Budding businesswoman Poppy Devlin is relying on an Approved Used Mercedes-Benz van to drive the success of the pet food venture she launched as the UK battled the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic.
The 23-year-old is based in South Walsham, Norfolk, and purchased her Vito 111 CDI from the Norwich branch of East Anglia Dealer Orwell Truck & Van. A 2019 model with only 7,000 miles on the clock, it still has two years left on its unlimited mileage manufacturer’s warranty and came with MobiloVan cover, which includes free 24-hour roadside emergency assistance.
Poppy took on the OSCAR Pet Foods franchise for the Norwich and Norfolk Broads areas after the previous holder retired. She began trading in July, at a time when many small businesses were struggling just to stay afloat. Despite this inauspicious backdrop, Poppy is determined to make a go of her new venture, and convinced she has chosen the right vehicle.
A long L2 PURE model, her van is powered by a 1.6-litre engine that offers outstanding fuel economy of 45.6 mpg (combined cycle). Other Vito variants are available with rear-wheel drive, but the 111 CDI’s 114 hp output is transmitted via the front wheels.
Poppy is one of OSCAR’s youngest franchisees. Established 25 years ago, the Preston-based company now boasts a nationwide network of more than 90 franchised Nutritional Advisors. Primarily, they supply and deliver direct to customers’ homes, a range of pet foods, treats and related supplies.
Poppy has held various jobs, and worked most recently for a printing company. “I’ve always wanted to be my own boss, though,” she said. “I’ve also loved pets, and especially dogs, since I was small. So the fact that it allows me to combine running a business with my enthusiasm for animals means this is my dream job.”
Taking on this new challenge meant negotiating a steep learning curve. Poppy underwent an intensive five-day induction by the franchise owner – due to the national lockdown that was then in force, this was conducted via video conference. The course covered a range of topics including product knowledge, customer service, business development and marketing. Every bit as important for Poppy, was the choice of vehicle she would use to deliver to customers.
“I’d never driven a van before and was a little concerned about handling a large vehicle, so I asked other operators which would be best for my needs,” she recalled. “Several told me a smaller, car-derived van would be sufficient to do the job.
“I’d already visited several dealers but had not seen any used vans I liked. Orwell, by contrast, had two nearly new mid-sized Vito models, both with low mileages, on the forecourt that I could look at.
“I realised the Vito was hardly any bigger than a car-derived van in terms of its footprint, but offered a better view of the road from the driver’s seat, and had a significantly larger and more accessible cargo area. The sliding doors on both sides would obviously be a big advantage, too.”
She continued: “The vans really impressed me, as did the enthusiastic and helpful service I received from sales executive Kevin Heap. There was no pressure, no hard sell; instead, he simply took the time to understand me and my business, and what I was looking for. Kevin talked me through the features of both vehicles and helped me choose the right one – it’s air-conditioned and fitted with a reversing camera, which certainly makes my life easier.”
An Approved Used Mercedes-Benz is the best thing to a new van bearing the three-pointed star. All come with the same exacting commitment to quality and workmanship, and all undergo comprehensive pre-delivery inspections.
Poppy added: “The Vito is great to drive and has a real quality feel. Not only does it suit my business perfectly right now, but it will also stand me in good stead for the future. That’s because when things get back to normal, I’ll be attending shows and other events, so as well as stock samples I’ll need space to carry a gazebo and promotional materials. I definitely made the right choice.”