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Wow, 10 years in business.

Wow, 10 years in business, well that soon went. One minute we’re opening the doors on a brand-new kitchen showroom and the next, we are 10 years old. So how did this happen? The truth is the journey for me personally, started much longer than 10 years ago.

I left school with a disappointing education, little confidence, and no ambition, I didn’t think I would ever have a career let alone a business and the opportunity to have a positive impact on other people’s careers around me. I had trained as a mechanic from school, a job I didn’t like and couldn’t wait to get out of, after that I worked in a local factory. It was at this time my brother Matthew began to encourage me to start reading books, he thought it would spark an interest for me and he recommended many titles. This is probably when things started to change. The books he suggested were about explorers, arctic adventures, and other great stories. The best of these books, and the one that stayed with me all these years was Papillon. I began to realise that if you believe in something enough then you should always pursue it, even if it takes a lifetime to achieve. Hopefully most of our life’s challenges won’t take that long but the lesson is one I’ll never forget. The inspiration and excitement I got from reading gave me the confidence to take a voluntary redundancy package from my then employer and learn a skill I could use to explore my potential and hopefully make some money.

A local kitchen company offered me a training position. I gave it my all and a few years later I was self-employed, fitting for both my own clients and subcontracting for some other kitchen showrooms. After a few years of this I walked away from kitchens for a while and concentrated on learning more traditional joinery, this took me to a company in Buxton who were doing amazing projects on fantastic properties around Calver in Derbyshire. The head Joiner, a man called Paul who was very qualified and experienced was just a wealth of information when it came to all things related to wood. During the time I spent there, Paul taught me so much about joinery, it was free knowledge and I just soaked it all up. Paul and I became great friends outside of work as we both share a passion for cycling, some years later I was proud to be his best man when he married Gemma.

When my time working with Paul came to an end, I went back to being self-employed, this was a time when the country was in recession and many kitchen companies were struggling. Nevertheless, it was at this time I came up with the idea of starting my own kitchen business. I’d fitted kitchens for a few local companies, and I was often frustrated working on projects that were disorganised, had sloppy unchecked design work and materials. This would often result in damaged materials getting to the client’s home, this often delayed the project and cost both the client and myself money. With so much experience behind me I now believed that I could design, plan and fit kitchens myself and do it better. Matt joined me in opening a showroom and a few months later we opened the door at Kinder Kitchens.

I remember sitting at my new desk in the showroom nervously waiting for a potential customer to walk in and order a kitchen. I knew I was going to have to use my new design software that I wasn’t yet very familiar with, not to mention making a sale, another thing I’d never done. Although so much of this was new it was also very exciting as anyone who’s started a business knows. Eventually someone did walk in and trusted us to do their kitchen project, a lovely lady from New Mills who I have worked for at least twice since; and she has my thanks for getting us off the mark. While the design work for the first few kitchens was slow and not the most creative, we offered first class installations and that is ultimately the part you must get right in this line of work.

As the business began to grow, Paul, my old joinery mentor joined us on the team for a few years. Matt moved on to pastures new but thankfully he continues to be very supportive and manages the businesses IT systems. I then employed and trained a full-time designer, Rachel, who many of you will know. In October 2016 however a cycling accident would leave me without the use of a badly broken left arm for just over two years, the whole event created a lot of strain. I would like to say I rose to the challenge and battled through. In truth, while I did fight it hard to change the way we worked, I did my very best to maintain our standards throughout this period. It was the people who were around me that got both me and Kinder Kitchens through this very challenging time, through several surgeries, time in hospital, infections, and an eventual bone graft. It was Matt, my sister Alison, my Dad and stepmother Pat together with my son Tom, Paul, Rachel the rest of my family and of course Linda my loving partner who got me through it all. For this they have my eternal thanks.

Fast forward to today and Nick has now joined the team and has been in training to be a project manager for a year. So, what’s next for the business? Kinder Kitchens isn’t going anywhere, we will continue to offer the best kitchen product and service to every project we undertake. We have built what I believe to be by far the best reputation of any kitchen company I have ever come across and we are committed to maintaining it. The people of New Mills and surrounding area have been kind to Kinder Kitchens, trusting us with many furniture projects, for this you all have my sincerest thanks. As for me, during the last 10 years I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working alongside some brilliant clients and great tradespeople, some older and experienced and some just getting going on their own exciting journey. All these relationships have widened my understanding of the challenges we all face both in and out of work. In addition to my work over the last few years I have taken a keen interest in learning about mental health and the impact this has on our life and work. I have learned in business always strive to develop working relationships with customers, suppliers and tradespeople that are respectful, mutually beneficial and that foster the success of all.

My next project is a tradesperson directory website specifically for the High Peak to help spread the word of the wonderful work so many tradespeople do in the area. We have created a website to help connect tradespeople and homeowners. Unlike other websites that offer this kind of service, My Local Tradesperson is local, for the High Peak only, this should ensure that when you need a tradesperson for your home project, you’ll have access to the tradespeople that are actually in your area.

Once up and running the platform will also be able to use its reach to create opportunities for young people who are leaving school who may not have great qualifications, and who may be worried about starting work and need a safe and encouraging introduction into the workplace. They will have the chance to gain some skills and of course the confidence that comes with that. Some of the companies we are signing up now are already considering giving this opportunity to a young person and we plan to partner with a local youth charity to support this. The website will also offer experienced tradespeople access to other contractors for subcontracting work.

The website is called My local tradesperson / High Peak. Matt, Alison and I are currently working hard on this start-up so if you’re reading this and think it’s something you would like to support or be involved with then please don’t hesitate to get in touch admin@mylocaltradesperson.co.uk

Well, I guess that’s it. I’ve had real fun looking back over the years while writing this and it’s been a real privilege to have worked with the people I have. I’m proud of what I have done and happy I’ve created opportunities for people along the way. For all my past clients, thank you for trusting us with your furniture projects and for my friends and family, thank you for everything you have done and continue to do. Here’s to a great future for all of us.

Andy

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