Having launched the Vanarama Van Hero Awards back in June, in celebration of independent van and pickup driving businesses we're now really excited to announce the five regional finalists. The competition, designed to recognise the entrepreneurialism of the great British van or pickup truck driver, no matter what their trade or industry, attracted entries from across the board. Indeed, entries were received from amongst others; couriers, gardeners, a butcher and a baker (but sadly no candle stick maker) ….and the successful finalists are:
Name: Rachel and Lee Greenley
Company: Harriet Lee Building and Renovation
After being made redundant from his position as a contracts manager for a building company, Lee was not ready to sit on the scrapheap. Instead, joining forces with Rachel and using their experience and expertise, the couple have created a competitive new building business from the ground-up. Lee is the builder, spearheading the building and technical side of the business, meanwhile Rachel is the customer focus.
As well as forging a new business, Rachel and Lee have thrown themselves into helping the local community. They have raised funds for a new playground in their village, donating time and materials to the project. Their company also sponsored the local school sports day, providing medals, prizes, water and of course, new sacks for the sack race!
Name: Stuart Alexander
Company: Ultra Clear
Stuart was selected from hundreds of entrants after establishing a family-run business, that competes with the big players in the industry. Since establishing his business, Stuart is proud to make a difference in the local community, having grown it sufficiently to employ cleaning staff from across the local area, providing job-security to people where before there was none. Already working for big-names across the country, Stuart's really excited to be selected as a finalist, "Too many van drivers get a bad press, so it's refreshing to be recognised for the hard work and commitment we've put into building up our business," says Stuart.
Region: Northern England
Name: Lee Hodgkins
Company: Just Spray
Whilst still working full-time and with a baby on the way, Lee was painting his Dad's fence - just him and a brush – and after despairing of the time it was taking, hired an industrial paint sprayer, completing the job in just 40 minutes! Realising what a fantastic tool this was, he never looked back and started his own paint spraying business. Rather than wait for customers to come his way, Lee found a worthy cause and set about getting some media attention. By spearheading and project managing his own Nick Knowles style DIY SOS for a local MS sufferer, not only did Lee get great media coverage for his business, but achieved something greater; the ability for a previously housebound wheelchair user to access his new and vastly improved garden.
Region: Southern England
Name: Mel Hylton
Company: Mel's Brushstrokes
Mel was chosen as a finalist as he overcame a life-threatening illness, to build-up his hugely successful decorating business and provide life-changing employment opportunities for others, by taking on local staff. Mel came back from the darkest of times. He recovered from a blood clot on his lung and being bedridden for a year after a major operation on a prolapsed disc, to get back on his feet. Now, it's not just Mel's back that is going from strength to strength, but also his business, for which he's now recruited two more decorators!
Name: Mike Smith
Company: Bees Electrical
Berkhamsted electrician, Mike Smith of Bees Electrical, was nominated by the neighbour of one of his customers. Sarah Lowther decided to nominate Mike after he was asked by her neighbour to check out unsafe electrics in a room in the elderly gentleman's house. Not only did Mike fix the electrics, but on finding the out the man had been living in deplorable damp conditions, he set about locating and fixing the serious damp problem. His good deeds didn't stop here. After discovering his customer had a question-mark hanging over the ownership of his house and also had not been receiving the correct pension payments, Mike took it upon himself to get in touch with a solicitor and social services to get these problems resolved. Using his contacts, he then galvanised some local tradespeople to erect scaffolding at the customer's house and fix a dangerously toppling chimney.
When will the overall winner be announced?
The overall winner, who will receive the coveted title of the Vanarama UK Van Hero 2016, will be announced in October.
About the prizes
As well as the title, the winner can choose either £5000 in cash or drive a brand new Ford Transit Custom for 3 years.
If the winner comes via a nomination, the person who nominated will win £250 of holiday vouchers