Introducing Sandra Willis
What’s the name of your boat, and what business do you run from it?
I’m Sandra Willis trading as The Doggie Boat alongside my two golden retrievers Cosmo and Daquiri.
Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
I have been a continuous cruiser for just over 3 years, but owned my boat ‘Golden Boyz’ for ten years.
I previously owned an events franchise which specialised in adrenaline and social events. I have been very lucky to have travelled all over the world with it, including white water rafting the Grand Canyon, wing walking, tandem skydiving, zorbing just to name a few of the wonderful things I’ve done.
I was approached by someone wanting to buy my company, and I’ve always had a dream to retire onto the waterways. Although this came much earlier than I expected, I just thought life had presented me with an amazing chance so took it and set off over ‘The Rochdale Canal’ as my baptism of fire!
Give us a glimpse into the how and why you decided to become a Floating Trader?
My money lasted for about a year, and then by chance I stumbled upon the concept of being a Roving Trader. I knew this was my passport to staying on the waterways.
I initially started writing poems about people’s pets, but pretty soon realised I needed to sell more to actually make a living, and dog-related items seemed the natural progression. Hence ‘The Doggie Boat’ became a Roving Trader on the waterways.
We have gone from strength to strength, learning which lines to sell, and now stock a range of not only items for doggies, but lots of dog themed items for dog lovers. I try and stock more unique and unusual items to pet stores, so try not to clash directly with other businesses. Plus customers along the cut then tend to buy on impulse as they don’t know where else to get the item.
Describe the joys and drawbacks you’ve experienced to date as a Floating Trader …
I personally find festivals and floating markets work best for me, so I book a very busy schedule each year.
I love the lifestyle of being a Roving Trader, but it is not for the faint hearted. I cover a lot of mileage making sure I get to the best festivals for myself, and I try to trade practically every weekend of the year.
I am in a situation where I need the Roving Trading to completely sustain my life onboard. The trading hours are long, and setting the boat up each day and taking down is exhausting – but I love it.
You also have to be prepared to turn your boat into a mini warehouse, as it’s not always easy to get deliveries. So I tend to order in bulk.
Oh and don’t mention the rain or the wind or ask how much stock I’ve dropped in the cut! Who would believe 3D pictures sink??!
Is there any sage wisdom you could share with anyone reading who may be contemplating venturing into this watery ‘working’ world?
Approach this as you would any other business. Do your research – especially on good trading spots (the right mooring spot makes all the difference on footfall), plan your sales items, display and marketing, and expect it to take some time to build up a following and get known.
Trade alongside other traders to get better footfall and learn the ropes, or even better book a festival or floating market.
Anything else you would like to add?
I have also become involved with the RCTA (Roving Canal Traders Association), and now write the Traders’ newsletter. I have made loads of friends among the trading community, and love the camaraderie of trading alongside others.
I hope to continue trading for a long time to come, as I love meeting people and their furpals along the cut. Boats and dogs are my passions, and I am living the dream doing a job that entails both.
Connect with Sandra:
Connect with Sandra on Facebook (and give her a ‘Like’)
Twitter : @CosmoandDaquiri
Future planned trading dates:
10-12 June Great Haywood Floating Market
18-19 June Middlewich Folk & Boat Festival
16-17 July Cosgrove Festival
30 July Linslade Fesival
13-14 Aug Blisworth Fesival
26-29 Aug Merry Hill Floating Market
10-11 Sept Black Country Boating Festival
17-18 Sept Tipton Festival
23-25 Sept Birmingham Floating Market
Next week …
… we’ll be hearing more about one of the floating Cheese Boats on the cut. Very tasty!