Founded by joiner Neil Blakeburn, Ochiltree Bespoke Joinery, which specialises in the manufacture of bespoke wooden windows and doors, is taking on new clients after receiving support from Business Northumberland.
Originally based in Hexham, Northumberland, Ochiltree has now expanded north of the border to set up a second workshop in Bathgate, West Lothian, allowing them to service customers from Newcastle to Carlisle and up to Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Today, Neil acts as director of Ochiltree and is responsible for the day-to-day running of the business, but his first step into the industry was over two decades ago as an apprentice back in 1997, when he started training as a builder and joiner at P and M Developments and Anvil Construction based in Northumberland.
After developing his skills, Neil had a stint in uPVC manufacturing at Invader Trade Frames in 2001, but ultimately turned back to bench hand joinery, finding work at Hexham-based Matthew Charltons before moving to Midlothian to manufacture doors for Timbertech Scotland.
Following five years of honing his craft north of the border, Neil decided it was time to move back to his roots and set up a business of his own in Hexham, which he has been running for over six and a half years.
“The hardest part of running the business is managing the expansion and actually running the business itself, instead of getting my hands dirty and actually manufacturing,” he explains.
“I wanted to broaden my knowledge of how to run my business so I decided to engage with the Business Northumberland Programme, which has been a huge help.
“Before speaking to them I was worried about managing the business side of things, but I have certainly gained a greater understanding of how to be more efficient with certain aspects of the business.”
The Business Northumberland Programme helps businesses take stock of their achievements over the past 12 months and look at where they want to be in the next 12 months.
Businesses defined as high growth, those looking to scale their business or who are at a critical stage in their development, are elgibile to receive 12 hours with a specialist business coach who will work with them to unlock their growth potential.
“Getting 12 hours with my specialist coach has been invaluable,” Neil continued. “Talking to a professional enabled me to make better decisions and become more efficient.
“An example of that was to bring in a new digital window system which enables me to produce an accurate window or door quote.
“I used to have to guess how much windows would cost to make, but now I know the exact profits within each item we manufacture as the new system takes everything into account.”
“Since engaging with the programme we have been able to grow and learn valuable knowledge and can now be confident in profits made within the business.”
With a greater understanding of his business and his margins now under control, Neil is looking forward to the future of Ochiltree and believes he has the confidence to achieve it.
“In five years’ time I hope to be servicing a large area in both the north east and Scotland, providing high-quality, bespoke wooden bespoke windows and doors with a steady turnover increase year after year.”
Case Study developed in partnership with BQ.