This article was contributed by Mark Cropley, CEO of Whitebox Van Ltd – an ORB member on a mission to change the trades. 


Whitebox – more than just a van racking specialist


We’re a van racking specialist based in West Sussex who design, procure and install van racking solutions for all types of trades businesses. 

We’re also much more than that.

As the home of the Organised Trades, we help our customers run their businesses more effectively by helping them be more organised at work. The van racking solutions we design and install are just one part of the puzzle. The Organised Trades goes much further.

It offers:

  • Advice on keeping your van and your tools safe and secure,
  • Hints and tips for managing finances and cash flow,
  • Insight into growing and marketing your business,
  • A guide to hiring employees,
  • And, of course, plenty of recommendations to optimise your van racking to help you be more efficient at work.


On a mission to save 10 million hours


The original idea for Whitebox came from my days as a mobile agricultural technician. For four years, I practically lived out the back of a van.

I was that person with tools all over the floor. I had that makeshift racking that didn’t keep anything in place. And I had a lot of time to think about how things could be done better.

When I set up my own mobile mechanic business in 2004, I took everything I’d learned from those early days, and I used it to be more organised in my daily work.

These little hints and tips meant I wasn’t wasting time and money. A lot of it was simple changes, like keeping on top of parts and spares. But there were also changes to how I managed the behind-the-scenes stuff, like finances and employees.

Without realising it, I was creating the Organised Trades. Then, when I set up Whitebox in 2013, I used all that know-how to create a van racking business that could help trades run their own businesses more efficiently, by helping them be more organised at work. 

Since then, we’ve kitted out more than 500 vans and helped our customers save more than 500,000 hours. That puts us well on our way to achieving our mission of 10 million hours saved.


A growing community


When I first set up Whitebox, I wanted to create a company that is embedded in the community and gives back to the community. That’s still true. The difference now is that what I consider “community” has grown way beyond what I meant in those early days.

Now, I consider the community to be our customers, our employees and contractors, and the businesses and people that live and work around us. I see the environment as central to our community. And, personally, my family is the core of my community, and they’re at the centre of everything I do. 


Our customers


What that means for Whitebox is that we want to save time and money for our customers and give them the time to focus on the things that matter the most to them.

It also means that we won’t sell cheap, quick-fix solutions that might mean some cash for us but will result in a bigger long-term cost for them. 

We also want to make the industry safer. Before I set up Whitebox, a friend of mine died in an accident because his tools weren’t properly secured.

To us, van racking is all about being as safe as we can be, which means working with reliable, trustworthy and crash-tested van racking systems.


Our employees and contractors


When it comes to our employees and contractors, we’re very clear on where we stand. We pay fairly, we don’t overstretch them (in fact, we only work a four-day week) and we never chase a sale at the expense of their health and wellbeing. 

Those principles don’t just come from me. We’re co-run with, by and for our employees. That means they get as much say on how we do things as I do. Which means we work in the best interests of everyone. 


Local community


Part of working in everyone’s best interests means doing right by the local community – the businesses and people who live and work nearby – and the trade in general.

We’ve already been recognised for our local fundraising efforts, and we have some exciting plans for future initiatives, this time focussed on the trade. Keep your eyes peeled for more information. 

The Wellderness, which I co-founded with Matt Dumbleton in 2021, is at the heart of our community work. As a non-profit organisation, the Wellderness is improving people’s lives through nature and improving nature through people. I’ll come onto the second part of that soon. 

We know from research that mental ill health has gotten worse for many people throughout the COVID crisis. We also know that nature is a great healer – our own life experiences have proven that. By bringing people together in nature, we help tackle loneliness while sharing the mental and physical benefits of being in nature. 

As director of both organisations, I see the Wellderness and Whitebox as equally important and completely linked.

Besides, Whitebox’s people, customers and community are involved in the Wellderness at all levels – including Wellderness co-founder Matt, who is a huge part of the Whitebox team. 


The environment


There’s no point denying that the work we do has a negative impact on the environment. The same is true for our customers’ work. Carbon offsetting is one way to reduce environmental impact and through tree planting and nature restoration, the Wellderness gives us the perfect opportunity to do that – it’s part of what we mean by “improving nature through people.” 

But our aim is to reduce the carbon we produce in the first place, instead of trying to balance it out later on.

That’s why we take the approach of reduce, reuse, recycle, renature. As part of the Organised Trades, we seek to continually improve the way we operate, whether we’re in the workshop or out on the road. 

We also help our customers reduce, reuse and recycle. The products that we design and install are made of lightweight materials, which helps make the most out of a tank of fuel. And they help reduce the number of journeys our customers need to make.

If a plumber turns up with everything he needs for the job, he’ll save time and cut fuel use by avoiding unnecessary trips to pick up parts and equipment. 

Plus, the more organised a trade is, the smaller the van they’ll need, which also reduces their fuel consumption. 

Of course, when those options have been exhausted, we’re able to support them by offsetting carbon through renaturing. 


Why did we join ORB?


We already had clear ideas about what social and environmental responsibility means to us as a business. As I said, being embedded in the community and giving back to the community were important to me when I founded the business. 

ORB gives us a chance to challenge what’s important when it comes to these values. Self-reflection and accountability are critical to maintaining and improving our approach, and ORB plays a big part in that.

Plus, by surrounding ourselves with other businesses that recognise the importance of these things, we can learn from their knowledge and their mistakes, while sharing our own knowledge and mistakes with our new community. 

The next step for the Organised Trades is to help trades take a more responsible approach to their own business, not just for the benefit of their employees and the environment, but also to help them save even more time and money.

We hope that by having an organisation like ORB in our corner, we can grow our influence with our customers and suppliers and help make positive changes in the industry, in line with our own values.

It’s early days, but we’re not afraid of big ambitions at Whitebox. If we were, we wouldn’t be on a mission to save 10 million hours for our customers!


Mark Cropley

Mark Cropley

Mark Cropley is the Van Racking expert at Whitebox Van Ltd, Co-Founder of The Wellderness CIC, an Adventurer and a Father of 4.