GOT tiny holidaymakers to consider for your next holiday? Are you a parent who has wondered where on earth you might go this summer that doesn’t simply revisit the choice of your last five years?
Meet a newbie businesswoman who has launched a travel company which urges parents to think a little differently.
If there’s one area Laura Riley knew a fair bit about, it was holidays.
This was the woman who had gone into the world of Eurocamp for extra pocket-money as a hard-up university student, and who then the subsequent 16 years immersed in the world of travel and holiday bookings.
Little wonder then, that when she found herself feeling somewhat frustrated by a lack of options for her own family holidays, that the brain starting ticking over the idea of meeting the needs of an apparent ‘market gap’.
Now 41 and mum to two pre-schoolers, Laura has in the last year launched her niche holiday business, Little Clogs, together with her long time Amsterdam-based friend Jane.
The clue, just in case you’re analysing this already, is very much in the name.
What Laura and her family since discovered, is that places like Holland and Belgium are so often overlooked by holidaying families.
Typically, many adults with children in tow will turn to the ‘well known’ and well worn paths of the resorts which have drawn generations of family units.
Nothing wrong with that of course, but Laura, whose husband is originally from Belgium, wanted to encourage others to think differently.
“If it wasn’t for my husband and his roots, perhaps I never would have considered places like this either,” Laura suggests.
“I consider myself quite fortunate in some respects, because the desire to take our children to countries which were ‘part of their DNA’ meant that I discovered just how perfect they are for families, and what great places there are for parents and youngsters to visit.”
Having studied languages at university, Laura stepped into the world of travel after her holiday-time stints for Eurocamp.
It proved to be a perfect place for a colourful and challenging career pre-children.
“I always considered myself so exceptionally fortunate to be in a career which stimulated me and allowed me to travel, get new experiences and meet so many people,” she continues.
“Because of my language skills, I became the person who would be negotiating with the various campsites in Europe, travelling regularly and getting to see up close what was being provided for the family holidaymakers.
“It wasn’t until I became a Mum that I started to reflect on whether I wanted to continue with that life, or whether there was something else I had a burning desire to do.”
Like many women, Laura admits that there had always been a deep-set ambition around one day ‘running her own thing’.
She’d never once regretted her move into her Eurocamp career, but was aware of an unmet aspiration – and motherhood provided the scope to reconsider her options.
“I had my children extremely close together, and as soon as I was nearing the stage of thinking about returning to work, I began to focus all my energies into assessing whether I really wanted to fall back into the career, or give something else a go,” she admits.
“By this stage, our family had already visited Belgium numerous times with the children and I had often reflected that we didn’t know other people who took family trips regularly to places like this, and that it was really quite ‘undiscovered’ in that sense.
“Holland and Belgium are not often on people’s radars as places to visit for family holidays but they’re ideal as they’re close by, have amazing big, sandy beaches, fairytale woodland and toddler days out as well as luxury holiday parks with fantastic pools and play areas.
“It led me down a research path, and before I could talk myself out of my entrepreneurial idea, I was reaching out to my friend Jane in Holland – who also had desires of doing her own thing and who had lived for over 15 years in the country, often choosing to make the most of the great holiday parks there for her own family holidays, – and I said to her ‘I think I’ve got a business idea’.”
The pair very swiftly began working on the premise of a child-focused holiday business which would act as an affiliate company (rather than the more complex and restrictive travel agency model), to help families benefit from the beauty of two specific locations – Holland and Belgium.
Their goal is clear – they’re reaching out to the parents of pre-schoolers who would so often fall for the most fuss-free holiday approach of all-inclusives in well known resorts, or camp sites in areas already commonly associated with Brit holidaymakers.
It’s certainly early days for the business, given Little Clogs only officially made its way into the arena earlier this year, but Laura is absolutely clear that this is the best move she could possibly have made.
What she means by that is really worthy of note.
She’s always been academically and professionally driven, always wanted to achieve in her career, and always keen to achieve and success…but she was not prepared to sacrifice being a mother at the same time as developing her professional world in her 40’s.
“Life is about making choices and recognising where and when it’s possible to have what you want,” she says candidly.
“What I’ve learned, and I think a lot of my friends have, is that you do need to compromise at times, and that it’s not always so easy to ‘have it all’.
“It’s because of that that the decision to run my own business – doing something I really enjoy – feels like the very best thing for myself and my family.
“I want the children to grow up knowing that I was there to see them and to play and to have fun, but also, I want them to see me working and being fulfilled.”
She accepts that this perhaps wasn’t a dilemma she’d ever contemplated heavily prior to becoming a parent.
“I look back and realise I was genuinely quite naïve,” she laughs.
“I’d no idea before falling pregnant that I would pretty much have to work five days a week full time just to be able to break even on nursery fees, if I’d chosen to go back to work and put my two in the care of someone else every day.
“I do think I was one of these people who thought you could have it all, but it’s true that things change the moment you become a mum – or at least it certainly did for me.
“I now feel incredibly lucky because I’m in the fortunate situation that my husband is working full-time in a good job, so I can take the opportunity to give an entrepreneurial idea a go…and we can see where that goes over time.”
Whilst this only the first summer of her enterprise, it’s certainly looking promising.
Little Clogs has seen some great interest online, bookings have started well, and there has been some superb feedback from families who are delighted to have been able to experience the delights of Holland and Belgium with their pre-schoolers.
Little Clogs also recently won the #Wow award, being selected by Jacqueline Gold CBE and CEO of Ann Summers for being an interesting business with strong brand values and potential to grow and succeed.
“I’m not going to deny that running my own business has already proved to be a steep learning curve,” she says honestly.
“But you know what? That’s ok.
“I’d rather be learning, developing my skills, and getting the benefits of the satisfaction when a family personally emails you to say thank you – than just accepting staying in my original job because I was too fearful to try something else.
“Who knows what the next few years will bring, but right now I feel really proud of myself for having taken the leap, and I’m proud that the children get to see Mum running her own thing.”
For more information about Little Clogs, go to https://little-clogs-holidays.co.uk
Free luxury Little Clogs beach bag for the first reader to book a holiday of 7 nights or longer
Tc and Cs: To enter, bookings must have been taken after the 31/9/18 and proof of booking must be provided (email confirmation or screen shot)