From Navy to Nomads: Meet the Devon couple creating bespoke campervans - X-Forces Enterprise
ABF The Soldiers’ Charity Grant Funding
July 25, 2023
Avoiding Uncertainty, Mitigating Risk
August 2, 2023

From Navy to Nomads: Meet the Devon couple creating bespoke campervans

Holly Stidston and Chris Heale left behind successful careers in the military to take on a new adventure – creating bespoke campervans.



Named after their love for travel and adventure, Nomads Creations was born out of a vision the couple had when they met on a deployment with the Royal Navy in 2018.

They planned to take a year off work and go travelling in a campervan, and had spent months converting their own vehicle, but when the Covid pandemic struck, Holly and Chris decided to sell their labour of love.

Holly, who was previously a physiotherapist for the armed forces, said:

“There was so much interest and it sold within two days. It got us thinking about whether we could convert more vans for people to buy. Eventually, we just bit the bullet and jumped in at the deep end.”

Leaving their hard-earned, secure, and well-paid careers to set up Nomads Creations, which is based in Dawlish, Devon, was a big gamble and, a year into the business, the couple realised they needed some extra financial support if they were going to take it on full-time. The initial outlay on a van was costly and if it didn’t sell quickly after having the bespoke conversions, Holly and Chris would be left seriously out of pocket until the next job came in.

Chris explained:

“It was about 18 months into the business that we knew we had to finance the base vehicle so that we could then fund the conversion ourselves. We started looking into how we could do it and that’s when we looked at Start Up Loans.”

The couple were able to secure a Start Up Loan of £25,000 through X-Forces Enterprise (XFE), who guided them through the process and compilation of their business plan and cashflow forecast. The loan was instrumental in helping Chris and Holly to cover the costs needed to support the business in between builds and also helped towards creating their website. XFE allocated the couple a personal Business Advisor who closely supported them through the planning process and the 12 months post-launch, in a programme supported by the Royal British Legion.

Holly said:

“The Start Up Loan has kept the business going, as there was a point where I was considering going back to into physiotherapy to help fund Nomads Creations. That would have meant we would have really struggled to be where we are now.”

“Thanks to that extra funding, we’re now thriving, and we can buy the second van while we’re working on the current one. It’s kept the cash flow moving and everything ticking over.”

Nomads Creations offers ready-to-drive campervans as well as a complete self-build service. The couple’s creativity and handy skillset come from their childhood years inspired by talented family members.

As a child, Chris would work with his father and grandfather in their workshops and later developed his skills in the workplace, at a sheet metal fabrication company and in the automotive industry. Eager to see the world, he then embarked on a new adventure and spent 12 years in the Royal Navy. Holly spent much of her childhood travelling with her family and working with her carpenter father in his workshop, but she pursued a career as a physiotherapist which saw her enable Army and Royal Navy personnel to regain physical fitness to meet their taskings and deployments. The role allowed her to travel again, during which time she not only met Chris, but she realised that her goal in life was to help others to do the same.

Holly and Chris say they’re loving their new venture, which gives people the chance to enjoy the very best of van life. The couple are now aiming to convert up to eight vans a year and would eventually like to build a rental fleet.

Both Holly and Chris say having that extra financial support in the beginning has been a driving force, allowing them to take Nomads Creations to the next level.

Holly concluded:

“It’s really important for new business owners to know that there is specialist support out there, which definitely gives you that confidence in what can be a very unknown and scary situation. It’s having that external validation that someone else believes in your idea.”


– – –

For more information about Holly and Chris’s business, visit:




Comments are closed.

Sign up to our newsletter

Join our Military in Business® Quarterly to stay in the loop with upcoming training & networking events, Ambassador insights, special guest speakers and trending business articles.