Looking back through the history of Kiravans, there are a couple of ‘stand out’ moments that massively influenced the company’s direction. One of those, and probably the most important, was the development of our Double Seat Swivel Base for the VW T5.
We were still a small start-up back in 2008, with only myself and Rob working in the business. Turnover was modest and I was spending my time installing van windows, while Rob focussed on growing our online van window sales.
I had converted a few VW vans by this point and had gone through the process of removing the double passenger seat in order to fit a single, swivelling version. It struck me as being a waste of money, and losing that third seat up front just seemed crazy. I had mentally ruled out the option of swivelling a double passenger seat due to the width of it and the apparent lack of space. However, luckily my dad was over from Ireland visiting around that time and he put his engineering mind to it. Before I knew it we had the tools out and were creating mock-up swivels out of plywood.
After a day or two it became apparent that by creating a ‘turn and slide’ mechanism it may just about be possible to rotate the seat. We were both pleasantly surprised and Dad headed back to Ireland with some sketches and an idea to get a prototype made up by his local metal worker. Neither of us thought too much about it and over the next few months there was a bit of making, testing and tweaking. Eventually, we came up with a working model and decided that if we were to start selling them we would have to invest in a pull-test to make sure the product was safe.
We booked our slot at the STATUS lab up in Manchester and watched nervously as the machine tried to wrench the double seat and swivel out of the floor. To our relief it held firm and we left clutching our ‘PASS’ certificate. Next stop was the metal work factory to order our first batch of twenty. This was a big deal, and a sizeable investment for us back then. We didn’t know if we could even sell one of these let alone twenty!
I can’t really remember how quickly they sold but I’m guessing it took a few months and then we had to start ramping up production as word spread and demand grew. From that moment on it seemed like every month we were ordering more and more, and always struggling to keep enough stock on the shelves. Luckily, we had the foresight to get the design protected at prototype stage as we were now seeing copycat versions appearing. We had to employ a lawyer to fend off a few direct copies as we tried to grow our brand.
Although the product was proving successful, we never rested on our laurels and we continued to grow the rest of the business at the same time. We were fortunate that our campervan Double Seat Swivel was generating enough cash for us to keep expanding the rest of the product range. Looking back, I’m not sure Kiravans could have been the success it is today without the Double Swivel giving us a leg up.
As I write this, it is twelve years since dad and I came up with the initial design and we have now sold over ten thousand units worldwide. Our skills, coupled with Rob’s e-commerce knowledge and entrepreneurial flair have proved to be a successful family formula. We have been supported by legions of lovely customers, who provide invaluable feedback. Our loyal trade customers have helped to make the Kiravans Double Swivel the industry standard. As sales have increased, so has our workforce. We are now able to provide employment to around 15 staff in our Keighley head office and countless others through manufacturing, design and fulfilment contracts.
It’s funny how a simple idea can take off sometimes…