AN EMOTIONAL road trip across Southeast Asia inspired a Hampshire couple to set up their own campervan business.

John and Emma Ward travelled across Singapore and Malaysia in a Nissan Elgrand to reconnect John’s mother Sye with her relatives.

The couple were already keen caravanners and decided it would be possible to convert the Japanese vehicle into a luxury camper.

They returned to England, bought one for themselves and created Sugoi Campers.

Emma said: “We decided to combine the van with our long-standing love of camping and caravanning and convert it into our very own adventure on wheels.

“John’s first job was in the automotive industry refitting vehicles, so it was only a matter of time before we finally took the plunge and started converting vans as a business.”

The couple had both been working for a Hampshire-based telecoms company for more than 10 years when John took redundancy from his role as logistics manager in September last year.

“John had already been talking about making a change, so he saw this as the chance to start turning our camper conversion dream into a reality and Sugoi Campers was born,” said Emma.

“Sugoi is Japanese for ‘awestruck’, which we hope reflects the quality of what we offer – and also the fact that we were inspired by John’s mother and her Asian heritage.”

John began importing Japanese vehicles into Southampton docks and used borrowed space to convert them.

Emma said: “We hadn’t planned on getting a unit but we soon realised we couldn’t work from the docks and when one came up in Fareham, we went for it.”

Emma joined her husband after taking redundancy in March.

“We are in this as a family,” she said.

“Our daughter Hollie, 25, has worked on the Camper brand and designed the logo. Oscar, 19, helps his dad fit the vehicles. Abbie, 11, has given herself the role of office manager, designing badges for everyone and using her holidays to come to the unit, talk to customers and gives tours. Even our rescue dog, Callie, is here most days.

“We live in Warsash, and have always been keen on outdoor activities like kayaking and paddle boarding. These vans are fantastic for all that, with somewhere to change into your wetsuits, store your equipment, and have a cup of tea.”

Sugoi Campers has a fleet of 16 vehicles so far, with three for hire and the rest for sale. It also offers bespoke conversion packages for customers bringing their own vans to the unit.

“We decided to go with Japanese imports as you get far more quality for your money,” said Emma. “VW campers can go for between £40,000 and £50,000, whereas Japanese vehicles are generally between £18,000 and £26,000 – it’s an affordable option.

“We do three standard conversion packages, as well as bespoke conversions. We are also very keen on sustainability; we use sustainable wood, responsibly sourced materials and offer hybrid vehicles.

“We have always had caravans as a family and have tried to counter all the things we have found difficult, including having plenty of USB charging points and lots of cupboard space.”