In June 2007 Jim was banned from a site called motorhomeafter he fell out with the site owner over a silly dispute about two rally staff who were unfairly dismissed. Jim thought they had been treated badly and said so and was banned. Seething after his ban, Jim threatened to set up a rival website if the pair were not reinstated. The other site owner called his bluff and ‘wished him the best of luck with it.‘ So Jim, who is a security consultant who knew absolutely nothing about forums, servers or web design, had to learn fast or look stupid.
It would have been easy to set up on a free and managed forum site, but Jim knew that to compete with his rival he would need to go one better. This meant buying commercial forum software, along with paid-for add-ons such as blogs, gallery software, a commercially made forum template system and putting all of this on a fast, dedicated server. These purchases were expensive but imperative if Jim was going to compete with his rival who was a professional coder and designer. The next thing was to find someone who knew how to operate the purchased software and this proved to be more difficult.
Enlisting the help of Bryan, a computer whizz kid and motorhome enthusiast was a good first step. Bryan had a good grounding in server-side technology and did a fantastic job teaching Jim some of the server side lingo and procedures, however, Bryan knew nothing about the forum software so Jim made this his priority
It was a steep learning curve, and getting answers as to why just the omission of the single character “<” in a bit of template code could crash the whole site proved difficult. The slowly growing band of Funsters put up with the tweaks and changes and in those first few months it seemed the site was down as much as it was up! The forum gathered pace slowly and on the 28th July 2007 Jim proudly announced that FUN had 10 people on line at the same time!
An advertising campaign was started whereby Jim paid to advertise MotorhomeFun using Google’s Adsense program. Fun adverts would appear every time someone made a motorhome related Google search and also on motorhome related sites. Jim had to pay every time someone clicked on the advert but the pain of paying was negated by the joy in seeing that the other site owner had failed to add MotorhomeFun to his blocked advertiser list and Fun adverts appeared on his website! It was anticipated that quite a few malicious clicks were made on the adverts just to cost Jim more money, but it was worth it, people were finding Fun, and as news of the Motorhome Funsters grew, so did the membership and Fun soon had 50 members and a thousand posts!
Google is the key to potential Funsters finding us, so yet more money was spent on special software to help the forum with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Jim set aside an hour a day 5 days a week to focus solely on SEO. After a while, this investment of time and money started to pay off and it was not long before Fun had a thousand members. This milestone resulted in a gloating e-mail sent to the rival forum which went unanswered!
Fun had our first ever meet on the 15th & 16th September 2007, Jim bought a marquee, everyone had so much fun we could not wait to do it again.
Our First Rally
The Funsters started going to shows and attending rallies. In 2008, only a year after being formed, Fun won the cup for the largest club turnout at the Newark Show! (Fun won it again in 2010) Fun now regularly have large contingents of Funsters at most shows and hold rallies all over the country, some Funsters travel even further and Fun have had rallies in Spain, Morocco and recently Italy.
Starting at the York Show in 2007 Jim bought a pro gazebo and signage and started paying as a trader to attend the motorhome shows. In 2007/8 Sian and Jim attended shows all over the country. With help from Funster volunteers who manned the stand in all weathers! They handed out every one of the 50,000 flyers that Jim had printed that year.
By November 2008, a little over a year since the site started, Fun had signed up 5000 members. The SEO work and the purchasing of adverts continued and In the next 2 years the membership reached an amazing 10,000.
Whilst in that first year or two the sole aim of the forum was to ‘stick it to the rival’ this eventually passed. The two rival owners eventually shared a beer at a show and any real animosity between them has now long passed, all that remains is the same healthy rivalry that exists between any competing organisations.
In early 2010 with such phenomenal growth, a membership of around 12,500 growing at a rate of 500 new members a month. People in the industry were taking notice. Jim was approached a couple of times to sell the forum but decided he could not sell his ‘baby’ it would be like selling one of the family. However after funding the site for those past three years and realising that the club was here to stay for a long time; Jim reluctantly decided that to continue, he needed monetary help to defray the costs and decided to charge a subscription.
From the 1st of July 2010 new Funsters get a few weeks and a few posts (whichever comes first) to ascertain the full benefit of the site, after that, if they want to continue with full access and the ability to post on the forums they pay subs. Annual subs were set at just £12 a year but so many subscribed in the first few months this soon dropped to just £10. Whilst the vast majority of Funsters are happy to just read the site and can do so for free; they see more adverts than subscribers and some sections are unavailable to them. Subscribers realise the full interactive benefits of a friendly group of Funsters.
It gets better! in 2012 Fun was granted permission to set up our own network of Certified Fun Locations ( CFL’s) these will eventually become a network of 5 van sites up and down the country. The first sites are coming on line very soon.
MotorhomeFun is a phenomenal success. It is something to be enjoyed and something to be proud of. It is the members that make it so special, they are so helpful and friendly and nothing is too much trouble. Many have said that being a Funster means much more to them than just being a club member; they feel like part of a large motorhome family.
Sometimes it seems that many motorhome clubs are run by miserable committees who seem to want to deny their members some motorhome Fun. MotorhomeFun is different, MotorhomeFun is, without doubt, FUN. But its more, it’s about sharing an enthusiastic passion for travel and Motorhomes with others, it’s about looking out for new owners and doing the best by each other. It’s about being a Funster and long may it remain so.
James Brown July 2012
EDIT added 19th July 2017
Today the club is ten years old!
How things have changed in a decade. The clubs great rival suffered because of Fun’s success and was eventually sold to a Canadian company who specialises in selling advertising space on forums. At the same time as the owner of motorhomefacts sold out; MotorhomeFun resisted offers to sell to the same company.
They say time flies when you’re having fun, how true that is. Even after 10 years, we’re still excited about what we can achieve. The work to improve MotorhomeFun never stops and we’re really looking forward to the next ten years, I just hope they go a little slower than the last ten.
Happy Birthday MotorhomeFun
EDIT Added June 2019
The work to make MotorhomeFun the best place for Motorhome Enthusiasts never stops. Last month saw us upgrade all of the software we use. Hard work, very long hours and lot’s of money spent resulted in a forum that is now crystal clear and easy to use no matter what machine you use to get online. Meanwhile August sees us launch our own MotorhomeFun Magazine.