Emma Lanman started Van Girls Ltd in 2011, as a part-time project while she was working as a firefighter. She bought a single van and spread the word through friends and family, working with friends to help customers move on her days off. Since then, the business has gone from strength to strength, and Van Girls Ltd now runs five vans, with up to 10 staff on a busy day.
Based in north London, Van Girls Ltd takes on jobs throughout London and the south-east, helping a wide variety of commercial and domestic clients move their goods. Emma said the best things about the job was the satisfactions you get from ‘starting in one place, with stuff everywhere, and finishing the day somewhere else, with everything where it should be, and making your customer happy by getting them into their new home.’
Could you be the next Which? Trusted trader of the month? Read our guide to increase your chances of winning. Read on for more about April’s winner, Van Girls Ltd.
A unique service
Van Girls Ltd started as a small operation, set up to provide an alternative to the traditional man-and-van service for people who wanted a female team to help them move. Emma got the idea through seeing what a positive response she got working in another traditionally male role, as a firefighter.
She soon found that there was real demand for this unique service, which tended to attract customers who had previously had bad experiences where they felt vulnerable, ripped off or patronised by other movers. Initially the team moved a lot of customers who wanted female movers for safety, cultural or security reasons. Now the business has branched out. Emma says: ‘We built on that and now our clientele is really mixed, with lots of young families as well as people who specifically want female movers.’
Emma had never run a business prior to Van Girls, which was a challenge at first. She says: ‘I had to learn the art of moving – it is an art doing it well and managing logistics, making sure everyone’s where they are supposed to be and keeping everyone happy.’ But it went so well that she had to give up the day job and dedicate herself entirely to the Van Girls business.
She says finding good people is always a challenge in the removals industry. It’s not a struggle to find movers who are strong enough, but rather ‘making sure you recruit great staff that really care about your customers and promote your brand.’ Happily, she has now ‘got some great staff, who tend to stick around for a long time when they’re a good fit for the company.’
Great feedback for our Which? Trusted traders
Keeping their customers happy has always been at the heart of the Van Girls operation. The business joined Which? Trusted Traders two years ago to provide a trusted location where their discerning customers could find them online. Emma explains: ‘Which? has a good reputation as a brand for being balanced and unbiased. Our customers want to look you up somewhere that they trust.’
One of the real positives for Emma and the team is the great feedback they get on their profile page. Emma explains that this helps build relationships with their customers: ‘We get such personal, positive feedback on the website that it really gives our customers confidence before we’ve done the move for them.
‘We don’t get a huge volume [of reviews], because it’s quite hard in the midst of moving to motivate people to leave reviews as they’ve got so much going on. But when we do get reviews, they tend to be lovely and quite personal. That means a lot to people who are stressed about moving, to see reviews where someone’s bothered to write something nice rather than just ticking a box and giving a star rating.’
It was some of these lovely reviews that helped secure the win for Van Girls Ltd this month, such as this one from Ayndie:
'Nancy, Hannah and Seraphine were not fazed by anything and did everything with a smile. This left us with enough energy to actually go out for a drink at the end of the day! They did all the heavy lifting and climbing of stairs without a single complaint. Their task wasn't easy but the great thing about Van Girls is that they make what could be a stressful situation infinitely easier to manage…I can't imagine how the service could be improved upon. Really, really exceptional.'
Or this one from MegtheDog:
'From start to finish they were completely on top of our move. When it looked like a part of the move might go horribly wrong (another contractor hadn't arrived to hoist our furniture in through the upper floor window), Van Girls had formulated a Plan B … their lateral thinking and genuine concern to provide us the very best service took the stress out of a very stressful situation.'
With customer service like this, there’s no doubt there will be more lovely reviews for Van Girls Ltd in the future.
Congratulations to Emma and all the Van Girls Ltd team, a well-deserved Which? Trusted trader of the month.