Then we had to organise our finances, an enormous task. We had to set up our business account, set up trade accounts with local businesses and lastly, we had to figure out where we were getting money from. Luckily, we were in a position to personally invest in WAC however we did explore the option of getting a business loan from a finance company. The process was long, exhausting and complicated, you’d swear we were looking for €1m not €7k! Eventually, we scrapped the loan application and personally invested the money ourselves. So yes, my advice here would be firstly explore if you can invest the money yourself and if not, prepare yourself for the long process of applying for a business loan.
Then the craic started… When the money was sorted we finally started to build our empire and purchase assets. The excitement was immense but we also had to keep our sensible hats on. We create budgets, lists and priced good quality assets at reasonable prices and mapped out our track, when the entire team was happy with the plans we then began gathering what we needed and started to build our track.
One of my favourite days was on a fresh March morning, myself and Elliot were working on transforming a boggy field into our bespoke 4x4 off-roading track. We worked for 12 hours straight, breaking for a fry in Claudio’s Café and we dug the entire track with the help of an experienced digger driver, we drew in over 400 ton of stone to lay the foundations of the roadway.
For our meet and greet area, we were donated a mobile home from family which was brilliant. This monstrosity was nearly 12ft wide, combined with the back roads of Leitrim, the relocation process was quite difficult. We experienced minor fires, loss of tires and our patience well and truly tested. But we managed to get it to the grounds and it looked brilliant! When the mobile home was in place, we then cladded it with timber bark so it truly blended in with rustic countryside.
Buying our jeeps was definitely the most enjoyable part for myself and Elliot as we have a true passion for Landrover jeeps. We needed to buy jeeps that could withstand driving abuse and be able to drive through mud pits, steep inclines and a vehicle seesaw. We initially wanted to buy Landrover Defenders but they were too expensive so we settled for Landrover Discoveries. Reliable, user-friendly and the sturdiest jeep going.
Our first jeep came from Mullaghmore and is in excellent condition, a blue 1994 jeep that motors around the track. Our second jeep, a 1996 maroon jeep came from Kenmare in Kerry and our next jeep, a green 1995 jeep was purchased in Sligo.
It was then time to stop spending money and start earning it. This was probably the part that frustrated me the most, as a perfectionist (a Kearns thing) I felt like we weren’t 100% aesthetically ready but we seriously needed to start earning money. To have money coming in instead of flying out was brilliant and it meant that we could finally finish off our last remaining jobs which was a massive seating area for large groups and a shed to keep our Landrovers nice and dry.
Looking back over our journey, there is nothing I would change and I don’t regret any decisions. In fact, myself and Elliot are incredibly lucky to have a successful business within two years of opening. There is a massive grey area when it comes to help start-up companies, if we listened to all the negative comments and how we were basically lunatics to create this type of business, Wild Atlantic Crusades would still only be a thought. The journey was tough, time consuming and tiring but if you’re motivated enough, you will be make it work. In our first year of business, we had over 350 people drive blindfolded around our track.
My last bit of advice is to surround yourself with positive people and a strong team and positive things will happen. Myself and Elliot have learnt so much in our first years of business and we’re learning more and more every day. We can confidently say that we have put Kinlough on the map in terms of a bespoke outdoor experience that people from all over the world have come, experienced and enjoyed.