Spotlight on Barbara Brew, 4×4 Overlander
Many of us can go through our whole lives without any real adventure to call our own, but for Barbara and Brendan, adventures are what make the forefront for any list. After experiencing many years on the road travelling across multiple continents, there was no hesitancy about combining business with pleasure, and in 2009, 4x4overlander came to be. Supplying overland travellers with the best equipment and solutions for their journeys, 4x4overlander established itself as a trusted name and credible go-to source within the community. While the supply and demand for their services continued to grow, so too did the burdens associated with international trading and currency transfer. To understand how banks were coming in the way of their business, and how the transition to Kwanji came forth, we sat down for a chat with Barbara, and discussed rates, payments, and of course, life on the road.
How did you get started with 4×4 Overlander?
Well, we started 5 years ago. We had some friends with a similar business who emigrated to Australia, and originally we looked into buying their business. We soon realised however that it was nothing really that we couldn’t just do ourselves, so we set up in a bit of a rush and I think we went from making the decision to set our business up to our very first Land Rover show in just six weeks, and now our business has just grown year on year.
That’s impressive. Has your passion for travelling always been for overland experiences?
We’ve always had an interest in Land Rovers and overland travel, and we’ve got a lot of experience so we decided that we would go into business and basically offer a niche product that the big companies don’t do, and so far it’s served us well.
What would you say is special about the experience of overland travelling and 4×4’s?
I think it’s the freedom to go absolutely anywhere. The year before we were in business we shipped our Land Rover out to Australia, and travelled Australia for 8 months. We travelled all over, through the deserts, through the cities, we went wherever we wanted. Before then we had done Europe; driving through places like Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, and I think that our original Land Rover must have seen around 28 countries! 4×4 travel is very self-sufficient, you can chose where you want to go, and nobody will tell you ‘you have to go here.’ You aren’t restricted to going through the main cities or the major roads; you can go through the back roads and see things you’d otherwise miss out on. Our love for the freedom of overland travel is how our business started out, and the original premise was not to sell the same things that all the big companies were selling. You have to find your niche. We do things differently!
So the products you sell on your website, these are things that you have used on your own experiences, because you share the same passion as your clientele.
Oh yes, apart from the odd product, we have used and experienced almost all of what we sell.
What are some of the most memorable overland trips that you have had? What would you share as being the best experiences for you?
To be honest, I love Scandinavia. I absolutely adore Sweden. I think that going around these countries is great because you aren’t restricted by language. You don’t need to approach and ask people whether they speak your language, which can be refreshing on these journeys! It’s also a very safe area and extremely affluent. When travelling through less developed countries, you have to consider safety, and often quite literally the security of your vehicle, whereas a region like Scandinavia is just beautiful and safe. I think the best time I’ve ever had is when I went out one summer, the Land Rover clubs in Scandinavia are quite active and they have an annual meeting where everybody gets together and we travel through different countries week after week. Norway would be first, then Denmark, then Sweden etc. and we did those and we remain really good friends with people we met whilst we were there. We would take routes that nobody else was taking, zigzagging through the countries, and I think it was that level of freedom that made it most memorable. You could be walking through the Arctic Circle in just shorts and a t-shirt, and that night be woken up by a herd of reindeer. It was a magical experience and a perfect summer.
“The Kwanji team gave me confidence but I wanted to stay a little bit cautious so the first transaction I made was for a smaller invoice than I’d normally do.
I was testing the waters, and thought I’d wait and see how quickly it gets there, but it was very fast, and before I knew it I was being told that everything had arrived and everything was great.”
From your years of experience and based on what you know, would you say that the trend has been growing for road trips and overland travel?
Definitely, especially within the Land Rover community. It’s probably a combination of things, one of which where money can be a factor. A lot of people can’t spend a lot of money on hotels and such but are willing to use the vehicles and stand on their own two feet to travel. We’ve been encouraging people to ‘do it on their own’, you know? Why not go through Europe and skip the guided tour holidays? This mind-set is something that is certainly growing. Even now there’s more and more people doing road trips throughout the UK. People are going off and experiencing things for themselves. It’s definitely becoming more common.
I know you shipped parts and supplies for your business. How would you sum up your experience of trading internationally and having to exchange between different currencies?
Most of the things we shipped we sold to retail customers. With retail customers we either stuck with bank transfers or using PayPal, but we also buy a lot from other countries such as Germany and also the United States and South Africa. We found that we were spending an absolute fortune on currency fees. We thought about changing bank accounts but I ended up keeping my HSBC bank account open just for doing foreign currency payments. I think the HSBC one used to charge me £6 or £4 for every transaction whereas Santander wanted as much as £22!
Yes! A heck of a difference AND they give you an absolutely rubbish rate! Finding Kwanji was a happy coincidence! It was one of things where you idly click on things, and all of a sudden you end up somewhere where you didn’t expect to be. We stumbled upon Kwanji, and I thought, ‘I’m going to have a go at this.’ So the first time I did anything, I actually at the same time ran a transaction as I would have done through HSBC and the difference that I saved was about £400. It’s not just a little bit of a saving, it’s a serious amount of money. We can just get so much better rates and I can do it in my free time, and I’m not restricted to certain working hours that I was when using the banks. Now I can do it at times that are convenient for me and that has worked so much better. It’s just made life, and made simply buying things so much easier.
Were you at all hesitant in the beginning to make the switch? Were you scared to try out Kwanji?
Honestly, I was a little bit; I remember that the first transaction that I did, I did it for a small amount. [The Kwanji] team gave me confidence but I wanted to stay a little bit cautious so the first transaction I made was for a smaller invoice than I’d normally do. I was testing the waters, and thought I’d wait and see how quickly it gets there, but it was very fast, and before I knew it I was being told that everything had arrived and everything was great.
Even though banks charge so much, and have very bad rates, do you think it’s hard to break a habit and use a platform like Kwanji?
Banks give you nothing, and take everything. Many people are in the trap, and have the same current accounts that they opened when they left school. People don’t question or change their provider because it’s ‘too much hassle’ or they are worried that things can go wrong. And I think it’s probably that sort of thing as well that stops people from changing. I think that it is the complacency that stops people changing. I am just so glad that I did though. What Kwanji gets right is that there is a choice of providers, it shows how much it’s going to cost me, and it just works! It notifies me if I’ve made any errors. I once didn’t read carefully enough where I was supposed to be sending money to – one of the companies had changed their banking details – I got a little email saying ‘you sent it to the wrong place but don’t worry, we’ll set it right, we’ll move it and it’ll go through…’ Thank you Kwanji! If that had happened whilst I was using the banks, it would have created untold hassle, whereas with Kwanji it all went through smoothly. People are reluctant to change, and I don’t know why.
If you were to sum up your experience with Kwanji, from the moment you found us to our conversation right now, how would you describe it?
It’s the best thing that’s happened to me! I’m a Yorkshire lass and I constantly look for ways of saving money, but I won’t compromise on quality. I feel like with Kwanji I save money but I get an even better service than I did before. I’m not compromising on quality. It’s costing me less and I’m getting a better service. Simply put, Kwanji gives you a better service. I feel fortunate and I feel glad that I found Kwanji.
Would you recommend our service to others?
Definitely, definitely, definitely! I’ve certainly mentioned Kwanji to others already, and to anyone else, I’d say just go for it! If somebody is doing a job well – then they are doing a job well. Give praise where it’s due!