AS his company begins to expand overseas and he sets up his own charity, Alfie Best has spoken to the Gazette about how he went from being born in a caravan on the side of the road to owning the largest residential park operator in Europe.

Alfie, 47, was born into a Romani gypsy family and began working with his father, Alfie Sr, selling tarmac door-to-door.

The East London boy quickly propelled himself into a business mogul when he started his own van rental company at the age of 16.

By 18, he was driving a Porsche and owned a £500,000 home.

He said: “I thought I was walking on water”. Then the recession of the early 1990s hit.

Alfie continued: “It was like someone had got a tape with ‘toxic’ written on it and wrapped it around my business.

“I closed the business, rented my home out and slept in my car.

“That was the hardest moment of my life.”

Following this unfortunate series of events, Alfie went from owning a successful business to working in a mobile phone shop.

However, it did not take long for Alfie to get back to running his own business again and after only a few months of working in the phone shop, he opened his own.

Within a few years, he ended up selling the phone shops on, ready to take on his new, and current, venture – residential parks.

Alfie opened up Wyldecrest Parks in 2001 at the age of 30. Since then it has grown to become the largest residential park operator in Europe, with 450 employees.

Alfie is even looking at taking his business overseas to the USA and Barbados.

He has even set up his own charity – simply called Wyldecrest Parks Charity – which will provide hospitals with funds to buy equipment to treat seriously ill children.

He is currently working with Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool and expects to further his outreach.

Alfie originally operated out of his headquarters in Romford, but he decided to move his firm down the road to West Thurrock.

His building, located along London Road just outside of Grays with a knight’s armour standing formidably in the entrance, is set to stay for a while as Alfie has high hopes for Thurrock.

He said: “Romford and Havering used to be the gem of Essex, but now Thurrock is.

“Thurrock is up and coming – if I opened up a park here, I would make it my flagship park.

“Thurrock Council has been tremendous and business-friendly. Both Lyn Carpenter and Jackie Doyle-Price have been very welcoming.”

Although Alfie is open about his Romani gypsy heritage now, he used to keep it to himself.

He said: “The best way to overcome racism is to avoid it. I didn’t tell anybody, apart from the gypsy community, that I was a gypsy up until I was in my 30s.”

Now the owner of a multi-million pound company, Alfie has not forgotten his roots.

He said: “I get up every morning and pinch myself because I can’t believe that the boy that was born in a caravan on the side of the road now owns the biggest residential park company in Europe.

“Our plan is global domination for this company.”