Behind the Brand : Vintage Marquees

Vintage Marquees is a unique Wiltshire based company specialising in the hire of traditional canvas marquees. They  also have a large range of rustic tables and chairs as well as lanterns, firepits, garden games and ‘shabby chic’ and vintage accessories – basically everything you need to have the coolest garden party ever!

If you are looking for a beautiful country wedding or garden party, then look no further! House of Coco went behind the brand to find out more, here we speak to Caroline Penny, company owner, about her plans for the future and what makes her tick…

I launched the brand almost eight years ago, having fallen in love with two little tatty old canvas scout tents that were (and still are!) used every year for our village fete. I decided to buy them and try and make them cover their costs by organising tea parties. I then collected china, made table cloths, bunting etc, and so it all began!

What is my background?  Anything artistic and creative has always been my passion especially anything with an entrepreneurial streak! I used to buy dolls houses, paint them and sell wooden furniture sets. I have made jewellery, made wooden cut-outs which I then painted and made into clocks and spent hours selling at craft fairs. When travelling decades ago, we bought jewellery in Hawaii, shipped it to Australia and sold it at markets as we travelled the country.

There are about 15 people involved in the company. I have total control of ideas, bookings, quoting and new projects. I have two logistics men who organise crew and vehicles for erecting and dismantling the marquees. I have Annie who helps and advises with marketing. There is occasional help in the office (I need more!) There are 10-12 part-time crew.

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I don’t think I would change things if I could start over again. The company has grown organically and steadily over time. I have constantly re-invested where I feel there is demand. I said I would never hire out large marquees and now my largest will seat 200! I love the freedom to follow my own ideas and I have always been passionate about doing a job thoroughly and I have confidence in my decisions.

There is the constant challenge to meet all orders and make no mistakes. Most weekends there are five or six bookings, each with a stock list of up to 20 different items, so there is a lot of room for error. The other challenge is to make time for myself. I am useless at this as my work has really become all-consuming. So my next challenge will be to try and delegate and free me from my desk a bit!

One fact about me that people would not know..best not to say!! Ok….I LOVE to hear live music; preferably after a few bevvies when I can dance dance!

Plans for the brand… I have just had ‘Congratulations’ and ‘Anniversary’ cards made to give my clients. I am in the process of completing work on my 1972 Morris Minor  Vintage Marquees van. I am considering a link to the business with perhaps a ‘same theme’ camper van for honeymoon hire, maybe even one day a holiday let or canal boat.

The highlight since launching has to be, I think, some of the film shoots and magazine shoots…just for the kudos! Also, some of the wonderful  thank you messages from happy clients.

Which city…? London I guess – but I really am a country gal!

Totally no reliance on beauty products – but I do like Clarins Beauty Flash Balm, Clinique long lasting lipstick and Clinique mascara.

Style means… being confident to express your individuality.

Best thing about London… theatres, pubs, markets (that’s actually three best things I guess!)

Statement….shoe, I think

Favourite piece of clothing? A floppy grey linen shirt from Anthropologie

I don’t actually like love songs! But anything by Bob Dylan or JJ Cale I could listen to forever!

Best place for coffee..my best mate’s house,  the banter makes the coffee taste better!   (although I have to say it is also the best place for wine).

Most memorable advice… a very special letter my Dad wrote to me when I was 14 at boarding school. I still have the letter –  he just told me I had lots to give and, pretty much, to harness my confident, outgoing personality. It has taken me decades to actually kind of realise the potential!

Guilty pleasure..again, can’t say!

24 hours anywhere in the world…. Hiking through mountain villages in Nepal

I plan on expanding the company by involving more specific people with skills that are complimentary to mine, so that all areas (advertising, marketing, logistics, stock control etc) are strong. This will also mean that we have a very strong foundation to expand further (ie increasing stock levels or franchising the business) should we decide to.

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