Business Profile: Simon and Fiona Calvin’s llamas are popular at Ecocamp Glenshee.
How and why did you start in business?
We started up because we were both fed up with normal jobs, nine to five hours and getting told what to do from up high.
Originally, we had plans for an environmentally-based bunk house and education centre and submitted applications for funding about two weeks before the global crash of 2008.
No funding was available so we looked for new ideas.
Two years later we saw someone selling pods at an event which gave us the idea and from then on we self-funded the business. The llama trekking seed was first planted back in the early 2000s.
We were in the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming, USA, on a rock-climbing trip and met a group who were on a multi-day trek using mules to carry kit.
Soon after Ecocamp opened we had friends over, the mules came up in conversation and mules became llamas – and the rest is history.
How did you get where you are today?
Hard work, coupled with imagination, a willingness to take the odd gamble and having quality as a focus.
I was a primary school teacher for 23 years and kept working full time for the first 18 months of Ecocamp, gradually reducing my teaching hours before eventually going full time at Ecocamp about five years ago. Fiona’s background is in archaeology and health and safety.
Who has helped you along the way?
We have had good advice from a variety of organisations along the way, including community-based enterprise support organisation GrowBiz, Cairngorm Business Partnership and Visit Scotland to name a few.
What was your biggest mistake?
Allowing negativity to creep in. There are plenty of people out there who will have a go at you and your ideas.
Focus on the people who want to encourage you and the customers who love what you do. When we first opened one negative comment would ruin our week, even if we have had twenty positive ones!
What is your greatest achievement to date?
We are simply proud to have developed a successful business from an original idea which is well respected and brings significant spending to the local area.
Hopes for the future?
We want to develop our customer base, invest in improving what we have and increase our corporate customers for our Llama Experience.
Do you want to recruit in the future?
We are very happy to employ a couple of hard-working locals.
What is the hardest thing about running your own business?
The long hours and never really getting away from it.
Any advice to wannabe entrepreneurs?
Take your idea, research it, research it a bit more, take a deep breath and jump in. Don’t be the person who looks back on their life and says “If only….”
How do you relax?
Running, cross-country skiing and our dogs.