adam researched products and prices, and I worked on a business plan and researched local companies. Where could we add value, go the extra mile, and make our offering unique. After extensive research I found that websites were hard to navigate, quotes often did not turn up or where wrong, too many contact forms and not enough personal service. So that was where we felt we could really excel, using our years of customer service experience to offer the personal touch that was missing from our competitors.

We launched 8 months later with a website and no marquees at that point. We used a well known business directory and got a fair amount of work from that. We had a summer of bookings ahead and so we made the decision to borrow some money and buy the equipment. DIY Marquees were absolutely amazing, they gave us brilliant advice because they have been there, started a marquee company and been in the hire market themselves. I turned up with a wobbly trailer and two screaming toddlers and we took our marquees home.

The rest really is history. We called many pubs and introduced ourselves, emailed local councils, joined local business networks, and had our vehicles sign written. Our hit rate for converting an enquiry to a booking was around 75% and I think this has to be down to us really caring about our customers and it coming across to them that we have time to discuss their needs, and we really want them to have a good experience with us. This has undoubtedly contributed to the amount of repeat bookings we receive. We have a strong repeat customer base and get recommendations all the time which saves on advertising costs!

We took very little pay in the first 3 years ploughing it all back in to the business to grow as quickly as we could. We started offering small festival stages in the second year of trading which has added variety to our business. We have provided stages for festivals, local councils, pub events, and got paid to watch live bands!

We have so many great memories over the last few years, from our customers that invite us in to share a freshly made curry, to the quirky sheep that leapt in our van and ate our biscuits. Every day is different, and each customer unique but it’s been an amazing experience and watching our business grow has been very rewarding. DIY Marquees has been crucial to our success and have always gone the extra mile to help us. We have had to order next day delivery items at 4.59pm in the evening as we have lost a vital component, had issues onsite and needed advice, and been totally fine with us never giving the correct part name for an item in spite of them sending them to us numerous times. 😊

We made a few mistakes along the way. We used a few rubbish website companies who charged a lot but delivered very little. We thought we could avoid expensive SEO but eventually saw the light and that really helped attract new business. We have been duped into paying to ‘sponsor’ local clubs, and adverts for bridal magazines, which has not given us any additional business.

Our Top Tips:

  • Always think about your next potential booking. Make every marquee look as immaculate as you can, because people at the party might just need a marquee so you need to impress everyone, not just the initial customer.
  • Get a good system together for storing marquees. Make sure poles don’t get mixed up as this saves a lot of time.
  • Spend money on a good website with a local SEO company, someone you can go and see, not someone sat in an office in Sweden.
  • Don’t offer price reductions. You are providing an excellent service and are not prepared to lower your standards so you shouldn’t lower your costs.
  • Don’t store marquee sides or roofs wet!!!
  • Be careful who you employ. You need people who can take direction, follow instructions, but also think for themselves.

My final little business mantra…as my dad always says to me ‘people remember the service well after the event is over’.

Sarah Ward

Director of Strawberry Fieldz