By camping fans for camping fans – sharing with “Paul Camper”
The sharing service “Paul Camper” redefines camping. The founder, Dirk Fehse, talks about the secret of his success and what makes his start-up unique.
Solving a life crisis with a start-up
Dirk Fehse came up with the idea of “Paul Camper” at just the right moment. The man from Brandenburg had just returned from a long camping trip in the Australian outback. Back in Germany, he was aimless and searched for a new vision. “Yes, I think you could say that I was having a crisis”, says the 35-year-old. “I was searching for something which I could use to build myself up again.” Then Dirk found “his own Paul” – as he calls his camper van. He wanted to discover Europe with his trusty companion. The same time, the adventurer finished his studies and began to work as an auditor. However, working in an office became more and more frustrating for him. The job was costing more energy than it gave him joy, explains Dirk Fehse. The memories of Australia helped get him through the crisis. “I asked myself questions like: Who am I? What truly makes me happy?”
I asked myself questions like:
Who am I? What truly makes me happy?
The camper van Paul is a loyal companion
Then he thought about “his Paul”. From the very beginning, he shared his camper van with friends and acquaintances. The idea was born: What would happen if he offered his vehicle on the Internet as a type of mobile hotel? Or even better: He could create a community in which private camper van owners rented their vehicles to other like-minded people?
Fehse did not hesitate for long and soon founded the “Paul Camper” start-up. That was in 2013. The van community immediately welcomed the idea. Today “Paul Camper” has more than 10,000 customers and 1,500 van providers. “We are the first and the largest platform and community for private camper van sharing in Germany”, reports Fehse with a broad grin. His motivation: sharing the spirit of a camping journey that once shaped him. “We want to offer other people a fantastic time with an affordable camper van”, says the young entrepreneur. “But the most important thing is that the whole process is secure, personal and uncomplicated – from equipping the camper van to the rental process to the pricing. I never liked additional costs.” That is why “Paul Camper” uses fixed prices. The keys are handed over in person. The Berlin start-up now has 30 employees who handle the organization.
Personal contact is important for Dirk Fehse
The founder, Dirk Fehse, describes the secret behind the success of “Paul Camper” with three words: passion, personality and authenticity. “We place great value in personality and service: We talk with our community in person and support both our van owners and charterers via telephone and e-mail. We also meet our van owners in person at our community events.” For the employees at “Paul Camper”, it is important for the charterers and the owners to meet before concluding the rental agreement. “This is the only way to give both parties a sense of security”, explains Fehse.
Camper sharing without hidden costs
The booking process is child’s play: First, the charterer searches for the desired vehicle on the paulcamper.de website and sends an enquiry to the owner. The enquiry should include a few words about the planned travel route. Then the charterer and the owner get to know each other in person or over the telephone. Only then is the payment processed via Paul Camper. Thanks to the “Paul Camper” promise, the charterer can be certain that there will be no additional costs. Everything is included in the rental price, from the complete insurance coverage to the breakdown cover and, naturally, the camping equipment. This makes the sharing process as simple as possible for charterers and owners. “We are very happy that the “Paul Camper“ idea has been such a success in Germany. The Netherlands and Austria are also developing. That is why Dirk Fehse would like to expand his successful concept throughout Europe. “We intend to completely merge Europe on our platform.”