Spotlight: Real Wood Kitchens
"Attention to the clients, first and foremost. If the client wants something different or 'off the menu', you have to be able to adapt around those wishes."
At OX we love small, local businesses who display a true passion for attention to detail, artistry and pride in what they do.
Each month, we shine our Spotlight on a small to medium-scale enterprise who we think embody these values and celebrate the best of Oxfordshire’s small business. Here, we speak to director of Real Wood Kitchens, Dominic Harrison.
Hi Dominic, how did you get into kitchen design?
The interest came from school. Me and my business partner were both very interested in technology, woodwork and the satisfaction of making things. We were both in the same class and found that we shared a love of creating.
So what made you start your business?
I was working as a manager for a kitchen company and my business partner was a self-employed fitter. We knew someone that wanted some work doing to their kitchen and we felt like it was the right time for us to go into partnership. We felt that we could do it better than the competition, so we took the opportunity when it arose.
How have you seen your industry change over the decades?
There's a lot more – with the greatest respect to other businesses – flat-pack kitchen companies, and you don't tend to see as many high-quality, bespoke companies. Off-the-shelf kitchens are far more common, but in terms of the bespoke side, nothing has really changed apart from design trends and the fact that the kitchen has become a much more important room in the house.
How has Oxfordshire treated you as a business environment?
We're very fortunate to be placed in such a great county. A lot of people who own the older houses in Oxfordshire want high-quality, bespoke kitchens, and that's something that obviously plays into our favour. It's great to be able to offer our services to such beautiful houses, and we'd rather see proper, tailor-made kitchens in these houses that flat-packs.
How has the actual structure of your business changed over the years?
Not dramatically. We do have a young lad who's come through an apprenticeship with us who we employ. It's fantastic to be able to offer apprentices the opportunity to work with us, but we do pride ourselves on a being a small team and working on a single job at a time. We only work on perhaps three kitchens every two months. I've worked in companies where two different teams might work on separate areas of the same kitchen - it's common to see that sort of attitude, whereas with us, you can watch us love what we're doing from start to finish, from buying the materials in raw form to the final product. We like to give the job the attention it deserves.
What, in your opinion, makes a good small business?
Attention to the clients, first and foremost. If the client wants something different or 'off the menu', you have to be able to adapt around those wishes. It's very important for a small business to not limit choice.
Finally, what makes Real Wood Kitchens the best?
We can design and manufacture anything our customers want. We use the same raw materials as everyone else, but the difference is in the craftsmanship and service. I've been making kitchens for 16 years, and Tim, my business partner, has been fitting them for the same length of time. We're still 'on the tools', as they say – we're not just designers; we construct our products carefully, by hand, ourselves. Service is paramount.
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