When Karina Duke and Louise Foot took over The Little Beach Hut Company a year ago, it was very much a leap into the unknown.

The country was in the grips of the pandemic.

Neither of them had any previous business experience, but when they saw that The Little Beach Hut Company was up for sale, they saw an opportunity – and they took it.

12 months on, it’s hard to see how they could have made a better decision.

The business – which had already been run successfully for eight years previously – hires out fully-equipped beach huts, complete with sinks, gas cookers, deck chairs and blankets for a relaxing day on the Mersea coastline.

Essentially, the huts provide all the seaside must-haves and more, which, if carted from the car boot to the beach, always seem to make a day out to the seaside a bit of a challenge.

But the beach huts – named Peggy, Lottie, Kitty, and Bertie – remove that stress factor from the equation.

And the popularity of staycations due to the uncertainty surrounding foreign travel has seen the business go from strength to strength.

The huts, so beautifully decorated, were fully booked for the summer as early as April.

Clients are even making bookings as far in advance as October, in the hope that an Indian summer will replace the lost spring.

So what prompted Karina and Louise to take the leap of faith and invest in The Little Beach Hut Company?

It came from the heart as they wanted to invest legacies from their respective mothers, who had both died in the past four years.

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“We didn’t have any experience before though,” Louisa admitted. “It was a completely off-the-wall thing to do really.”

Echo: One of the beach huts on Mersea Island

And it made for something of a steep learning curve for the new business partners, who knew they had to hit the ground running as restrictions eased last summer.

“We had to learn our trade very quickly,” Louise said.

“We had a bit of a lull outside of season and during the second lockdown in January earlier this year.

“But it meant that during that time, we could get all four of the huts up to scratch and revamp them a bit – put our own stamp on them, if you like. We have had time to learn now, which is good because it’s a very busy time.”

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To add a further complication, both Louise and Karina each have school-age children, who had to be home-schooled during lockdown. It all sounds impossibly hectic – but Louise takes a much more uplifting view.

“It is definitely a challenge,”she admitted, “but we love what we do and we love the fact that it works for us around our children who like to get involved.

“It is a family-friendly business so it is fun the kids as well to have us do this.”

And with the easing of Covid restrictions hopefully any time soon, Louise is optimistic about the future of the business.

Echo: Cupcakes celebrating the one-year anniversary of the buying of the businessCupcakes celebrating the one-year anniversary of the buying of the business

“The easing of restrictions will allow people to use the huts with friends outside their bubble. Although people can meet outside the beach huts under the current restrictions, people will soon will be able to meet inside the huts as well.”

As for expanding their portfolio further and acquiring more huts, Louise is a little more circumspect.

“If the opportunity arose to buy more huts, then we would. But we don’t want to go too big as both Karina and I are working mums.”

But with first anniversary of business success under their belts, there is clearly plenty for both Karina and Louise to celebrate.