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International Women’s Day (IWD) – 8th March – Focus on Buttercup Buses

Buttercup Bus is a company very dear to my heart…

Firstly when I was a child, my family owned a VW Camper Van and it’s so nostalgic to see the camper van tradition very much in operation today, also because Natalie’s mobile photo booth covered off my birthday party in such a fantastic way and, many years ago when Buttercup Bus was still in its infancy, I was considering applying for the assistant position with Nathalie, before accepting the offer to become Business Development Executive at StartUp Croydon.

I am therefore delighted to present to you:

Buttercup Bus Vintage Campers – a Croydon based, female led business, in an under-represented industry

For the last two years, Buttercup Bus Vintage Campers, a Croydon based, female led classic campervan hire business, has celebrated International Women’s Day (IWD) by publishing photographs of “behind the scenes” at their workshop, minus the glitz and glamour.

This year, they have done it again, by teaming up with the talented female photographer, Desiree A. North.

Why? Well, IWD is celebrated internationally, to raise awareness of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It is also a platform to raise awareness of industries, where women are under-represented – typical of our very own motor industry, with UK stats supporting this, at just 16.8%*

By sharing the story at Buttercup Bus, not only is the aim to inspire local women to work in any industry they want (no matter how under represented) – but also to show how many life changing circumstances often faced by women can lead to an opportunity to do something that they are passionate about, and enjoy.

Nathalie started trading as Buttercup Bus more than 10 years ago (under the company name Vanilla Chinchilla Ltd). Previously, Nathalie had worked as a Business Consultant in the City, working across the Government, Financial Services and Telecoms sectors. She met her husband whilst working on one of her assignments, and they eventually got married.

The time came for them to start a family, with their first child. After maternity leave, Nathalie returned to work in the City, but quickly found that the contention between working hours, stressful commuting and complicated childcare arrangements were not conducive to the family life she aspired to. She cut back her working hours to part time – but was still very much finding herself working full time hours.

By chance, at the same time, Nathalie realised that she needed to sell her own car, to get a larger, family friendly vehicle. The husband’s jaw hit the floor, when she rocked up in a cream, 1970s, pimped up VW Camper…. Not quite the practical car that he had in mind. The camper was justified by taking on wedding car bookings with it, to offset the running costs. A little side-line that would work well on the weekends, around childcare and she could be at home more, midweek, whilst her husband had midweek work commitments.

Photo of Nathalie at Buttercup bus, undertaking maintenance work to one of the VW Camper Vans. Photo by Desiree A North.
Nathalie of Buttercup Bus. Photo by Desiree A North.

The husband was right – a lowered suspension, pimped up ‘70s VW Camper did not make a good family daily driver in Croydon – BUT, as a wedding car, it was proving hugely popular. It was not long before bookings came flooding in, and Nathalie was able to use her business consulting skills to write a business case, and secure additional funds to purchase additional campers. Services diversified into holiday hire, campervan photobooths and eventually national, branded vehicle promotional tours. As the company grew, Nathalie cut back her business consulting job hours and eventually ran the business full time, now with a fleet of 7 vehicles and a small industrial unit.

The growth of the business can also be credited to the excellent support of My OutSpace who are one of StartUp Croydon’s tenants based at Weatherill House Business Centre .  My OutSpace is a great hub for young mothers to network, and at one of their events (accompanied by her baby daughter), Nathalie met representatives from a Croydon Loan Fund, for business growth. Nathalie was provided with fantastic support from like-minded people, enabling her to secure funds to grow the fleet, and also to meet contacts that helped her through the journey – including financial advisers that would later down the line be able to help her to secure a mortgage for the Industrial unit you see in the images.

Furthermore, the business owes its success to the fantastic team on board – from contractors to direct staff – who share the same passion as Nathalie over the fleet of vehicles, and events that they work at.

Buttercup Bus is more than just a business and source of income to Nathalie – it is her passion, gives her independence and gives her an opportunity to continually develop her own skills sets. She loves the vehicles, enjoys the people (suppliers and clients) that she gets to work alongside on a daily basis. The buzz that she gets, seeing clients smile because of the campervan and beetle hire services she offers is the greatest testament to the hard work, risk and long hours she has put in. As the business has built, she has created something tangible – and more importantly, it works around her family life. Her children can relate to what she does and they gain an understanding of work and reward (and even earn a little pocket money helping her to wash the cars in school holidays).

If you are planning an event and need to hire classic campervan and beetle wedding cars, or campervans photobooths for hospitality and PR events, or even get behind the wheel yourself for a self-drive adventure, check out their website here:

*Source: European Association of Automotive Suppliers, European Trade Union, and European Tyre & Rubber Manufacturer’s Association, European Sector Skills Council: Automotive Industry (2016): p. 36.

Photo of Feyley Barnham's birthday party taken by Buttercup Bus photo booth

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