What does your company do?
For over 30 years, we’ve made hand-crafted Chesterfield sofas here in our Lancashire workshop. We pride ourselves on using the finest materials available, which our expert upholsterers, seamstresses and cutters craft into bespoke Chesterfield furniture.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
While working for a supplier in a related industry, the company’s founder spotted an opportunity to manufacture traditional leather furniture and retail direct to the public through mail order. At that time, most furniture manufacturers sold to the trade, therefore the idea to cut out the middleman and sell direct to the general public was quite novel.
When did you start up, and what support were you given?
The business started in 1982. At that point there was little in the way of assistance for new businesses. The main support came from the original employees, a number of which are still with the business today, almost 35 years later.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Our biggest achievement has been growing the business organically over the past 30 years from a handful of staff to a team of over 70, with our furniture being exported to over 50 countries across the world.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Our greatest challenge has also presented our greatest opportunity. As a mail order retailer, the advent of the internet required a significant change in mindset to the traditional model that had worked so successfully in the past. Adapting to the internet and taking advantage of the new opportunities its presents has been both challenging and rewarding. It’s a constantly evolving process, and it certainly keeps us on our toes.
How would you say you differentiate yourself from the competition?
We have always adopted a transparent approach to everything we do, no more so than when we opened our dedicated showroom over 15 years ago with a viewing gallery into our workshop. This allows our customers the opportunity to watch their furniture being made — from the raw beech hardwood frame through to the finished piece. We have found our customers really appreciate the open and honest way that we conduct our business, and our viewing gallery personifies this ethos.
What has been the best decision you have made to-date?
The best decision we’ve made as a business was moving to a larger premises around 15 years ago, where we opened a dedicated showroom that was open to the public 7 days a week alongside our workshop viewing gallery. By combining our showroom and workshop on the same site, we have connected our customers to the heart of our business — the result has been customers travelling the length and breadth of the country to visit our showroom. The customer we believe that travelled the furthest came from New Zealand, although they did use the trip as an excuse for a holiday!
Where do you see the business in 12 months’ time?
In 12 months’ time I expect the business to have launched our new range of furniture, which our customers will hopefully love. There are also a couple of potential developments that we need to keep secret for now which could lead to an exciting new phase for the business.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
When it comes time to expand your workforce, really take the time to ensure you are making the best appointments possible, as having the right colleagues in place can make all the difference. The time spent managing staff that aren’t a good fit for their role or the business in general can be costly, so it pays to put in the work and find the right match upfront rather than rushing in.
What do you find most satisfying about running a business?
No two days are ever the same, and there are constant challenges that will ensure you always have an opportunity to learn and grow.