Bee Watson and Kate Norman are my new girl heroes. This awesome entrepreneurial twosome who once ‘dreamed a little dream of buying a caravan and turning it into the most glorious mobile cocktail bar in the world,’ have just made fantasy a reality by launching The Cocktail Caravan, a travelling bundle of boozy joy in the shape of a polka-dot painted caravan by the name of Norman. I caught up with the lovely Bee to talk about tipsy afternoon teas, cocktails in jam jars and hitting the road this summer.
Looking at Norman now, in his gorgeous spotty glory, it’s hard to believe that he was once a rather neglected grey caravan full of garish pink furniture before he was saved and transformed by Bee and Kate. The girls, who met in Exeter working in a cocktail bar (where else?), always knew that they wanted to run a business together, ideally involving a little caravan called Norman. Added to their shared love of exciting drinks and exotic blends and a love of vintage style, The Cocktail Caravan was born.
Starting the company on a wing and a prayer, Kate, 27, and Bee, 24, searched the UK for a suitable caravan, and found Norman for sale for £500 on a farm near Devon. A busy winter of painting and prepping him for glory ensued, with DIY help from Kate’s mum, dad and boyfriend.
“When Kate came across Norman she sent me a photo and I knew he was it!” says Bee. “His less-than-perfect looks didn’t matter because we could see the potential. We tore everything inside apart and started again with a blank canvas, damp-proofing him with silicone and then getting on with the painting.”
Were the girls scared to take the plunge and starting up their own business? “Not really” smiles Bee, “we’d both worked for ourselves before – I was a freelance costume designer and Kate ran an awesome bead shop. We knew we wanted to work together and we stuck with what we knew – cocktails with a twist.”
By mid-November Norman was looking spruced up and cheerful in a red and white polkadot outfit, and the girls started rummaging around charity shops and vintage fairs for his gorgeous accessories. A visual feast of cut-glass vessels, bright bunting, blankets, pillows and other pretty finds now travel around in Norman’s insides, ready to be set up in the sunshine for people to enjoy.
This summer, the girls will be heading to weddings, festivals, parties and corporate events to set up and serve their amazing drinks menus, which they plan to tailor to every event. Bee explains “We want our cocktails to be really fun – they should be a special treat! We’re going to run cocktail making workshops and a boozy afternoon tea service. We’ll plan personalised drinks for each event, too – for example, for an upcoming wedding we’re offering something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.”
Bee’s enthusiasm for her new venture is infectious. “It’s so exciting. For the last few months I’ve just been eating and sleeping cocktails – someone asked me if Norman was my boyfriend the other day! It’s been hard work but now it’s done and we’ve created what we set out to do – a business that is fun, whimsical and a little bit different.”
Find out more about Bee, Kate and Norman at The Cocktail Caravan.