In her latest business column, Waltham Forest Business Network’s Jo Sealy reshuffles her kitchen cabinet
A chance for a formally-trained cabinet maker to test his business idea led to a successful Walthamstow-based enterprise.
Bespokea was set up by Duncan Strong in 2015 and helps clients create their ideal bespoke kitchen with the service to match – but on a budget. The company achieves this by using units and fittings from a well-known Swedish flat-pack store for all the standard sizes, making the rest to order, including doors, drawer fronts, special units and shelving.
“I actually started off in a shared workshop at Building Bloqs in Edmonton,” says Duncan. “I was able to rent a bench space with access to the machinery I needed. This meant that I could see if the concept was viable before spending money on renting and equipping my own space.”
Duncan is an artisan at heart and loves being at the bench making things, which he feels sets him apart from the competition. Moving the business from a shared workshop to its current leased premises in Blackhorse Lane was his next big challenge.
“This is when the commitment to the business reached the ‘point of no return’ and cemented the decision on which way the business would go.
“I wanted to offer a showroom where clients could see samples, chat about their design, discuss things such as worktops and veneers and co-ordination with their builder, all things that personalise the service.
“A three-year lease was signed and some expensive machinery was purchased. With help from my son during weekends and holidays, the workspace was fitted out, a showroom and office created, and a demonstration kitchen fitted.
“Lots of work, but enjoyable and the result was worth it!”
Bespokea is not just a business but has also become a family affair. Duncan’s wife is in charge of the accounts and running the office and his son loves making things, so Duncan gets to teach him traditional cabinet making skills.
“One of the best decisions I’ve made is to keep the business small. My view of success is trading locally, passing on enquiries that don’t fit my business model to competent friends, supporting my family, and enjoying going to work in the mornings.
“I’m hugely proud that people trust me with their hard-earned cash to create something for them.
“I’d say to new entrepreneurs to be honest with yourself about your motivation for doing it and what you hope to achieve from it.”
For more information about Bespokea: