My name’s Tom, and I’m the co-founder and director at the Wonky Chair Design Studio. We’re a sustainably led furniture design studio based within the Incubation Space at Cardiff School of Art and Design.
I run Wonky Chair along with my two friends – and now business partners – Josh and Nick. We all studied the BA (Hons) Product Design course at Cardiff Metropolitan University. I remember quite well the day, almost a year ago now, when Josh and Nick suggested to me that we should start our own design studio.
I initially laughed it off, thinking they we’re joking, it wasn’t until the next week when Josh told me that they weren’t that I really started to consider it. We looked at each other’s design work and design philosophies and they were really similar. That’s when we decided to give it a go.
Now we work with anybody from an individual looking for that special piece of bespoke furniture, to designing and manufacturing furniture for bars, restaurants and office spaces, right through to designing our own furniture ranges.
Sustainability is really important to us, and we think about every aspect – whether it be longevity, carbon footprint or making sure our materials are ethically and sustainability sourced. For us, it has to be sustainable.
We all took a huge step into the complete unknown when we decided to start Wonky Chair, bearing in mind none of us really had any real business acumen, just a love of designing and making lovely, pretty furniture.
If this blog was about what I’ve learned, and what we’ve learned as a partnership along the way, I’d be here all day. The step up between our degree course in Product Design to managing a design studio has been huge, and would probably have been completely unachievable had we not had each other to bounce off.
For us, whenever we tell somebody that we run our own business they often make assumptions that we’re doing really well and making loads of money. This isn’t the reality of most start-up businesses. But just because we’re not turning over huge amounts of money a month doesn’t make us any less of a success than any other business – sometimes these things take time. It’s easy to fall into the trap of measuring a business’ success by looking at the accounts, but, for us at least, that’s really not the way to do it.
The reality is that we’re building something much bigger than a load of figures on a spreadsheet – we’ve been building our brand, our reputation and our business skills. We’re starting to get noticed by bigger, more well-known people and businesses.
Starting a business is not for the faint hearted – it is by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, and it would probably have been an impossible dream without my business partners, the uni’s Centre for Entrepreneurship and the Incubation Space scheme at Cardiff School of Art and Design. It is however the most rewarding, exciting and thrilling thing I have ever done.
Looking for more about business and entrepreneurship at Cardiff Met? Check out Jenny’s blog on how she started her own business.