I am delighted to be interviewing Emma Lanman C E O and founder of Van Girls.
Hi Emma, lovely to meet you and thank you for agreeing to answer some questions for us. I must admit that I had not heard of your company until I saw your excellent pitch on Dragons Den in 2015. I was sure one of the Dragons would have invested with you, but it wasn’t to be. However, you are busier than ever and I would like to know more about you and your successful company.
Here is an extract from the website. 'London based Van Girls was started at the end of 2011, providing a reliable alternative to the traditional man and van service. Our drivers and movers will collect and transport whatever you need to move, whenever you need to move it, all with the utmost care and attention to detail. From domestic removals to commercial moves, trade fair and exhibition transport, art moving or shop pick ups, we know your possessions are precious to you, and we pride ourselves on ensuring they arrive in the pristine condition they left in.'
Let's have a cup of tea and start our interview.
Your business involves working in all weathers. Were you always happier playing outdoors as a child as opposed to being inside with toys or books?
I do remember my brother and I running outside to dance around in the rain when storms hit. We did spend a lot of time outdoors and used to go on holidays in the Lake District so bad weather is definitely something I’m used to. But we did also spend time indoors making forts, playing with micro machines and dressing up!
What was your favourite subject at school?
Art. I didn’t really get in to sport until I went to university so art and history of art were my main subjects in school.
On leaving school, what was your first job?
I worked all through school doing paper rounds, working in supermarkets, pub kitchens and more. I went to teach English in China when I finished school and then headed to University in Birmingham where I had several bar jobs. My first jobs after university were arts based – in galleries and theatres. That’s why I keep art moving as part of the business because I love keeping the link to that world.
Who or what was your inspiration for staring Van Girls?
I was working as a firefighter and had noticed how pleased some people were when a woman arrived on the fire engine. I was trying to think of work I could do in my days off and thought there was a gap in the market and a real lack of choice in the removals industry so I just decided to give it a go!
When did you start trading and how many women work for you?
We started trading in early 2012, having set up the company at the end of 2011. I now have between 15 and 20 people working for me depending on the time of year. We get a lot of students working in their summer holidays when we are really busy.
Do you concentrate on house removals or are there other services that you provide?
We mostly do house removals but we do also do office moves and art moving regularly.
Are you countrywide?
We only have our one base in North London but we do move people around the UK if they are moving from or to London, regularly heading up to Scotland, out to Bristol and Devon and the Kent Coast.
Do you find that more women than men contact you to move them?
Initially that was the case but now I would say the demographic that use our services are very mixed. We probably get a higher proportion of customers from the LGBT community, couples with young children, and older people booking us than most companies but there isn’t much of a gender difference to be honest.
How do you switch off?
I used to play rugby but 2 knee operations later, I now just like watching it. I like food and travel and try to get away on holiday a few times a year.
With your job being so physical do you have to take regular exercise in order to stay fit?
It’s really important to stay fit and strong. I like running and weight training but rarely have the time for either. So, I have to rely on the job to keep me fit and I still go out on a lot of jobs.
What advice would you give to your peers wishing to take on this type of employment?
Be ready for hard work. It’s not a job for everyone but if you like working as part of a team and finishing your work day tired, it can be very rewarding.
What are your plans for the rest of 2017?
We’ve had a very busy start to 2017, a time of year which is normally quiet so haven’t had much of a chance to make plans. I just want to build on the company’s success and continue to build our staff community and add to the experience and skills of our crews.
FIVE QUICK ANSWERS PLEASE!
Sweet or savoury? Sweet
Cinema or theatre? Cinema
Who would play you in a lead role if a film was made about Van Girls? Kristen Wiig
Hot or cold climate? I like seasons but if I had to pick one I’d go hot
Favourite possession? My wedding ring
Many thanks for your time Emma, I wish you every success as your company grows. You have some glowing testimonials on your website and I would like to share a few with my members.
Van Girls are brilliant. They handled our move with complete professionalism and we won't use any other movers ever again.
Margaret | January 15, 2017
Excellent service, careful, speedy and super friendly!
Imogen | August 28, 2014
Van Girls provide a trustworthy, reliable and friendly service. A great alternative to the traditional man and van, and competitively priced as well. I was so happy with the service that I have already booked the Van Girls again. Highly recommended!
Jenni | August 29, 2014
Van Girls are brilliant, I no longer use anyone else and I tell my all friends to do the same.
Charming Baker | September 11, 2014
Absolutely brilliant service. Emma was amazing - cool, calm and collected in loading, driving and delivering. And reasonable pricing. What more could anyone ask ? We will recommend and use Van Girls again. Thank you, thank you, thank you from Judith and David
David Cohen Fine Art | September 14, 2014
Van Girls can be contacted through their excellent website which has many interesting blogs, videos and photos, along with all the details needed for your requirements. You can also telephone them on 020 8045 8787
All photos copyright Van Girls.