It might seem like a bit of a leap to switch from caring for patients at Castle Hill’s oncology ward to providing fun parties for all ages, but Hull businesswoman Jan McKinley has always had the knack for putting a smile on people’s faces.
And now the retired staff nurse who left the NHS in March after 20 years to work full-time on her Dolly Daydreams Party Caravan business has bagged national recognition for the second time with a #WOW award from Ann Summers/Knickerbox guru Jacqueline Gold.
Jan, 54, from Anlaby Road, launched Dolly Daydreams three years ago while she was working part-time at the hospital. She said: “Since being 16 I’ve always dabbled with party planning, from Tupperware to Virgin Vie, and I’ve also always liked the idea of being my own boss.”
Richard Branson’s book Screw It, Let’s Do It, along with a chance sighting of a retro caravan followed by Filey’s Big Top circus tent gave Jan the flash of inspiration she’d been seeking. “I had this idea of creating a party caravan and after taking some really sound business advice from the local Goodwin Trust, I was up and running,” she added.
Last year she caught the attention of Dragon’s Den star Theo Paphitis when he chose her as a winner in his Twitter-based weekly Small Business Sunday awards, which gave her profile a huge boost and also provided a free pass to his annual business conference in Birmingham.
This time, Jan’s pink caravan has succeeded in being picked by Jacqueline Gold CBE as a winner in her Women On Wednesday (#WOW) campaign to support women in business. Each week Jacqueline encourages female business owners to tweet her using the #WOW hashtag along with their business name and a short overview of what they do. Jacqueline then picks her three top entries for that week and re-tweets them to her thousands of followers. The three winners also receive a #WOW badge which they can display on their websites.
When selecting the three winners, Jacqueline looks for businesses that are interesting, that have strong brand values and that she thinks have potential to grow and succeed in their industry. She looks for quality products, well designed websites and entrepreneurs who appear to have a good business sense and who have thought about what the consumer wants and how to deliver it. Each week Jacqueline receives in excess of 200 entries so the competition is pretty stiff.
Jan said: “I was blown away to win a #WOW award, it’s a real honour to be recognised by such a successful businesswoman. I used a review from a customer as my entry so it was a proper third-party testimony.”
The Dolly Daydreams tagline ‘Reduce the stress and contain the mess!’ might well be the big attraction for people who want to create a memorable party without all the hassle of organising it or clearing up afterwards. Jan offers two vintage caravans, Alice and Daisy, with different themes that are brought to the customer’s home or venue of choice. She provides a choice of activities – pamper session, crafts, or cupcake decorating – and also offers a range of additional props and extras to hire.
Another option, very popular for children’s sleepovers, is to hire a themed bell tent for either outdoor or indoor use. “Bell tents are brilliant in the summer months,” said Jan, “and indoor tents are the latest craze sweeping the nation. I can offer packages of indoor tents for parties and sleepovers, including a ‘best friends’ deal of two special indoor tents.”
Jan’s latest business development is the Daydream Selfie Mirror (which is in great demand at festivals, events and weddings) where guests can have a ball posing in front of the animated mirror and see their photos printed out within minutes.
And in terms of Dolly Daydream’s future, the sky’s the limit. Jan said: “I would like to grow the business and develop new party options, the potential for different themes is limitless. I enjoy collaborating with other individuals and businesses, and helping to unleash the creative side in others. Watch this space!”
For more information about Dolly Daydreams Party Caravan, visit https://dollydaydreamspartycaravan.co.uk
The #WOW campaign
The weekly #WOW winners, which currently totals over 100, have formed their own #WOW network through Facebook and Twitter in which they offer each other support and guidance. Jacqueline stays in regular contact with all of the #WOW winners, offering advice where needed and also asking for regular updates as to how the winners are doing. Many winners have reported an increase in visits to their website after winning, as well as an increase in sales. For more information on the #WOW campaign, visit http://www.jacquelinegold.com
Jacqueline said: “For me #WOW is all about inspiring and celebrating women in business. There are so many great businesses launching every day and while it’s an extremely exciting time, it can also be a very nerve-racking and lonely time. I hope that #WOW offers a place for women to network and celebrate each other’s successes, I know that every week I am so proud of all the incredible women that enter and am thrilled to see so many women achieving such great things.”
Jacqueline Gold CBE is chief executive of Ann Summers and Knickerbox and is renowned for managing a company run by women, for women.