So here I am sat at home on the sofa. The kids building a den from dining chairs and a chequered blanket whilst we’re 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.
I started my joinery business back in 2004. I was young, inexperienced and had a lot to learn in life. Not only woodworking skills but also 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.
Settling into the trade, I was learning all the time and trying to find an outlet long before artisanal events. I received a phone call from Bakewell Farmers’ Market asking if I wanted a stall at their site that weekend. Jumping on the offer, I soon found that standing at events showcasing my skills was the way forward. As time progressed, I secured a monthly pitch on the fantastic Macclesfield Treacle Market. I also attended artisan markets through The Market Co and at specialist events.
2014 stepped things 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. Helped by my amazing friends, I set onto the immense task of building walls, wiring, constructing a spray booth with a full extraction system, installing racking and more. Although a massive undertaking, I wanted it make sure it was right the first time.
The layout remains, although machinery has been changed with bigger and better quality tools; some of which is much older than me as the quality of older Sedgwick and Wadkin equipment is almost impossible to match!
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. Larger projects taught me to budget and schedule works, be more efficient with purchasing and stockholding. Despite this, 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, we can only 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. The individual connections between products, the maker and the consumer will outshine the likes of big online stores. This should help build the futures for those that can create, craft and construct.