Space Master: Barry & Robert Kimber

Startup profile:Barry and Robert Kimber on how they've fitted out their wardrobe firm

Barry and Robert Kimber recently took on a branch of Space Master after responding to an advertisement.They tell how they’ve they’ve progressed so far in their new business

Startup profiles go straight to the hub of the action by speaking to entrepreneurs who have literally just started up. We find out what made them decide to start their own business, how they got it off the ground, the obstacles they’ve overcome and the barriers they still face. We’ll look at their hopes and aspirations for the future, and then, in six months time, we’ll go back and find out how they’re getting on.

Name: Barry & Robert Kimber Age: 55 & 31 respectively Business: Space Master Type of business: Fitted Wardrobes Start date: April 2003

When did you first decide you wanting start your own business? When I ended the last one!

Tell us about your business Our business is part of a multi branch operation fitting built in sliding door wardrobes.

Was it your first business idea and where did it come from? The business came from an advertisement we saw and responded to.

What makes you think there’s a market for your business? The business had been running for four years previously and had other branches up and running.

Once you’d decided to start a business, what did you do first?We spent a year looking at other established resale’s of which none took our fancy and also looked at franchising visiting the franchise exhibition etc which lead us to three or four finalists.

What research did you do?Speaking to potential customers and speaking to existing franchisees we researched all the opportunities.

What advice did you seek? We sought advise from our accountant and the British Franchise Association.

Does the government need to provide more help to people trying to start a business? I think the government could do a lot more from the ground up. In the first instance more funding or interest free loans should be more widely available.

On the advice side perhaps a specialist could be in from the start to offer advice such as the selection or suitability of a business, risks, demands of what a new startup is taking on. Once up and running the assigned “mentor” would be able to guide the person through issues such as advertising and marketing, book keeping and admin etc.

On the government side it would be a great incentive for the government to issue tax-exempt certificates for the first 2 years of training to give the new venture time to breath.

How much did it cost to start the business? Our business did not cost much to start because we were basically buying a trading licence. Where you have to be careful and three out of four business fail is under-capitalisation.

When we started up we had to buy a vehicle, lease premises, have phone lines installed, buy tools and equipment and then start funding advertising and commercials.

How did you fund this?This all was funded by ourselves from liquid capital.

Have you made any provisions for business not being as prosperous as expected? As we have had no loans or overdrafts (yet!) we have no provision but at this time we are paying our way.

When did you stop working? I had a previous business, which I ran down and then realised I would have to wind it up, as I was really needed full time with Space Master.

This was a big decision to make because although not a massive profit, it was providing for me, and when I cut all links, finally having the business phone line disconnected, I had to be sure I was doing the right thing. Robert had been made redundant from his job and although he was highly qualified and experienced he suffered ageism, a problem that seems to be growing in the UK.

Are you working from home or from premises? We operate the office from home and have a small manufacturing/storage facility about 5 minutes away.

This situation is perfect for us as it allows us to answer the phone after hours and we can shut the door on the office and not have any of the mess associated with furniture production around the family home.

The small manufacturing facility we have enables us to pre-manufacture some of the job off-site, thus saving time and mess at the customer’s home.

How many hours are you working at the moment?At the moment we are managing to keep the most of the work 8 till 6 on Monday to Friday, with the occasional quotation visit on a Saturday.

How are you managing your day and what steps have you taking to ensure you’re able to get everything done without working around the clock?We have days when we install and days in the office, so we don’t usually move outside the working week. We make a special effort to do this so we don’t become stale in our work and also have quality time to ourselves.

Once we finish we don’t do anything in the office or go down to the workshop unless absolutely necessary.

What about staff, is it just you two? Staff is an option for the future that we have talked about many times. It brings with it fresh concerns such as will we be able to keep a guy in work 40 hours a week and what happens if he steals our blueprint and then goes and sets up as competition to us ?

Is the amount of red tape that comes with taking on an employee something that concerns you? Red tape is always at the back of our minds with regard to staff as issues such as injury claims and dismissal are now as commonplace as in the States, which makes us very wary. The law is very much on their side.

What marketing and advertising have you done so far?Marketing and advertising have always been a struggle for us with not knowing where, when, how big or even how effective.

So far we have advertised in local weekly-subscribed newspapers, magazines and the Yellow Pages.

Where do you hope to be in 12 months’ time?In 12 months’ time we hope to have an established local name, and be receiving recommendations which plenty of orders to service.

What are the main obstacles to growth? Our main obstacle to growth if there is on is the price of advertising.

What are your main ambitions, to make a lot of money or enjoy what you do? We have always put a large emphasis on the quality of life. We have to be happy in what we do and also draw a reasonable wage.

What have you found difficult about starting up and what do you wish you’d done differently?Getting the work in has been our main stumbling block so far but looking back we think we have made the right move in becoming a new startup and would not change a thing.

What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business? To start your own business I think you need belief in yourself, get support from an outsider such as your spouse of friend, and to stick at it when the going gets tough.

This been my second start up it will always be tough in those early two or three years and there is none of those beer and skittles that people seem to think that is associated with self employment!

So what advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business?If you are starting a business you need to think, can you handle the pressure when the money gets tight and the bills are adding up, can you manage your self-discipline and time?In the formative months can you exist off little or no money?

It is always good advice to make an appointment to see your local Business Link and talk your concept over with them.

A good accountant also helps who can look at a business plan or the books of an existing business to see beyond the black and white.

Thanks a lot and the very best of luck. Will you come back and tell us how you’re getting on in six months’ time?

Yes, of course – watch this space!

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