An enterprising duo have thanked a ‘godsend’ of a loan which helped them launch a new digital detox staycation a stone’s throw from busy London life. 

Photo of Unplugged founders

Ben Elliott and Hector Hughes ditched their ‘high-action’ tech jobs to launch Unplugged, offering people the chance to switch off from their devices and recharge themselves at their off-grid cabins.

What’s more, most of the work to start their new venture was done during the coronavirus lockdown. 

Ben and Hector worked together at a tech start-up, loving the work but racking up long hours. Needing a break away from it all, Hector took himself off to a retreat in the Himalayas – a trip which inspired Unplugged on his return to the UK. 

Hector said: “I was burnt out a little. It was high-action stuff and when I looked at the time I was spending on my phone and the amount of times I was checking my emails at the weekend; I needed a break. 

“The retreat was just what I needed. Having your phone taken away at the front desk was fantastic. I’d never had that kind of break before. 

“When I came back, I spoke with Ben to work out how we could capture the essence of that, here – away from phones, living in nature and living more simply.

“Tech is addictive. People weren’t built to live in cities, we were built to be outside, to stroll through woods and walk through fields.

“Our main goal is to get people spending less time on their phones and more time in nature. Unplugged is a digital detox an hour away from city life.”

Launching a business during a global pandemic might seem hard work, but the virus only pushed back their plans by one month.  

Ben said: “We’ve had a couple of small delays in getting the first cabin on site, but in a way, it came at a really interesting time. 

“Our plan was to launch in June, which has now been pushed back to July. But prior to lockdown, people were looking to spend more time on UK staycations – and now that’s only going to increase. We’ve all been cooped up, spending more time on our phones and I think more people will look at disconnecting now.”

According to the duo, their research prior to lockdown showed that 52% of people were going to increase their time holidaying in the UK, while 90% cited escapism as their primary travel goal. 

Hector said: “We think the situation will accelerate a lot of themes, particularly around mental health and the environment. In the early twenty-first century, we’ve seen a rise in consumption and people chasing more, more, more - but in the last couple of years there’s been a shift away from that. For all the terrible things that have happened as a result of coronavirus, I do think some good will come of it. It’s a chance for us to reflect as a society and focus on what’s important.”

The founders secured a Start Up Loan from Virgin StartUp to help them on their way. Hector called the loan a ‘godsend’, while Ben added: “The loan has helped us finance cabin number one, get our marketing underway, and, ultimately, get guest bookings in.

“I’ve seen a lot of successful businesses which have had support from Virgin StartUp, so it’s always been in my consciousness and we’re excited to be a part of the funded family.”

The first bookings have been taken for July, with more set for August and September. The aim is to have three cabins on site by the end of 2020. 

Find out about how a Start Up Loan from Virgin StartUp could help you and your business today.