This month we spoke to Martin and Sarah Lee, owners of Crafty Boaters. Together they run a self catering static boat accommodation business as well as selling artwork alongside it on the boats and in their online shop.
Crafty Boaters offers year round static narrowboat accommodation in Lechlade-on-Thames on the edge of the Cotswolds, with stays from three nights. In addition, we sell our own artwork and hand cast ceramics too.
What drove you to start the business?
In 2017 we went to the Netherlands to buy a Dutch barge to live on. Martin at the time was already living on a narrowboat, but it was too small for us to work and live on it. However, we wanted to keep the narrowboat in order to explore the narrow canal system in the UK for our holidays. In 2019, when Sarah was informed that her job would be closing in two years time, we bit the bullet and decided to rent the narrowboat out full time year round through Airbnb.
What particular challenges did you have to overcome in setting up your business, and since then?
We opened for business in November 2019 and she was booked within 24hrs. Within months we were closing due to covid lockdowns. It was a challenging time. But the closure gave Sarah time to expand a hobby creating hand cast, hand painted tea light holders and ornaments.
After the second lockdown with loss of earnings, and restrictions still in place, we organised a socially distanced craft market at in our local hotel car park. It helped us and other local artisans stay financially afloat during the restrictions. We also offered our empty narrowboat to a couple who would otherwise have been made homeless during lockdown three. This helped us by earning enough to pay the bills for the narrowboat, and gave the couple somewhere as a stop gap for a reasonable price.
Why did you choose The Accountancy Partnership?
After our previous accountant retired, we needed to find another accountant. We had been with our last accountant for many years, so we were naturally apprehensive as we wanted to find another that we could build the same good rapport with.
We found The Accountancy Partnership after having looked on the internet. There were a number of important factors that were important to us. First we wanted to find a firm that we could continue using even if we moved, we wanted to be able to use bookkeeping software, and we wanted to have an assigned accountant. We have found that we have all these things with The Accountancy Partnership.
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Have we helped you overcome any challenges, and if so, how?
We have found the transition to The Accountancy Partnership very easy. We have taken to using the bookkeeping software easy too, especially as there are some great training videos, and any questions are answered quickly by members of the team.
What do you have planned for your business in the future?
We have just expanded our customer reach by joining more booking agencies, and now have a section on our website where people can book our accommodation directly through us and buy our art work online. We are also currently renovating a second boat (a small Dutch barge) for short breaks that we hope to have up and running later in 2022.