So here I am sat at home on the sofa and the kids are making a den from the dining chairs and a checkered blanket whilst we are self-isolating due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m reflecting on 16 years of being in the woodworking and joinery industry, thinking about how to develop my business, Brindley Garden Products (now Brindley Timberworks) and what I think the future holds for small businesses.
It was back in 2004 that I started my joinery business. I was young, inexperienced and had a lot to learn in life including woodworking skills and how to run a business and I’m still learning now! My joiners workshop was in an old and cold cow shed with very basic tools that I would now consider unsuitable but you have to start somewhere. With money being tight there was no other option than to go to that big orange DIY chain and spend what I felt at the time to be a vast amount of money.
I was settling into the trade learning all the time and trying to find an outlet for my work and this was long before artisan events. I received a phone call from Bakewell Farmers’ Market asking if I wanted to stand at their market that weekend. I snapped up the offer and soon found that standing at events where I could showcase my skills was the way forward. As time progressed, I secured a monthly pitch on the fantastic Macclesfield Treacle Market as well as artisan markets with The Market Co and other specialist events.
In 2014 things stepped up a gear massively when I moved into a blank canvas of a workshop just outside Chapel en le Frith. This was a huge leap and I focused on kitting out my joinery workshop with the future in mind. With the help of friends, I set onto the task of building walls, wiring, constructing a spray booth, fitting an extraction system, installing racking and more. This was a massive undertaking but I wanted it to be right first time.
With the change of mindset that the move had created, I started to find and develop my own style, take a few risks design-wise and take on work that would challenge me. Working on larger projects taught me to budget and schedule works, be more efficient with purchasing and stockholding, but the biggest hurdle I overcame was having the confidence to sell myself.
Over the last few years, I’ve manufactured custom made furniture and wardrobes alongside my usual range of garden benches, bird tables and other garden and landscape joinery products. I’ve also undertaken an array of other work locally including restoring sash windows and building a timber-framed art studio. Thinking back to how things were at the very beginning, I cringe but I’m proud of how far I have come and how much my business has grown.
The future may be uncertain and many small to medium-sized businesses will struggle. All we can do is try our very best.
Many of my customers are standing by me and placing orders, as well as discussing projects for the near future. Once things get moving again I’m sure that smaller local businesses will be more important than ever and the connection between the product, the maker and the consumer will outshine the likes of big online stores and build futures for those that create, craft and construct.