Look out Sir Richard and Sir Alan for vantrepreneurs

Article date: 7 June 2006

  • Van drivers spark new trend in "mobileentrepreneurs"

A nationwide survey commissioned by Norwich Union Direct vaninsurance* has identified a new generation of businessprofessionals and has coined a new phrase for this group,"vantrepreneurs".

The new phrase and survey coincide with the launch of Norwich UnionDirect’s search for the "Vantrepreneur of the Year" where onedynamic and successful van owner could win £10,000**.

The survey provides new insight into one of the country’sfastest growing entrepreneurial sectors. Dispelling oldmisconceptions, today’s van owner-driver is a healthconscious, well educated and well groomed van professional whoregularly uses their van as a mobile office.

The survey questioned over 500 UK van owner-drivers on a range oftopics associated with their businesses. Questioning a crosssection of business types from caterers to florists and fromplumbers to builders, the survey showed that these self-employedentrepreneurs have aspirations for their businesses beyond old"white van man" misconceptions.

Well educated
Almost a quarter of van owner-driverssurveyed had a degree; a further 25% had O-Level or GCSEqualifications and 20% had A-Levels.

Health conscious
In a shock finding, "vantrepreneurs"have cast aside the traditional fry-up and instead regularly enjoya healthy breakfast. Almost a third enjoy healthy porridge ormuesli for breakfast with only one-in-six, enjoying a morning fryup before they hit the road.

Well groomed
According to the Norwich Union Directsurvey, this new generation of "vantrepreneurs" is more imageconscious and individuals regularly spend time on their appearance.Even male van owner-drivers, make an effort when grooming. At least6% have regular body waxing, 5% have regular manicures andpedicures and 3% of men have regular facials.

More women "vantrepreneurs"
Incredibly from thenational sample, 35% of people surveyed were female, slashingperceptions of British van owners being a male dominated group. Inaddition, the research showed that more women van drivers are selfemployed (53%) compared to 44% of men. This signifies the growth ofindependent self employed women taking to their vans helping tobroaden the range of professions using vans.

The new mobile office
In acknowledgementthat their van is more than just a vehicle to them, most21st century van owner-drivers equip their vehicles likemobile offices, with supplies of stationery, work paperwork andlaptops, as well as items to make them feel more comfortable, suchas cushions, lucky charms and pictures of their loved ones.

Designer Wayne Hemingway, founder of Red or Dead, Hemingway Designand ex-vantrepreneur, said: “My entrepreneurial careerstarted back in 1981 when my wife, Gerardine and I started out onCamden Market selling second-hand clothes, Dr Martens andGerardine’s home made clothes from the back of two ex-gasboard Ford Transits. Our Camden van years were formative andinstrumental in our future success. Many designers, fashionentrepreneurs and vantrepreneurs still rely on their vans as we didthen”.

Jill Willis, Norwich Union Direct van marketing manager, says:“The impact that van owner drivers are having on the growthof entrepreneurialism in the UK is significant; the vanowner-driver is a much more sophisticated business operator thansome people have been led to believe in the past. Van insurance isone of our fastest growing sectors and we are happy that thisresearch has helped to dispel the old ‘white van man’myths.

“The effect of this growing sector can be seen throughoutbusiness industry with van owner-drivers continuing to play aninstrumental role in maintaining the economy.”

Tim Campbell of Campbell’s Automotive Ltd, the UK's numberone van research specialist, said: “This is an important andoften overlooked sector of industry, with the van often acting asthe workplace of the entrepreneur. The phenomenon ofentrepreneurial use of the van isn’t a new one, however, overthe past few years van acquisition has grown significantly, aidedby more accessible finance schemes and buoyed by a strong economythat encourages start up businesses.”

For more information on Norwich Union visit www.norwichunion.com.


For further information, please contact:

Telephone: 020 7404 3000
Fax: 020 7404 5000

Hannah Moselhi
E- mail: hannahm@borkowski.co.uk 
Telephone: 07917 167792

Natasha Gould
E-mail: natasha@borkowski.co.uk 
Telephone: 07920 092 018

Notes to editors: 

* Independent research commissioned by Norwich UnionDirect van insurance and undertaken by 72Point.com. The sampleconsisted of 559 adults.

  • Study undertaken between 22 March – 5 April 2006
    • 53% of women van drivers are self employed, compared to only44% of men
    • 23% of van drivers are educated to degree level 
    • 14% of male van drivers have regular beauty treatments tokeep up their appearance
    • 12% of drivers have lucky charms in their vans
    • 30% of van drivers ensure that they have cushions withthem
    • 6% of male van drivers have a fry up, compared with 32% whohave either fruit or muesli.

** NUD Van is launching the national search to find the firstNorwich Union Direct "Vantrepreneur of the Year" – if you area van-entrepreneur, you could win £10,000 if you enter.

  • To enter, single van owner drivers must explain in no morethan 150 words explain why your van has been integral to thesuccess of your business – and why you deserve to be thefirst
  • Entries by e-mail NorwichUnionVanCompetition@borkowski.co.ukor write to Norwich Union Vantrepreneur of the Year, Borkowski, 71Kingsway, London, WC2B 6ST
  • Deadline for entries: Monday 31 July 2006
  • Competitions terms and conditions available from Borkowski PR0207 404 3000.

Norwich Union Insurance

  • Norwich Union is the UK’s largest general insurer with amarket share of around 14%, with a focus on insurance forindividuals and small businesses.
  • It is a leading provider of life, pensions and investmentproducts and one of the largest Financial Adviser (FA) providers.FAs provide over 70% of the company's long-term savings businessin the UK. 
  • Norwich Union’s news releases and a selection of imagesare available from Aviva's internet press centre atwww.aviva.com/media

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