It’s 5pm on a Friday night and I’m off to meet Siobhan Holmes- the 29 year old Founder of The Vino Van– a converted horse box re-modelled as a pastel pink, mobile Prosecco bar that has spent the past five months touring the UK for weddings and events.
We bond immediately over the fact that we’ve both clearly worn the wrong shoes for the weather. It’s tipping down with rain on a miserable Friday night and we’re in the middle of a field ahead of Proms in the Park. I’m in gold flats. Siobhan’s in new trainers. After quickly fixing me a drink- an elderflower prosecco cocktail to calm the nerves in case you were wondering- trying to perfect a quick boomerang cheers for our various social media feeds, and me gravitating towards all the stylish accessories behind the bar (I’m a magpie for copper), the voice recorder is switched on and the first She can. She did. interview is underway.
She Can. She Did. Right, let’s start from the beginning! Talk me through the moment you came up with the idea to create The Vino Van.
Siobhan Holmes. It was last November actually and I just remember having this random idea to get a horse box and turn it into a prosecco bar! I’d seen something similar with a pizza van and just decided I wanted to do it. I was working at the time but I couldn’t stop thinking about it… I was ebaying trailers and it just wouldn’t get out of my head! December came and I was still thinking about it, I wrote a business plan over Christmas and New Year and by the first week of January, I’d bought a horse box.
With a degree in Childhood Studies from Sheffield Hallam and a background in social work, Siobhan is proof that your degree or current career path doesn’t have to limit your future career moves.
SC.SD. So it all happened really quickly then!?
SH. Once I have an idea in my head, I want to go with it!
SC.SD. Have you always been like that?
SH. Yeh I think so… I think that’s why my Mum told me to think about it before I did it, but to be fair, a month for me to think about something is actually quite a long time!’
SC.SD. Really!? Ok, so how did you go about turning the idea into reality?
SH. Well the trailer was in Nottingham (about an hour north of where she’s based), so after juggling work to allow me to travel up there, I went to see it. I didn’t know anything about trailers but thought it looked good! I could visualise making the bar but hadn’t actually thought about how I’d get the trailer back home! I didn’t have a tow bar and I didn’t have a license for trailers.
SC.SD. You have to have a license for trailers?!
SH. Yes! God, that’s a whole other story, I had to go on a two day trailer course which ended up being really expensive and a personal alcohol license course! Anyway, I thought to myself ‘crap, how am I going to get this back!?’ Luckily the man dropped it off for an extra charge, I found a space in a caravan park, he delivered it a few days later and Operation “I Need To Do Up The Trailer Now” commenced!
SC.SD. And that meant what exactly? Were there any timelines involved?
SH. Well I was due to go to Thailand six weeks later and wanted to take bookings as soon as I returned so I was a woman on a mission. I roped in a local electrician to help fit the lights and someone helped me to paint it. Of course, it was winter though and I hadn’t thought about painting in winter…(NB. It takes waaaay longer to dry) and on the day of the photoshoot for all the marketing material it was really foggy. Trying to get everything done to a deadline was stressful but I just went with it, I knew there would be a way round it.
It would be safe to say Siobhan is impulsive but to her detriment? Definitely not.
SH. This sounds like I’m so unorganised doesn’t it! What I’m trying to say is if you want something you just figure out a way to do it!
Our interview is halted momentarily by the presence of a sole raindrop landing on my foot from the ceiling. A stark reminder that we’re sat on freezer boxes in a pink horse box in the midst of a torrential rainstorm.
SH. I’m so sorry! It is a horsebox after all!
SC.SD. It’s absolutely fine, it adds to the drama! Right so you’re back from Thailand, The Vino Van is up and ready for business. You mentioned before that your Mum warned you to really think about the idea before committing to it. When do you think your friends and family started taking it seriously?
SH. I don’t think that they started taking it seriously until they realised the interest it was getting. I didn’t tell my friends until literally the week it was being done up… I just did it and then showed them afterwards because if I tried to explain it they’d think “Siobhan’s being crazy again!”
SC.SD. Moving on to peaks and troughs, let’s get the bad stuff out the way first! What would you say have been the low points since launching?
SH. I don’t really say low points because I’ve learnt so much from them all… It’s difficult having to be an expert in every aspect of the business though. I think at the start too when I was still working in my old job, I had a two hour commute to and from work, I was constantly thinking about the idea and it became so stressful trying to juggle it all.
SC.SD. How did you deal with that then?
SH. I left! No in all fairness, I juggled it for a while but I was working with vulnerable people at the time so I realised that they deserved a quality of service that I could no longer provide because my head was no longer in it.
A few minutes later, the interview is interrupted by one of the event organisers. The rain has become so bad that the event has been cancelled- the first time in its history. Siobhan handles it graciously despite her obvious disappointment.
SH. This hasn’t happened to me before so I guess this is a low point too! I’ll just have to take all this fruit to my friend’s party tomorrow instead!
After a quick chat with the organisers about the flooding stage, dodgy electrics and watching the orchestra pack up their instruments, we continue.
SC.SD. Moving on to the highs then, what has been your proudest moment so far?
SH. Launch weekend was really successful! I was invited by East Village London to exhibit and actually paid to go which was really weird because usually we pay the organisers!
SC.SD. That’s lucky! Talk me through your emotions by the end of your first day? How did you feel packing up?
SH. Shattered! No I think the proudest thing for me is that I’ve created this and people are willing to spend their money on it! And I was a bit shocked really at how the money adds up!
SC.SD. I bet! Putting yourself out there on social media can be daunting when you first start out. Did you get any negative feedback and if so, how did you deal with that?
SH. I didn’t really get negative feedback per say but there were a few digs here and there. A few people would say things like “you know you need an alcohol license for that kind of thing?”
SC.SD. No shit Sherlock!
SH. Exactly! I just played along with it though. I’d say things like “no way really, do I?” I think sometimes people think you’re young, you’re blonde, you clearly must be stupid but that was the only thing and it’s definitely died down since the start.
SC.SD. Where do you find support?
SH. I started going to networking groups but found that they can be really corporate and to a large extent full of older people so sometimes you do feel like the stupid little girl. Fortunately though, I met a girl called Louise at one who is a bit younger than me, and we instantly clicked…
After meeting up on a separate occasion, Siobhan and Louise decided to set up Business and Bubbles– their own networking group for young women, held on the first Wednesday of every month in Corby.
SH. We were determined to make it chilled and relaxed for women in business- for anyone that doesn’t feel comfortable going to the big corporate ones where you have to stand up and make a sixty second pitch which is my worst nightmare. Aside from that, I just reach out to anything that’s available really.
SC.SD. That sounds amazing! I will definitely have to come along! Who do you turn to for solid business advice though, when you need a definitive answer?
SH. It was recommended to me that I get a business mentor which is free so I get three, three hour sessions which has been really good, but aside from that, a few of my friends and then Business and Bubbles. To be honest with you though, if I have an idea I’d rather just try it and see what the result is rather than getting people’s opinions first. What is that quote you put up on instagram the other day?
SC.SD. “Better an oops than a what if?”
SH. Yes! I love that- you don’t know the result unless you try it.
SC.SD. Exactly! And how do you stay motivated?
SH. I think it’s just my personality! When I’m interested in something, I put all of my energy into it! I’m a massive one for goals, I usually do big races and challenges each year but I felt like I achieved nothing in 2016 and that got me down… It got to the end of the year and I remember thinking what the hell am I doing with my life? I haven’t progressed in any area! I’d spent so much time working and commuting that it made me realise that it wasn’t the life I wanted. It sparked something in me! A passion and a belief that I can succeed with this.
SC.SD. What does success look like to you then?
SH. Success to me means being able to comfortably manage financially with my own business.
SC.SD. So money motivates you?
SH. Yes, in the sense that it’s off my own back. Not having to work for someone else to get it if that makes sense?
SC.SD. Completely! Where do you see The Vino Van in five years’ time then? More vans? Will you employ people?
SH. I’m definitely looking to employ people and I’ve got a few ideas for another type of van but that’s top secret!
SC.SD. Scared the competition will steal the idea!?
SH. Exactly! But yes, I’ve got loads of ideas to expand! I’d also like to start hosting more events myself too.
SC.SD. Sounds very exciting! Moving on to personal life then, how do you switch off?
SH. I don’t really! Even when I’m at home, I like to keep busy so I’m always on the laptop doing something. To be honest though, I don’t really want to switch off because I enjoy thinking about this. I do like holidays though… I suppose I switch off a bit there!
SC.SD. Don’t we all! Who are the women in your life that you look up to and admire?
SH. Is it bad if I say Richard Branson?!
SH. Only because I’m dyslexic and he’s dyslexic and I think that being dyslexic can give you skills in certain areas. For instance, you take more risks, it gives you an entrepreneurial brain etc…
Laughing, I push her to name a woman too for the sake of the blog… female entrepreneurship and all that (!)… but we don’t get very far! I give in…
SC.SD. He’s got long hair I suppose, Richard Branson it is!
With the interview coming to an end, it’s hard not to admire Siobhan’s enthusiasm. I can almost see the multiple tabs open in her brain, continuously weighing up her next idea. How she will grow the business, what more she can do to enhance networking for budding entrepreneurs, how she’ll adapt to cater for wintery events as the seasons start to change…
Some could say that she acted too quickly. She didn’t take the time to fully comprehend what turning this idea into reality would involve. I however, would argue otherwise. Yes there were setbacks along the way, additional costs that cropped up, bad weather threatening launch deadlines, a few patronisinng comments that had the potential to knock her confidence had she let them, to name but a few. But Siobhan is proof that sometimes, if you believe in an idea that much, you have to take all of the setbacks with a pinch of salt and follow your gut instinct. She radiates positivity and her ambition is genuinely infectious.
So finally, to end the interview… because I’m nosey by nature and always on the look out for new ones, I ask:
SC.SD. What’s your favourite quote?
She pauses for a moment.
SH. “Take a leap of faith.”
Five pretty wise words if you ask me.
For more information on The Vino Van, visit www.vinovan.co.uk