Like so many other entrepreneurial success stories we hear, entrepreneur Laura Audley launched Portobello Tents after falling tired of the 9-5 ‘rut’ she had fallen into and has never looked back.
A country girl from Hertfordshire, Laura was an interior designer in her past life and always held the countryside which raised her close to her heart.
After growing tired of life in the city, Laura decided the time was right to move back to the country but knew she would need a career change to sustain her new life.
This was what inspired her to launch Portobello Tents, combining her love for the great outdoors with her long held passion for events and festivals.
“I launched the business myself. My background was in interior design but I had always grown up in the countryside and wanted to find a way of being outside and meeting lots of people whilst also being creative.
“This inspired me to launch Portobello Tents. We supply luxury camping to festivals, weddings and events. We set up a canvas camp for people to sleep in made up of top of the range Belle Tents and Lotus Belle Tents.
“The idea is that you can go to a festival or a wedding without worrying about bringing anything. You have a proper bed with a memory foam mattress and all of your essentials waiting there for you.
“Having only launched back in December, we already travel all over the country and are off to Germany at the end of this month to do an event out there. It has grown rapidly!”
Portobello’s’ tents come in three different levels, bronze, silver and gold and bring the hotel experience to the great outdoors.
“Our VIP tents have matting, quilted carpets, magazines, toiletries, blankets, dressing gowns and slippers, even a chandelier, everything you need for the VIP lifestyle. It’s like a hotel room in a field!
“The idea is you live like royalty, you can leave when you like and we clear everything up afterwards. You don’t have to do anything.”
Laura is what you would call a ‘real grafter’. She runs all of the day-to-day business herself, from managing the warehouse in Baldock and unloading trucks to filling out all of the paperwork.
Only at show time does she draw on her team of freelance festival workers and partygoers who get to work before and after events, receiving a free ticket to party in the meantime. A dream job for many, as you can imagine!
She added: “I’m the founder and do probably 95% of the work. Next year I’m looking to take on employees so this hopefully won’t be the case much longer!
“I do have a finance director, a friend of my parents, who sits down and handles all of the financials and my father is my solicitor, handling a lot of the paperwork.
“My brother also helps make many introductions through his company Bassline Productions, which is a huge help, I’m blessed to have them all around me.
“I also have a really good crew that come to events, they’re amazing.
“It’s not all festivals and dancing though, today I unloaded a lorry with the forklift in our warehouse, sorted through all of the linen, and then sat down to do paperwork before the lorry came to collect it. Every day is massively different.
“The summers are constantly busy. I’m lucky that the winter quietens down a little so it gives me the time to do paperwork, meet people for coffee and build the business side of the company.
“Next year, hopefully I’ll have a full-time warehouse manager who will help ease the workload.
“The crew are all freelancers, they come and do their work before the festival, they then get a free festival ticket then come back to clear up afterwards. It’s a great gig for any festival goer!”
Having already secured a number of contracts in her first year of business, from providing VIP camping to festivals including Glastonbury, Noisely and Festival Number 6 to weddings up and down the country, Laura now has ambitious, but realistic plans for the company as it continues to grow.
“I’d quite like to keep it a boutique size. I’d like to stick to 100 tents maximum and get them out every weekend to one event.
“There are also barely any boutique camping in Europe so I’d love to set something up in the South of France as a second leg of the company to cover Europe.
“There’s a lot of call for it over there, a lot of people go to Europe to get married and rent out chateaux’s but have nowhere for their friends to stay.
“I’d like us to be the go to company for the luxury end of boutique camping. I think we’ve done very well to enter at the top but I’d like to stay here and have everyone know about us.”