1 Work Flow...With Kip Hideaways - The Battered Black Book

Work Flow…With Kip Hideaways

By Amira Hashish

Liz Simpson and Sarah de Vere-Drummond, co-founders of Kip Hideaways, are champions of the UK staycation. The dynamic double act set up their business after working in the boutique travel industry for years and realising that there was a gap in the market for the kind of adventures they had in mind. From beautifully designed tree houses to hidden group getaways, they pride themselves on unearthing those hidden gems. 

Joining Amira Hashish in conversation for the latest Work Flow, Liz offers an insight into what it takes to set up a thriving business, how to juggle work and family life and the future of travel in Britain…

What inspired you to set up Kip Hideaways?

My co-founder Sarah and I had noticed a real gap in the market for a website that only featured small places (two to six people) that were super stylish and great value. They were the sort of places we spent ages looking for when we were going on our own holidays, as they tend to be hidden in a sea of bigger or more inferior properties on giant sites, or were tiny places that didn’t have a web presence. We loved sharing them with our friends and families, and setting it up as a business felt like a natural progression of this.

What do you think people are seeking from UK staycations?

Ease. Whether that’s being able to jump on a train after work on Friday and get to a property in time for dinner, or being able to fill the car with paraphernalia if you’re travelling with kids, or taking your dog, travelling within the UK is much simpler than travelling abroad. 

Also, style. In recent years the UK staycation market has seriously upped its game. Our rentals are as stylish as boutique hotels, which means you get all of the luxe and joy of staying in gorgeous properties, plus the independence of self catering. 

How do you manage your time?

It’s a constant juggle, as we both have young kids. We work in very different ways. I tend to start at 6am and finish around 3pm, weekdays only; my husband takes our daughter to school and I do school pick up and onwards. Sarah is less rigid, working flexibly during the week, and often working in the evenings when her kids are asleep, and also at weekends. We love that we can both work exactly when we like, around our families. It’s a huge bonus of running your own business.

Do you have any advice for those keen to follow in your footsteps and set up their own business?

  1. You’ll probably need to chip away at it at the start. We did bits as and when we could to create and run Kip around freelancing to pay the bills. Initially we worked on Kip for free, and gradually the balance shifted and we were able to start paying ourselves. First one day a week, then two…and so on. Now we’re both full-time on Kip. You have to be determined and ‘make’ that hour or two a day in the early days or it will never get off the ground.
  1. You don’t need to have savings / backers to start your own business, so don’t let that put you off. We started on a real shoestring, creating a really lean business model by necessity, and actually long-term this really helped us grow quickly as we didn’t have overheads. 
  1. Be prepared to work hard. We work longer hours than when we were employed, and of course carry all the stress of running a business. You never really switch off, and the buck always stops with you. But the benefits are enormous; flexible hours, being able to work at home, choosing who we work with, constantly meeting new inspirational people, and of course having enormous pride in what we’ve created, and being able to stay in our properties. We genuinely love being ‘at work’. 

What’s the biggest lesson you have learned along the way?

To constantly adapt. The market shifts thanks to the pandemic have been insane. One minute, things have been quiet, the next absolutely manic, then quiet, then manic again. We’ve had to scale our own time and freelancers’ time up and down accordingly. We’re also constantly looking to improve Kip for our owners and users, and grow it in different ways to keep users engaged and attract new audiences. You can’t sit back on your laurels otherwise you run the risk of flatlining.

Who has been the most influential person as part of your career journey?

Jessy Harrison. We loved the PR work she did for the Artist Residence properties, so brought her on board just to help us launch. She did such an incredible job that we’ve kept her with us ever since! She is full of energy, ideas and enthusiasm, and she, and her team (big nod to Aimee), are an integral part of Kip. 

Tell us about how you source the special places that are part of the collection…

We spend a lot of time researching, on the web, through magazines and newspapers, and via recommendations from people we really trust. We also get a lot of people approaching us asking to come on Kip nowadays, which, if they fit our strict criteria, is a real bonus!

Which areas have proved the most popular?

Suffolk, Sussex and the Kent Coast are huge. Our users are also loving Wales.

How has the travel landscape changed post-pandemic?

I think the pandemic has made people realise that the UK holidays can be amazing – and completely different from those you perhaps remember as a child. The UK offers incredible landscapes, really stylish properties, great value, great food, and an ease of travel. Yes, you can never guarantee the weather, but if the property you’re staying in is gorgeous, you don’t mind spending more time indoors. And on a sunny day, the UK is pure joy. 

What does the future of travel in the UK look like?

We’re predicting really buoyant. Although there is currently a bulge in people going abroad as they’ve been unable to do so for a couple of years, I think this will settle, as people have realised you don’t need to jump on a plane to go somewhere special. Whereas once people might have gone abroad two or three times a year in the past, I think the future will be perhaps one holiday abroad and one in the UK, or more minibreaks in the UK. Especially as everyone now has a dog.

Visit kiphideaways.com.