The Little Hippy Tent Company is a boutique tent hire and event planning business based in Peterborough. The company was started during the first UK lockdown, and is about to celebrate its first year! We caught up with founder Emma between bookings to find out a little bit more about them!
How did the idea for The Little Hippy Tent Company come about?
I used to work for the local authority, I’m an expert in special educational needs in children. In the summer I would work festivals, running catering at festivals like Glastonbury (I have fed many a worse-for-wear celebrity, shall we say), and I also worked in security.
I was made redundant from the local authority after 5 years of service a week before the first lockdown in 2020. I thought I’d be ok for the summer as I’d be able to work the festival circuit… and literally everything stopped.
At the same time, I was coming to the end of doing up my kitchen (it’s got a gorgeous 2m island in it now, I call it my social distancing island!) and I was really not looking forward to tidying up my garden which had come a sort of make-shift kitchen in the process. It was a bit of a state! It was coming up to Glastonbury time of year and I thought that if I made my own mini Glasto at home that would be a great mood boost and then tidying up wouldn’t feel so hard afterwards.
I ordered a tent and a very sparkly hat online, and I already had a few gazebos, and put mandalas and cushions everywhere… and it genuinely felt like I’d been at Glasto that weekend. It was such a blast and my kids and social bubble were talking about it for weeks after. It takes a lot to impress me and I just thought, ‘surely everyone else would love to do this’.
I do my thinking at night when everyone is in bed, and the next night, before I knew it, I’d ordered some tents, and had to get up at the crack of dawn a few days later when they arrived as I hadn’t told my partner about it yet!!
Looking at the delivery made it real, like, ‘oh crap I have to make this work now’, as it was the last of my cash flow. I started getting some bookings for peoples gardens, kids sleepovers and grown up Tiki bars were the most popular.
One day a friend sent me a picture of a Lotus Belle Air Bud and I couldn’t believe how gorgeous it was. I was (and still am) so in love with the shape of it. I now have several Lotus Belle Tents as even though they are a little more expensive they are far superior to the other ones I have.
How many Lotus Belles do you have now?
Several! The Lotus Air Bud is great because it just pops up and can go anywhere. (That’s handy for me as I’m beginning to get arthritis in my hands). After the Air Bud I got the Air Belle which is just as convenient and also bigger.
I then got obsessed with the Stargazer style and went for the 6m version towards the end of the season in September. It’s now June and we’ve just bought a Lotus Mahal, which I’ve been dreaming of for months!! From the second I saw it I wanted it, and I’ve asked Hari and Alex every possible question about it. I just thought, I have to get it. I’m nearly at the point where I have to close my books for summer 2021 as we’re so busy, and each of the tents have already paid for itself, probably twice over. Now is the time!
How many staff do you have and what do they do?
Summer is my number one gal. She’s literally worked through the night for me and saved my bacon, and held the fort when I’ve been locked out of my house. You name it! She has my way of thinking and doing things and it’s such a relief to have her. I can send her off to a booking and not have a single worry.
Sometimes Summer’s mum Liz helps out and she is the most efficient folder I’ve ever met. She folds the roof of the stargazer better than the factory, I swear!
Harry, my partner, is also my number one giant of a man at 6 foot 5! He’s in charge of lugging stuff around, driving, running errands and stuff. He does the bigger job quotes as he’s got the patience to sit there and put it all together. He’s also one half of my tech crew.
My friend Clare has helped out from day one, and not just because she can sometimes pinch her fella’s van! She’s also impressively strong for her size. Mighty strong!
Joe is the other half of my tech crew. I call him my adult boy scout! He’s great with knots amongst other things - and he’s the person I can count on to read the instructions for things.
Avalon is an amazing tattoo artist who helps out. She’s part of the #VanLife community after giving up her flat in the first lockdown. She can whip you up a balloon arch in 5 minutes flat and is my go-to for handwritten signs and arty things. Also her van is gorgeous!
I’m about to take on someone new, someone to back up Harry’s muscles as his back hasn’t been great recently. Harry will always be my favourite giant though, obviously.
There’s also no way I could forget my eldest, Tyler, who is the most meticulous folder known to human-kind. You need bunting put away neatly as if brand new? No problem! I love that it’s inspired my younger kids to be so determined to help too, bless them.
Last but not least, is Ronnie the bulldog. We got him just before starting the business so he’s a natural part of it! He’s only a year old but he looks 90 with his wrinkles! He knows he’s not allowed in any of the tents so his spot is outside on the left of the door. He’s a real celebrity with our customers, we should make him our PR manager!
What was your first couple of months running like?
It was super hectic and pretty disorganised, and it was super fun!
Fortunately my first client (who we did a lovely tropical theme for) had a gorgeous house and garden and when she shared the pictures of it on her social media we got a lot of interest! Even though we started mid-season we didn’t really notice it was - so many people wanted to do something at home because of lockdown cabin fever.
My set-up used to take me several hours but now I can get everything done in 3 hours or so. My dad would help make sure I got the tents straight as he’s got a really keen eye for detail as he’s ex-Navy.
What were your most important lessons, starting out?
Put a mattress topper on your airbed for warmth! Make sure you have time for admin to arrange your new bookings and plan them. Take deposits! Keep on top of your finances. Don’t buy everything from B&M or you’ll look like everyone else, have a few interesting and more expensive pieces of furniture and interior decorations. Put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re decorating for and you’ll get it right. Have fun!
What's your current favourite decorative theme?
I really like all of the bohemian creams and twine, picnic, neutral boho but with a lot of greenery. I want it to look like a very particular feeling: a warm day, wearing a floaty dress, floppy hat and leather sandals and you feel tanned and summery. I just want my tent to look how that feels!
What's the most popular theme you get requests for?
Adults seem to mostly go for what I’d call a luxurious boho chic with faux fur and the like. Teens are into gamer themes and dreamy floral pastel tones, and kids really love the safari and space themes right now!
What are you looking forward to as The Little Hippy Tent Company moves into its second year?
Organisation!! I just want to do the Mahal! I’m excited for weddings, parties, all the different things going on in my head!! I’ve already had my first celebrity booking and wouldn’t mind a few more! I‘m all about ‘go big or go home’ and I want to go big a lot more!
Congratulations and happy birthday to the team! Find and book The Little Hippy Tent Company here on Facebook and here on Instagram.
Read more on how quickly Lotus Belle Tents pay for themselves here, see our interview with Broadhembury Holiday Park here, or return to the main blog page for a browse here.