A young East Anglian entrepreneur, who planted the seeds of a new career in garden decking, is reporting a strong start to life, with £300,000 worth of sales recorded in his first year.
Philip Short took the brave decision to switch off his profession in mobile phone sales, recharge the batteries and make an upgrade of his own by taking out a franchise with Lakeland Verandahs to cover Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridge.
It was an unlikely career move during the height of lockdown that many of his friends were ambivalent too, but after taking an order from his 70th customer in less than a year, the 26-year-old already feels vindicated and is looking to more than double his sales figures in year two.
“I think lockdown has made many of us reassess our lives in different ways and I was no different. I knew that from a work perspective, I couldn’t carry on what I was doing. The hours were reasonable and the pay also but there was a certain lack of fulfilment day to day and a strong desire to do more.
“There was an urge to do something completely different and, in some ways, my timing couldn’t have been better because so many of us have been spending more time than ever in their homes and have been keen on making their living spaces as comfortable as possible.
“To boast 70 fitted customers decks already is something that surpassed my wildest of expectations.”
Philip opened the franchise with like-minded friend Callum Collins-Butterton, who shared a similarly pro-active mind-set and, aged just 23, wasn’t afraid to fail.
“Callum is that one hungry friend that many of us have. He saw the potential in Lakeland Verandahs too and the fact people will always take pride in their homes.
“We want to hit the £750,000 mark by the end of 2022 and potentially expand further, but we’ll see how it goes. There’s no reason why not if we keep putting our customers first and delivering with incredible products and solutions.”
The Norwich professional was keen to point out that 87% of all of Lakeland Verandahs’ products are made from recycled plastic and 100% of the materials are recyclable at their end of life.
His products are popular in both residential and holiday home settings and a number of installations have been for disabled customers too, where anti-slip hard wearing decking was requested to build a safe weatherproof environment.
“Lakeland Verandahs has tried and tested, eco-friendly products to make use of, which we fit to the best standards. Our maintenance-free and weatherproof products play a big part in drumming up business, but the importance of good customer service is also key to establishing a strong brand, as word spreads fast.
“People want a company they can trust and that cares. By coming to my franchise, clients can be comfortable knowing they will be looked after, both before and after the installation has taken place.”
Philip is no stranger to dealing with people, as his background is mostly in service and sales roles. He is able to combine his people-facing skills with his business partner’s experience in the construction industry.
Extending some advice to those considering opening a franchise, Philip offered words of encouragement: “Keep working hard, keep the customers happy and you won’t regret it.”
As for the support received, he has been in regular contact with Lakeland Verandahs with many meetings and phone calls covering technical assistance and acquiring certain materials he needed to get jobs completed.
With many businesses currently experiencing shortages of materials, often cited as a combined result of both Brexit and the pandemic, Lakeland’s connections and expertise has made a big difference to the East Anglian franchise.
“It would be impossible to get hold of certain materials if we were to try this venture without their support,” Philip reflected.
“The marketing is also wonderful and has provided a high amount of good quality leads throughout the year, including proactive campaigns locally and nationwide.”
He concluded: “It’s safe to say we could not have done this without Lakeland’s backing.”