Entrepreneur Derry Green has revealed how a camping trip in his back garden to entertain his kids during Covid changed the course of his life.

Earlier this year millions of viewers saw the founder of The Secret Garden Glamping appear on Dragons’ Den and receive offers from Deborah Maaden, Peter Jones, Sara Davies and Touker Suleyman.

He eventually accepted Meaden’s offer of £100,000 for 5 per cent equity in the luxury glamping startup, which now has 13 pods and a turnover of £3m.

However, in the latest episode of The Holiday That Changed My Life podcast, he told hosts Jen Atkinson and Chris Maguire how it could have all been so different.

Every week a guest tells the podcast how one holiday changed their life forever and Green revealed how he was facing financial ruin at the start of Covid in 2020 when his European transport business had all their work cancelled overnight.

The father-of-two had also had to cancel a family holiday to Disney with his kids Noah, now aged nine, and 11-year-old Sophia, when he hit on the ideas to take them on a camping trip to their back garden in Skelmersdale.

“The kids were desperate to do something,” he told the travel podcast. “At the start of Covid the weather was beautiful. Every day felt like summer so finding things to do outdoors was the obvious answer.

“A camping trip in the garden with the kids was the plan from day one then.

“Rather than walking into the garden and pitching up a tent, I got them to pack their suitcases, shoved everything in the car, we went for a drive around four or five roundabouts, and drove back up at home like it was going away.

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“That was then the experience. For them it was exciting. It was great to be outside and they say it as an adventure.

“The weather was perfect so we got to look at the stars at night. It was different to being indoors and looking at those four walls.

“It was a little two-man tent that I’d had for about eight years. It was covered in cobwebs in the corner of the garage because it hadn’t been taken out in God knows how long.

“Half the poles didn’t really work but we make a structure.

“We set up this tent with some covers and pillows and sat outside with one of those instant fire BBQs and had marshmallows.”

Green said it didn’t even matter that they were in Skelmersdale rather than in Disney.

“This is what I learnt really early on and what I take into everything we do with the business going forward,” he told Atkinson and Maguire.

“It’s not really the destination that we’re bothered about, it’s the experience of what you do when you’re there.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re at a glamping site in Skelmersdale or at a Disney park, you’re ultimately going for an experience.

“You’re going to spend time with people, reconnect with each other. With the kids that was relatively simple. I just had to make it an adventure.”

Before long the tent turned into a fully fledged glamping pod.

“As days turned into weeks and weeks into months I kept on doing a bit more every day,” said Green.

“At one point I’d taken my whole living room and put it in the garden. We had the sofa out there and the TV. If we needed anything on the trip we brought it outside.

“We had everything outside. At this point it was me getting out of control and it kept getting bigger and bigger. By the end of lockdown I’d created this outdoor space.

“Most of the build was for me as well. It was keeping my mind off what was going on in the world.  I thought if I could keep myself distracted I’ll ignore everything else because it was horrendous.”

He decided to post some photos of his pod – complete with sleeping quarters, hot tub, fridge, swings and firepit – on social media and that’s when things really took off.

“At that point I had Facebook and I’d say happy birthday to a friend but I kept putting on photos of what I was doing with the kids each day,” said Green.

“A friend of a friend of a friend contacted me and they worked for UNILAD and asked if they could do a story on me.

“It was me, my son and my daughter and we were sat there and it was what a Dad had built for his kids during lockdown. I thought nothing of it.

“They published it. They’re owned by LADbible and the next day they put the story on and from there it just exploded. I think it had 10 million views and because of that people started messaging me asking if they could book it for a holiday.

“I was on universal credit, we had a mortgage payment break, I had no money coming in.

“When I started getting messages about the pod I had nothing to lose. I set up an account in Airbnb. I remember doing it that night and listing it. I went to bed and thought nothing about it. The next morning I woke up and I must have had 150 bookings and by day two it was fully booked for two years in advance!’

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Green said the secret of the firm’s success has been their approach on social media, which now boasts one million followers on Facebook, TikTok and Instagram.

This led to producers of BBC’s Dragons’ Den approaching him on Instagram to invite him to apply to appear in the 21st series of the hit BBC show.

Within seconds of starting his pitch for investment to allow him to open more sites across the UK, Peter Jones announced: “This is outstanding I love this. I’ve actually gone quite clammy. I almost don’t want to ask you anymore questions and go straight to an offer.”

In the podcast Green lifts the lid in what it’s really like on Dragons’ Den and reveals how he even ended up finding love with one of the guests at The Secret Garden Glamping.

“I never in a million years thought it would go in this direction even when that first pod went viral,” he said. “I thought it was a stepping stone to get me back on my feet.

“As we were going forward it was getting bigger and bigger and I realised there was a massive gap in the market. I knew I could pursue it.

“We had a long time to prepare for the Dragons’ Den show but I never expected it to be this big.”

  • The Holiday That Changed My Life is produced by What Media and is available on all good podcast platforms. Listen here