SME

Published: May 14, 2021 | Updated: May 15, 2021

Five star reviews help fast growing carpentry business push to annual sales of £2.5 million

Sean Rowles-Smith, Founder and MD, The Bespoke Carpentry Co (right) with (left) Dan Hiscock, Head of Finance, and Alex Kreutz, Head of Operations. Picture: Dorset Biz News.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

A fast-expanding carpentry business which started in a garage three years ago and now employs 25 people is on course for annual sales of £2.5m.

The Bespoke Carpentry Co, based on Poole’s Holton Heath Trading Park, was launched by Founder and MD Sean Rowles-Smith in April 2018.

It specialises in creating one off, unique pieces of furniture using reclaimed timber.

The business started after Sean, 29, had difficulty finding suitably qualified carpenters to help with a property development project.

A retiring joiner taught him the craftsmanship of carpentry  over a nine-month period.

“With his experience, he knew everything and I learnt more from him than any college course could have taught me,” said Sean, pictured.

After initially working from his garage making bespoke furniture, Sean moved to a 1,200 sq ft workshop at Tincleton on the outskirts of Dorchester, employing five people.

The breakthrough came when The Bespoke Carpentry Co started selling its range, from TV stands through to dining tables, on Etsy the global marketplace for creative goods.

“Sales just took off. Etsy has been a huge help to us,” said Sean, a former student at Poole Grammar School.

But the initial success came at a price when the first lockdown hit in March 2020.

Sean said: “The staff were forced to isolate.

“My Dad, Rob, and I were working 14-hour days, seven days a week, to satisfy orders.

“We couldn’t let people down.

“But from that point we knew we had something.”

March to June saw The Bespoke Carpentry Co treble in size, employing 12 people by June and relocating to a 2,000 sq ft unit on the Holton Heath Trading Park.

Further expansion followed with the business moving to a nearby larger unit and also taking on more staff from November to February this year, boosting numbers to 25.

“We really found our feet and established a reputation,” said Sean whose previous jobs included selling art on cruise ships including P&O’s Oceana, Ventura and Azura.

During his time with DeMontfort Fine Art and Whitewall Galleries he received an award for selling the most art – £2.5m – in a year.

The Bespoke Carpentry Co now has more than 790 five-star reviews – and 4,615 sales – coupled with ‘Best Seller’ status on Etsy.

And reviews are key to the company’s success.

Sean, who is engaged to former cruise ship dancer, Barbara – the couple have a six-week-old son, Caspian – said: “We only want our customers to be happy. It’s as simple as that.

“All our orders are accompanied by a ‘Thank you’ card encouraging our customers to leave a positive review.

“But companies are judged by how they deal with things when they go wrong.

“Our customer service approach has worked and this shows in our reviews and reputation.”

Each customer also receives a card with their order with the individual names of staff who’ve cut, built, sanded, stained and wrapped the item.

This helps quickly identify team members and praise them when receiving customer feedback.

Sean said: “We pay about ten per cent more than the local average wage but get a lot more back in terms of happy and satisfied team members.

“We buy beers if targets are hit, pizzas on a Friday and really incentivise our staff because we value what they do.”

Based on the last quarter’s trading, annual turnover is forecast to hit £2.5m with further expansion planned.

Every week the business uses up to seven tonnes of wood with 200 items leaving for delivery across the UK, including Northern Ireland.

Future plans include business-to-business sales.

Dan Hiscock, Head of Finance, said: “We’d love to do more locally, perhaps with cafes, bars and the hospitality sector.”

Sean said that by nature he liked to look forward rather than back but: “I feel incredibly proud.

“Our ambition is to change the industry.

“We believe furniture in the home should be handmade, it should be made from sustainable materials and it should certainly help support the UK economy.

“We’ve really built something in a comparatively short space of time but there’s so much more we want to do.”