Entrepreneur uses her magic to transform vans into the dream travelling home

Dundonald woman Goes For It by pursuing dream career of transforming vans into luxury travelling homes

By Claire Cartmill
Tuesday, 23rd November 2021, 6:00 am
Jennifer McKechnie, Cllr Kate Nicholl, Lord Mayor of Belfast and Shannon Woulahan, business adviser at Belfast City Council
Jennifer McKechnie, Cllr Kate Nicholl, Lord Mayor of Belfast and Shannon Woulahan, business adviser at Belfast City Council

Jennifer McKechnie worked as a personal trainer, but when the Coronavirus pandemic hit just over 18 months ago, her work dried up forcing her to venture into a different avenue.

Based in Dundonald, the 32-year-old decided to spend her time transforming her beloved camper van into a luxury vehicle whilst documenting the process.

Once completed, Jennifer published the transformation of her van into a bespoke camper van onto social media. In particular on TIK TOK, the video reached over 3.1 million likes and became the catalyst for a new business idea.

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In response to the fantastic reaction to her unique creation, Jennifer decided to create a new business and joined the Go for It programme in partnership with Belfast City Council to get started.

Jennifer embraced her passion and launched Custom Conversions in October 2020, focusing on converting vans into unique camper vans.

Jennifer said: “My business is converting vans into camper vans with a bespoke design from the customer. So, the customer brings me an empty van and I give it back completely finished to their specification.

“My idea came from building my own van and when I posted it on Tik Tok, it just went viral so I knew there was demand for this type of service. I decided to start my own business, I thought, if I don’t try I will never know. When I finally launched the business, I was very excited, scared and nervous but it went in the right direction.

“The best thing about owning my own business is having control of everything and being able to run it the way I want.”

Jennifer used the support of the Go for IT Programme to help turn her idea into a business.

The Go for it programme is delivered free of charge by a team of experienced business mentors through Northern Ireland’s wide network of enterprise agencies. It provides expert advice and help with developing a robust business plan to help turn ideas into a commercial enterprise.

This project is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth and Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) programme.

Jennifer continued: “I got in touch with Go for it through a friend who used them as well and it was very simple, I sent them an e-mail and they were very, very helpful.

“The GFI programme helped me by creating a business plan, so I knew exactly what I was going to venture into. They helped me with the financial, legal, insurance and everything else in-between to help me get my business started.

“They helped me set out a business plan. I had a clear vision as to what was going to happen. Others could read the business plan too and understand what I wanted and how I wanted to move forward with it.”

Jennifer’s Go for it Business Advisor at Belfast City Council is Shannon Woulahan.

Shannon added: “We understand it can be scary to go from being employed to being self-employed. The Go For It programme is a free and confidential advice and support program which helps entrepreneurs set up their business.

“We meet the clients and we discuss their business idea and we go through all aspects from operation to legal, financial and marketing to help them flesh it out and turn it into reality. It’s really great to see Jennifer’s business as a testimony as to how good digital marketing can be for a business. It is definitely a very successful story to come out of the programme.”

Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Kate Nicholl said: “I am so pleased to see the business up and running. Local Entrepreneurs Like Jennifer are vital to this city. It’s not just because entrepreneurs create wealth, they come up with ideas and change that is needed. They are essential to the economic fibre of this city.

“To anyone thinking of starting their own business, try the Go for it programme, they will help you get everything set up, if you don’t try it, you’ll never now.”

If you have a business idea you would like to develop or if you are thinking about starting a business contact the Go for It Programme on 0800 027 0639 or visit: www.goforitni.com

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