Newark business owner Jonathan Smith had been working in the wood industry for 15 years until April 2018 when he siezed the opportunity to set up his own bespoke furniture business. We spoke to Jonathan about his start-up journey and how his NBV Grant funding enabled the expansion of his business.


Can you tell us a little more about your business?

My business is called Rorla Designs Ltd. We operate from Newark and we manufacture bespoke furniture for trade. We help our customer to design their ideal product. Our combined knowledge of 50 years helps us to advise them on the wood style, finishes and paint colours that can be applied to their furniture.

How many staff do you employ?

I currently employ 4 staff plus myself, cabinet makers, a sprayer and an office manager. I’m currently looking for an additional cabinet maker and we’re interviewing for apprentices.

What led you to start your own business?

I had been working in the wood industry for 15 years and the retailer I was currently working for didn’t share my vision for the wooden products I wanted to make. I felt there was a market for my products and skills in bespoke furniture and decided to take the leap.

How did you find out about NBV?

At the time of establishing my Limited Company there appeared to be very little support for a start-up. Around this time I had a business coach from Sterling Coaching (Simon Meadows) who suggested I contact Funding Round. Lucy Painter assisted us in the process from Funding Round where I was advised to look into grant/funding options via D2N2/NBV to allow growth within my business.

Through NBV’s Grant we had funding approved to purchase a new router and spray gun & bucket and as such this also entitled us to a further grant of £1872.50 which we received in March this year, having started the process in December 2018.

What have your experiences been of the NBV Grant process and its benefits?

At the time of applying for funding the D2N2/NBV team were in the process of upgrading their IT systems so as guinea pigs I felt the process went reasonably smoothly. All parties mentioned worked to ensure that we were always kept in the loop right up until sanction of finance.The only delays were from our suppliers of the new equipment so we were very grateful that the NBV Grant expiry date was extended to support this.

The spray gun has allowed a greater finish to our products and the router has allowed for big time savings in producing different styles of doors. Previously these doors were all hand-made and very labour intensive, the equipment reduced the time per door from 30-40 minutes down to 5 minutes.

What are your plans for the business now?

Key for the business is expansion and delivering our product to more retailers. We’re aiming to grow our customer base by 35% which will equate to 3 new shops this year. We’re dealing with 7 retailers currently. The second short-term objective is to expand into the unit next door and in the next 24 months we will start considering purchasing our own premises.

Finally we’re looking at new ranges including bedroom and children’s ranges whilst exploring different materials so that our business may remain unique. This in particular will help Rorla Designs Ltd stand out in the bespoke furniture market.

What have been the highs and lows of running your business?

The key pressures for any small business, as it has been with ours, is cashflow and alos agreeing payment terms with our customers. Our high are the expanded support we received from the bank which has supported our expanding sales with our customer base. Our workmanship and quality of product has ensured that customers have brought more business to us.

Do you have any tips or advice for others on their business journey?

My advice would be to always have a 6 month to 5 year plan. Refresh that plan every 6 months. Never say never in terms of looking to expand your business via various support functions. Never stand still and look to improve your product constantly. And finally, have an independent pair of eyes in the form of business coach or mentor to constantly challenge your business.


If you wish to follow in Jonathan’s footsteps, contact NBV today to see how we can help your business grow: 0844 887 2568*

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