Campervan firm accelerates growth

A campervan company based in East Lothian is targeting further progress after reporting its most successful year on record, coinciding with the first anniversary of its move to become employee owned.
Poole and team, which completed a record 55 bespoke vehicles in 2018. Picture: contributed.Poole and team, which completed a record 55 bespoke vehicles in 2018. Picture: contributed.
Poole and team, which completed a record 55 bespoke vehicles in 2018. Picture: contributed.

Jerba Campervans, which specialises in luxury conversions of the Volkswagen T6 model, has seen its turnover rise to £2.7 million in 2018 from £2.2m in the previous year, its most successful year since starting out in 2005.

After becoming 100 per cent employee-owned in January last year, Jerba has also seen a positive knock-on effect on its productivity, which has increased by 12 per cent.

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The North Berwick-based firm, which has a 15-strong team, also flagged that it completed a record total of 55 bespoke vehicles in 2018, up from 48 in 2017.

Simon Poole, founder and director at Jerba, commented: “Naturally, we’re thrilled to be looking at these results from the past year.”

He added: “We’ve been growing steadily since we first started, but to me it’s clear that the introduction of the employee-owned model last year has given the team and the business a huge boost.”

Poole and his wife Cath founded Jerba after a decade of owning and hiring campervans all over the world, before deciding they could improve the design and overall user experience themselves.

The firm is now recognised by Volkswagen as a registered vehicle body builder.

The German manufacturer supplies Jerba with the skeletons of the vans, which it transforms into stylish homes on wheels, made individually to the customer’s specification.

Last year, the husband-and-wife team transferred all shares into the Jerba Campervans trust.

The trust board, which comprises one employee appointed by them, one elected employee and one independent individual to the business, ensures the company is being run for the benefit of the staff.

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Poole, who previously held roles at Cancer Research UK and John Waddingtons, added: “We’re always looking for ways to improve what we do, to be innovative in every aspect and to stay ahead of the game.

“Becoming employee-owned has truly energised the place, and as a result, we’ve benefited from a loyal team of people who have been instrumental in building the business. Hopefully with this mindset and drive, we’ll be able to report even greater success this time next year.”

In September he highlighted benefits of the new ownership, stating: “Everyone is acutely aware of the importance of minimising waste and tackling projects thoughtfully and creatively, as it impacts the profit-sharing bonus scheme.”

An independent study published last summer into the performance of employee-owned businesses and their impact on the economy praised Scotland for “leading the way” in boosting the popularity of such an option.

Co-operative Development Scotland director Sarah Deas at the time hailed the number of employee-owned businesses north of the Border trebling to about 100 over the previous five years, with around 7,000 employee-owners generating a combined turnover of £940m. In August, the Scottish Government unveiled plans to grow worker-owned firms to around 500 by 2030.