Jo and John Mills enjoyed camping and caravanning. In their second careers they are enabling many people to also enjoy the great outdoors, from their home on the south coast of New South Wales. They’re also attracting people to visit the beautiful Eurobodalla and Sapphire Coasts.
What are your backgrounds?
Before retirement, John was a Commonwealth Public Servant specialising in IT and Jo was a Science Laboratory Manager. They both retired after 40 years in the “formal” workforce about 3 years ago.
Did your background help you in your current business?
Our passion for travel and adventure within Australia originated with our parents. We both came from families who had camping and caravanning holidays. Johns parents regularly drove from Melbourne to Cairns in December to spend Christmas and the school holidays with family (a journey of more than 3,000 Km each way) Quite some feat 55 years ago.
Having second careers may mean learning new skills.
What sort of skills did you need to learn?
John already had the experience of towing caravans and campers.
Never in her wildest dreams did Jo expect to have to hook up, tow, and set up caravans or campers. This is a major skill she has learnt to do.
Conversational skills – talking to customers.
Getting to know the individual set up procedures of each unit so that you can demonstrate this to customers.
Lastly, we have become much more familiar with social media and use it to bring customers to us, and to share our experiences and local area through videos and comments about the best parts of the far south coast of NSW to help get people excited about coming here!
How long have you been camping?
As stated before we both come from camping and caravanning families, so approx. 56 years (each).
John and I bought our first camper trailer in 1976. We always travelled with our children (our first caravan arrived not long after our first child – in the early 1980’s)
Since then we have towed camper trailers to Cape York (early 1990’s) a couple of times, to the NT along the gulf road and many outback places.
In the early 2000’s we towed our caravan on the Tanami and Gibb River roads (considered some of the most remote roads in Australia).
Also, we have crossed the Simpson Desert a few times (without camper trailers but the experience each time is just great).
Why did you establish your business?
When we had young children, it was near impossible to hire a camper or caravan and buying anything new was extremely expensive. We were lucky enough to be able to go camping, but compared to today, it was much simpler and without any of the modern luxuries – inner spring mattresses, hot and cold water on tap and sleeping off the ground to name a few of them!
While our family was growing up we had always thought that there was always a lack of hire campers or caravans near us, but the growing family kept us busy.
When we retired we thought about hiring out campers again and thought we would like to share with others our experiences, so we started with a couple of cheapish offroad camper trailers which we could also use for ourselves, family and friends, and then rent them out for the remainder of the time.
As we live on the coast, tourism is the majority of our business. We quickly realised we had a market here and expanded our fleet.
What types of campers do you have?
We currently have a 3 campers and 2 caravans, 2 of our campers are fully off road, while the other camper and the 2 caravans are setup to give families a holiday away from it all!
Our campers are
:Ezytrail Sterling GT
Our caravans are
:Jayco Starcraft pop top
Are people able to take the campers ‘anywhere’?
The MDC and Ezytrail can be taken virtually anywhere as long as it is a legal or gazetted road and is suitable for trailers. The customers are responsible for breakages and retrieval costs if damage occurs. Before the hire is agreed to, we ask where the trailer is going and will place certain conditions or make recommendations. We also make sure that their tow vehicle is one that is capable of towing our units to “there and back”
The Jayco Eagle and Pop top caravan can be taken on some dirt roads but not considered suitable for off road use.
The Newland‘s Tourister can only be used on sealed roads.
What is the average hire of a camper?
The average hire time is 6 nights with many hires being 7 to 10 days (we do hire from 2 nights).
Do you receive repeat customers?
Yes, we have had 7 repeat customers and a total number of 73 different customers. While we have a lot of customers here on the far south coast of NSW, we also have customers from Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and other places in between!
Can you see yourself doing this for quite a few years?
We have a five-year plan and will reassess after that. At this stage this business is a nice pace to keep us busy without being a 9 to 5 responsibility. One of the great features of our business, is that we can mostly negotiate with our customers on the best and most suitable times for handovers and returns!
What are some of the challenges?
Our busy times are through the summer, with the Christmas holidays being the busiest (we could easily rent twice the number we have), Easter and other school holidays. Fitting in visits to children / grandchildren at this time is difficult.
For most of the year it’s not so hard, but when its busy juggling the caravans/camper trailers going out and coming in on the same day can keep us busy – sometimes we have deliveries an hour to the north and an hour to the south on the same day!
Keeping the business in the limelight through web and social media advertising without getting “over exposed” is also tricky!
Of course, wet weather and wet canvas means we need to dry the caravans or camper trailers properly before they are packed away.
Have you had any damage to campers?
We have had some minor damage which we have been able to repair. Most of these have been caused by customers not listening to instructions.
And….what are some of the good things about your business?
Meeting customers and helping people have a holiday, it’s great to hear their adventures and experiences! Our motto is ‘Hire a holiday not just a camper trailer’ so we make sure everything they need is included for a holiday, from pots and pans, the fridge, plates even a couple of wine glasses!
When we had young children, it was impossible to hire a camper. We feel that we are offering a service where young families can have a camping experience which they possibly could not afford if they had to buy a trailer
And, we have become more involved in the local tourist industry and businesses. It’s a good feeling that we are contributing to bringing more people to our area and showing off the Sapphire and Eurobodalla Coasts.
If people are interested in finding out more, how can they contact you?
There are many ways, through Camplify (search for Bermagui), we are on Facebook (Far South Coast Camper Hire – check it for tips and videos of interesting places to go), our website is www.farsouthcoastcamperhire.com.au
Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Of course we can be contacted by phone on 0403 098 553
**Do you have a second career? Let us know