“Ex-salesman in a start-up, I created my traveling surf hostel”

Pierre Mainguy a racheté ce bus de 1984, qu'il a retapé pendant un an et demi pour en faire une auberge.

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Posted Jul 11, 2022, 7:00 AM

“I was never excellent in school or very motivated by the teachings. My thing was more sports. But since my big sister was super strong in class, I tried to follow her path a little, without having the same abilities or the same desire (laughter). After the baccalaureate, I did a preparatory course in Brest, where I come from, before joining the Audencia business school in Nantes. I didn't have a particular idea of ​​a job to pursue, but I thought it was good to follow the classic path…

At the end of my master's, I signed a permanent sales contract in a start-up in Nantes, which publishes software so that companies can easily analyze their customers' feedback.

Very quickly, I wanted to send everything flying. I realized that I had headlong into a lane without really thinking about what I wanted. So every month, I put money aside, telling myself that maybe I could start my own company, with a project that resembled me.

See the purpose of my work

I had an idea: to retype a bus to make it a hostel, with which I would take people surfing. I started surfing at 19 and loved it. During my master's, I went on Erasmus in Spain, in Santander. I had chosen this destination because it was a good “spot” in terms of waves.

There, I met an Englishman, with whom I sympathized. He had opened a foodtruck in England, with which he sold cheddar fries. I had gone to give him a hand several summers and I loved the atmosphere, the fact of being nomadic, of going to cool rights, of working while laughing with your friends…

Hosting vacationers on a bus would allow me to take them to find the best waves depending on the weather, and to change regions with the seasons. I believed in this idea because it was something new, which did not exist on the market. It made me want all the more because it was tangible, concrete, where I didn't have the impression in this first job of seeing the purpose of my daily work.

A year and a half of renovation

Barely two years after my arrival in the company, I therefore signed a mutual agreement to carry out this project. No choice, with my very tight budget, I returned to live with my parents, at 25 years old. Fortunately, we get along well.

From then on, I spend my days drawing up a business plan, designing plans for the layout, imagining the decoration… After extensive research, I set my sights on a 1984 Renault bus, with 637,000 kilometers on the clock. An old vintage bus, which has a mouthful and is 12 meters long, 2.6 wide and 3.2 high. The price: 6,000 Pounds.

Helped by my grandfather, I set about renovating it: I had to remove the fifty seats, isolate it, create walls and fit everything out. Objective: to install a dormitory for eight people, with toilets, shower, kitchen.

For me, who have never touched a screwdriver in my life, it is very gratifying to see the bus taking shape over the days. The only things for which I have to call on professionals: the installation of solar panels on the roof which are used to provide all the electricity for the bus – fridge, electrical outlets, light – and gas, for cooking and having Hot water.

In the end, this work, which according to my plans was going to take six months, lasted… a year and a half! On the budget side, I have to pay 61,000 Pounds in total: 20,000 from my pocket, 30,000 with a loan, and 11,000 thanks to crowdfunding. Sums that cover the purchase of the bus, the renovation, the furniture, but also the equipment: surfboards, wetsuits…

Stays from 450 Pounds

In April 2018, I organize my first stay in my hostel, named The Commodore Hostel. The stress is at its peak. Is the project to which I have devoted myself for a year and a half viable? Will it meet with the expected success? Four years later, I can say yes, because I live from this activity! I organize four-day stays from April to October, in Finistère and in the Landes. During this season, I live on the bus. The rest of the year, I mop.

The holidaymakers who take part are generally between 25 and 40 years old. Some start surfing, others have a good level. This stay costs them between 450 and 580 Pounds (for those who want to take lessons with a pro surfer). Rates that include accommodation, food, equipment and travel for four days.

When they are surfing, I prepare the meal or go for a session with them. It's a joy in the sense that in my old job, I felt like I didn't have flexibility and I missed things.

I cover an average of 200 to 300 kilometers per stay in search of the best spots depending on the weather conditions. Obviously, the increase in fuel prices affects me. I have not increased the price of the stays, my margin is therefore reduced. It also accelerates my reflection on my desire to be more sedentary, to consume less energy, and to do a project more in line with my ecological transition.

Today, I have the impression that I need a new balance between sedentariness and nomadism. I need to project myself to a fixed location and free up time to do other activities. Road fatigue. I would like to diversify my activities. This summer, I take part in several tours of musicians with the bus. In the years to come, I see myself continuing this activity with the surfers, but also participating in the creation of events or rehabilitating a place. »

To note

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