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Ten questions for ten creatives
- What do you do for a living?
Founder and Director of Van Girls, the woman and van company.
- What was the path that led you to do what you do now?
I don’t come from an entrepreneurial family at all and it never really crossed my mind to start my own business. I was focussed on going to university and starting a career in the arts. The twists and turns of not being able to get a good job in the arts and then deciding to join the fire brigade opened my mind up to the fact that I could do anything. Then watching programs like Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice must have sown a seed of entrepreneurship that has finally found its time for me.
Working as a firefighter I often got a really excited reaction from people when a woman turned up in a fire engine. So, when I was trying to think of something to do to supplement my income in my days off I thought, let’s turn man and van on its head, people might like it. I then spent about a year procrastinating and thinking of silly names for the company with friends in the pub before settling on Van Girls and buying a van.
- What did you want to be when you were at school?
When I was really young I spent hours scribbling ‘notes’ on A4 paper sitting at a desk. I think I wanted to be a secretary. Then later I spent years wanting to be either an interior designer or an actor. What did I know?!
In the early days, our Van Girls team were primarily made up of friends from my rugby club and the fire brigade – they were ready made Van Girls – strong, practical and enjoyed physical work!
Amongst our team we have a lot of firefighters, we have police officers and paramedics, we have ex-army and RAF, premiership rugby players, ex-England footballers. But you don’t have to have that kind of pedigree to make a great mover. Other previous jobs include carpentry, painting and decorating, running a café, IT sales, the list goes on and on!
What we share is a love of sport and physicality and there is a great feeling of camaraderie between our team and our customers.
- What one piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Have the confidence to stand up for what you believe in and stand up to things you disagree with, regardless of what people will think of you. I’ve only just reached the stage where I feel able to do that and I’ve created my own work environment to enable me to feel confident enough to do it.
- What do you like most about your job?
The best parts of my job are meeting different people all the time, out on jobs, and every day being different. Also, working in a group of like-minded people and loving what we do.
- What do you find most challenging?
The worst parts are when you’re exhausted and overworked and buried in admin and you think, I only wanted to drive a van around and lift stuff, what’s happened?! Then I have a new idea about marketing or something and I snap out of it and get excited again.
- What’s your favourite song (at the moment)?
Bastille Pompeii is a particular favourite when I’m out with the girls driving to a job in one of our vans.
- If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
I’d love to spend some time travelling around South America!
- Name three things that you always take with you to work on an average day.
A bottle of water, a mini-babybel and mobile phone – all vital!
- Tell us a joke or a secret.
Appearing on Dragon’s Den was utterly terrifying! However, despite not getting investment it has been an invaluable experience personally and for the business.
I got some great feedback from the Dragons and since the show we have been inundated with enquiries from potential customers, from potential investors and from other companies in our industry wanting to enlist us to help them to be able to offer female crews to their customers. All together a fantastic endorsement of what we’re trying to achieve. And now I know I can memorise a pitch, which I never thought I’d be able to do in a million years!