Business Productivity Grant helps Barnsley-based Vanshades open window of opportunity

A Barnsley-based camper van enthusiast who pioneered a unique system for installing contemporary blinds into motorhomes has seen his business boom after securing support from the South Yorkshire Business Productivity Programme.


A Barnsley-based camper van enthusiast who pioneered a unique system for installing contemporary blinds into motorhomes has seen his business boom after securing support from the South Yorkshire Business Productivity Programme.


Fuelled by a demand for post-pandemic staycations, Vanshades, which was founded by former Plumber turned entrepreneur Pete Staniforth, has recently expanded into a new 11,500 sq ft facility in order to meet rising demand for its custom-built window pods, which provide a contemporary alternative to traditional campervan curtains.

The business started almost by chance, when Pete and his wife decided to buy a campervan and renovate the interior to suit their own tastes. With most of the interior work completed, Pete’s attention turned to the windows, and he began looking for blackout blinds that could also provide insulation at night and protection from the sun during the day. To his surprise, he couldn’t find anything on the market that met his needs.


Rather than leaving the curtains in place, Pete decided to put pen to paper and began developing his own idea for a special type of modular blind system. Pete’s design replaced the flimsy curtains with thermal blackout blinds, which are installed directly into the window recesses of campervans. Pete’s design helps to keep the blinds in place when the vehicle is moving and also provides improved thermal properties, helping to keep vehicles cool during the summer and warm in the winter.


After realising that nothing similar to his invention was available on the market, Pete started to put his plans into action and launched Vanshades in 2016. Since that time, the company has enjoyed a significant period of growth, but by 2021, he realised Vanshades was working at capacity, and he called upon help from Enterprising Barnsley to look at ways of scaling the business further.


With plans to relocate the business to larger premises, Pete realised that one of the barriers impacting upon the company’s growth was  the manufacturing process used, which relied upon a key component being produced by another company.


Working with key account manager Paul Johnson, Vanshades successfully secured a match-funded grant through the South Yorkshire Business Productivity Programme, which enabled the business to invest in new CNC machinery. As a result of the investment, Vanshades has brought all elements of production in-house, helping the company to reduce its production times from six weeks to just three.


Today, the company manufactures and produces its premium range of campervan blinds for VW and Ford camper fans to enthusiasts and professional vehicle renovators across Europe. The changes made to the business as a result of the funding received through the Business Productivity Programme Vanshades has reduced its lead times from six weeks to just three, and the increased capacity has seen the company double its turnover.


With plans to expand the company’s range to support more vehicle models, as well as seeing its trade orders boom, Vanshades is planning to create new jobs in the business to meet the growing demand for its innovative products.


Pete Staniforth, founder, Vanshades, said:


“The curtains found in many camper vans today have changed very little since the 1960s. When I began renovating my own campervan, I wanted something that would be secure when driving, but also provided better privacy and insulation. My solution was to create a modular window pod that slotted into the window space. When other people saw what I’d done, they began asking me where they could get one, and it made me realise there was a market for the product.


Our now or never moment came just after the pandemic when we saw a dramatic rise in orders, fuelled by more people choosing to explore the UK than travel overseas. I spoke to Enterprising Barnsley, and I realised that if I expanded our premises, we could bring the whole manufacturing process in-house. Securing the business productivity grant has been instrumental in helping us to grow the business beyond my wildest imagination. It’s also given us the capacity and technical know-how to expand our product range further in the future.”


Paul Johnson, Key Account Manager, Enterprising Barnsley, said:


“The Business Productivity Grant scheme is designed to help businesses across South Yorkshire to access the funds needed to overcome barriers to growth. Vanshades had successfully identified a niche in the marketplace, but the limitations on its site meant that they were unable to capitalise on the opportunity to expand and grow their business.


Deciding to relocate is a big decision for any business, but the additional capacity, coupled with the investment in machinery, funded through the grant support, has helped them to bring their manufacturing in-house, cutting production times by half. Today, the products, which are designed, developed and manufactured in Barnsley, are being sold to campervan lovers across Europe and beyond, and the business has a bright future ahead of it.”


Headquarted at Ashroyd Business Park, Vanshades employs 17 members of staff.


The Business Productivity Programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and provides businesses with 50% grant funding up to a maximum of £12,499, and the other 50% must be provided by the business. The maximum project application is £24,999 and can include investment in new equipment or machinery and consultancy services to help them overcome barriers to growth. The scheme is delivered by Enterprising Barnsley, Business Sheffield, Business Doncaster and the Rotherham Investment and Development Office (RiDO).

Any business based in South Yorkshire wishing to find out more about the grant funding available through the Business Productivity Programme should contact the Enterprising Barnsley team via: