THE son of a lion tamer and trapeze artist now owns the UK’s largest used van supermarket – and he’s just invested £1.4 million into making it even bigger.

Michael Austen started buying and selling vans when he was 19 and has managed Big Van World in Cricklade for almost two decades.

After making more than £1 million in profit for each of the past three years, he hopes to expand the company from its existing 20-acre home on Chelworth Park into another part of the industrial estate.

Mr Austen said: “I started out selling souvenirs like programmes and spinning plates at my dad’s Austen Brothers circus when I was eight, which is how I developed my hunger for business and earning money which helped me later on in life.

“After my dad sold the circus and started a new company, I worked there during the summer holidays but he suggested I become an engineer and that didn’t interest me.

“I went to college but my lecturer said I would never make it, I got kicked out and left home.

“I started buying and selling cars, then my friend asked me to sell his van and it sold much quicker than any of the cars. So that’s when I decided to go into the comercial vehicle sector and it just kept growing.

“My job role has changed a lot. I’m in meetings all day instead of on the frontline now, which I miss, but I’m glad it’s doing so well.”

The dealership stocks up to 600 vans and has invested a lot of its profits into buying property.

In addition to investing £6 million into different sites over the past 18 months, Mike is getting the £3 million Seven Bridges service station on the A419 ready to open in the next couple of months.

Mr Austen added: “It’s been a good year for us and we’re thrilled to start 2020 by completing the purchase of another industrial site.

“We’ve been bucking trends and growing despite Brexit but now there is more certainty out there, we aim to continue to increase our turnover to around £20 million this year and also to look for other investment opportunities.

“We’re selling around 2,000 vans per year. Today we employ about 50 people, many of whom are local to Wiltshire, and we’re proud of our team.”