A central Queensland barista has come up with an innovative way of selling her idyllic seaside business that will see the new owner pick it up for just $50.
Rachael Willson is raffling off her custom-made coffee caravan named Ruby, sparking interest from around Australia, and even as far afield as Germany.
Ms Willson first parked the 1950s replica beside the Ross Creek boat ramp at Yeppoon on Queensland’s Capricorn Coast about five years ago after it was built over nine months by a local carpenter.
She has since grown a vibrant community and a diverse circle of friends around the little blue and white van.
“I always get a little bit of itchy feet and I’ve had a lot of customers who’ve said to me they’d love to have a little business like Ruby,” she said.
“But financially, for a lot of people, [starting or buying a business] can be a bit of a strain.”
Having read about similar raffles around the world, Ms Willson said she loved the idea and wanted to be the first in Queensland to do it.
“It gives everybody the chance to throw their hat in the ring and I’d love to see it go to somebody that wants it more for passion than financial [reasons], because she’s [Ruby‘s] got to be loved,” Ms Willson said.
At $50 a ticket, the entry includes a water colour portrait print of Ruby Caravan by local artist, Belinda Reid.
Ms Willson hopes to sell 1900 tickets, which is the number of available prints, to raise $95,000.
“I probably would’ve made more money by a traditional sale, but where’s the fun in that?” Ms Willson said.
“I like to help the community and watching people getting excited about what they would do if they won her … it’s a bit of a thrill.”
‘Really clever technique’ to stand out from business crowd
Commercial sales agent and buyer’s broker Bruce Coudrey said Ms Willson’s plan was a “gutsy” way of overcoming the supply-versus-demand challenge that faced many small business owners who wanted to sell up, especially those in regional areas.
“To get your business out there and stand out from the crowd, this is a really clever technique,” Mr Coudrey said.
“You’ve got to try these sorts of things, otherwise it’s going to be very hard for a buyer to find it because there are so many others [businesses] to look at.
“We reckon that there’s currently 41,000 businesses for sale across Australia right now and there’s not 41,000 buyers looking to buy small businesses.”
Mr Coudrey, whose national agency has sold more than 4000 businesses since 1995, said the childcare sector was about the only industry where the number of buyers outstrip sellers.
He said another common hurdle the raffle method would also remove was the issue of finance.
“It’s probably not an easy business for a bank to lend money on, so even if a buyer wanted to buy it, getting money from a bank wouldn’t be easy, especially since the royal commission, that’s really tightened up lending,” Mr Coudrey said.
However, he said he did not expect raffling off businesses to become commonplace.
“When you sell a normal business, there’s a lot of little things you need to cover like restriction of trade, gift vouchers, especially with leased premises – there’s a lot of disclosure documents that need to be completed,” he said.
“But for a caravan like this, it works perfectly.”
‘Embrace her new adventure’
Ms Willson said drawing a winner would be bittersweet, as she is still not used to the idea of giving up her days with Ruby, named after her great grandmother.
“I very often open up and see someone sleeping in their car, so you do find a lot of people who have amazing stories, hardship stories,” she said.
“Hopefully she’ll stay here in Yeppoon so I get to see her, but if not, I’m just going to have to embrace her new adventure.”
And it is not just the caravan she will miss.
Ms Willson has developed some special friendships with many of her regular customers.
One of those is grey nomad and sailing enthusiast, John Amber.
Mr Amber drove his campervan into the Ross Creek car park about two years ago and has spent every morning since perched on the park bench, watching the customers come and go.
The 66-year-old was the first to buy a ticket in the raffle but said he has no plans of coming out of retirement.
“The moment they call out my name, there’ll be a For Sale sign right beside it,” Mr Amber said.
Too tall to stand up straight inside the van, Mr Amber said if Ruby ended up leaving Yeppoon, it was likely he would pull up stumps and continue north on his own caravan adventure.
“I’d move on. I’ve got the old bus over there and I better get somewhere before it rusts out,” Mr Amber said.
The raffle will be drawn via a computerised lottery system by Ms Willson’s solicitors when all 1900 tickets are sold.