Daniel Walton of OLPRO
Daniel Walton of OLPRO have gone from strength to strength in the last few years, giving the outdoor industry a run for their money. The team at OLPRO are keen to stand out from the crowd and love everything about camping – encouraging us all to get out and about.
This month, Ruby chats with Daniel Walton – the CEO and Founder of OLPRO – to learn more about the compnay, why he founded it and why it’s called OLPRO!
The team pride themselves on stocking different products within their ranges, including tents, camper van awnings, melamine tableware, printed windbreaks and essential chemicals for camping, camper vans and caravans. They produce their products with as few middlemen as possible, to ensure they are of outstanding quality as well as being affordable.
With 100s of 1000s of hits a day and an award for the best use of social media from the local and regional Chambers of Commerce, Daniel and his team are ready to take on the big outdoors:
My alarm goes off and…
I get a cup of coffee, start work straight away from home. We do a lot of work with China and so I start chatting with them from around 5am, for a couple of hours, replying to emails, getting ready for the day ahead.
My typical day…
After an early start, I head into the OLPRO (OLPRO always in capitals) office, based in the Worcestershire countryside in Little Witley. I also attend meetings in my roles as trustee for the local charity Onside Advocacy and the Chamber of Commerce area Board representing retail. I leave work around 6pm, then the gym or Tae Kwondo or run, some sort of exercise to wake up again. Then I travel home, eat, play on Xbox – I play a lot of Xbox, work a bit more and bed. Then it starts again the next day!
I’m responsible for…
The success of the brand, which is the key thing for OLPRO. We sell ourselves by being different, to stand out. Lots of people sell tents and awnings, so we want to stand out from those businesses and be a different brand. That’s the most important thing to me and OLPRO.
There are now only a very few UK brands doing what we do and we’re the ones that are growing.
How did the idea come to mind?
I grew up in Sheffield, studied Criminology in North Wales and spent most of my early working life writing computer games for various companies. After I completed my course in Criminology I worked for lastminute.com as they launched, then Towsure – a huge outdoor retailer – and was introduced into the family camping world. I was a Director of various reputable camping and outdoor leisure businesses, one was based in Birmingham so when we moved down to area, we saw Worcester and loved it; in 2011 we set up OLPRO.
Having worked in the camping industry for 10 years at that point, I found the majority of it was boring and I didn’t want to do it every day. Then in 2011, I had an extra week off work, too much time to think – was getting bored with working for other people realised life’s too short to do something you don’t like.
So OLPRO was born.
We wanted the shortest name possible as a brand that was also still available as a domain. I’d also been told to take what you do and compress it into the smallest possible word. OLPRO literally means Outdoor Leisure Products but we dropped that a while ago and now we’re always only just OLPRO.
We were based in a smaller unit on the same estate as we are now, although we’re in a larger unit due to our growth and the range of products we offer growing significantly.
I wanted to do something different, so I approached others who agreed with me and brought them on board. Now there are ten of us, from MD to Operations Manager to Apprentices; we’ve had 5 overall, 3 have stayed with us and we’re looking forward to welcoming an extra 2 apprentices later this year.
Over the last 5 years, the independent camping market has all but disappeared and those companies like Go Outdoors and Mountain Warehouse have replaced the retail market. OLPRO started as trade, B2B, we didn’t sell online for the first 3 years of trading. Then with the fall of the independents we reassessed. We very quickly found we were running out of potential customers so we changed our business model completely in order to make sure people could buy what we’d created. We now supply Halfords and Argos with our ranges and offer everything direct on our own website – as most of the consumers who buy from us go to festivals, motocross competitions, equestrian events and we therefore design around that community.
How do people find out about you?
Our website has around 20,000 hits a day and our strategy for marketing is all about the camping community, groups who support each other – we look at what people want.
We share customer reviews and feedback to help us develop products – they’re a font of knowledge on line and we like to give back.
We consider the relationship with our customers as two-way; we sell our wares and receive great feedback and information about their community, what they want and we use that to support innovation and provide the camping community with the newest designs. For example, this year’s melamine design came from inspiration at the spring fair, via ceramic designs and in the context of shows and feedback from them, so by the time we came to create them we had a very good sense whether they would work.
Then we use social media to ask our supporters for their feedback about the new designs. We also ask the bloggers and brand ambassadors for their support in developing the designs. We have 60,000 followers this number is split across social media and talk to 100s of 1000s of people every week via our own site.
OLPRO’s social media is the best in the industry. The team won the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 social media award and went on to win the West Midlands regional award which led us to London for the nationals in November. Most of the finalists had dedicated social media teams – so I’m very proud of my small team of two!
We also attend lots of shows and are very well known in VW community. Last year we went to 20 outdoor VW shows!
As a team, we’re socially conscious – I think that’s really important. For example, Onside Advocacy has just celebrated 25 years; it’s an interesting organisation helping those who can’t themselves. It’s a great local cause that helps keep us grounded as a business – I encourage everyone to take a look at what they do and support them if possible. Head to their website for more info:www.onside-advocacy.org.uk
What’s on your bucket list?
I want to be an adventurer, go to far-flung countries and discover places many others haven’t seen. Oh, and The Chase! Actually, I’ve just applied and would love to play against any of the chasers. I’d beat any of them.
What’s your biggest bugbear?
Others would probably say I’m intolerant of moaners…
Life is about experiences, so make the most of it!
What I wanted to be when I grew up
I’ve always wanted to write something. I’ve got lots of ideas but not the time at the moment.
If you’d like to learn more about the local camping company who are taking the outdoor world by storm, head over to: www.OLPROshop.com