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A risk paid off

Vikki Jackson-Smith, founder of J&B Recycling
Waste Management | North East & Cumbria

Vikki worked in the family business from a young age. It was a successful solid fuel business, set up by her dad in the 70s, which transported run-of-mine coal down from the North East of England to the power stations in Yorkshire.

At 17 years old, Vikki was one of the youngest transport managers in the UK—in what was a predominantly male industry. She worked her way up through the business, ultimately becoming managing director.

But when demand started to decline, Vikki spotted an opportunity to diversify into the recycling industry. Recycling was a nascent market at the time, being driven by new legislation, and one which made use of the same infrastructure and skills from her family’s original business.

Today, J&B Recycling operates from four well-developed recycling facilities in the North East. It processes over a quarter of a million tonnes of commercial and industrial waste, and local authority kerbside material. And the business has been recognised nationally and internationally for operational excellence.

BGF and J&B Recycling

In 2014, BGF provided £7.5m to J&B Recycling, to help the business invest in its people, technology and plant. With access to long-term capital and advice, as well as BGF’s extensive portfolio and CEO network, J&B Recycling was able to exceed its growth targets. In 2021, it was acquired by Urbaser, the third-largest environmental services provider in Europe.

We wanted to be innovative, be a market leader in the industry, and build a highly profitable business. And that’s what we did.

Operating in a capital-intensive industry, J&B Recycling needed to invest in its infrastructure to continue driving efficiencies and growth. After securing investment from BGF in 2014, Vikki was able to take the business to that next level and, seven years later, successfully exited J&B Recycling to one of the largest waste management companies in the world.

I just felt BGF got the family business…We definitely chose well.

In this interview, Vikki discusses her entrepreneurial journey to date, including taking a risk on a new industry and what drives her as a leader.