Tell us about the company you run
S-Zone UK Ltd supplies solar shade and all weather solutions such as commercial and residential awnings, canopies, pavilions and parasols.
Set up originally to offer smoking ban solutions the company now has three sectors – Retractable Canopies, Smoke Zone and Shade Zone, forming the S-Zone Group.
How did you get started in the industry?
I saw an opportunity really. I knew when they brought the smoking ban in pubs and bars would need to provide sheltered places for people to smoke outside, so I decided to start supplying them. That was in 2007. But it has grown hugely since that time and we have diversified widely.
What other areas do you work in now?
We moved on from just providing smoking shelters to now designing and fitting bespoke solutions for all outdoor environments and any business type – cafe barriers, awnings, parasols, pavilions, you name it, we can provide it.
It is not just to businesses either; we supply a lot of schools with cycle shelters, covered walkways and external blinds so they can protect children from harmful UV rays and from rain.
What type of clients do you work with?
Our client base is pretty varied and we work internationally, doing a significant amount of our business across Europe. We have established a prestigious portfolio that includes McDonalds, Moto Services, La Tasca, Chimichanga, Chipotle, and Imperial Tobacco and are sole supplies of Caffe Nero in the UK and Ireland, and supply products to Caffe Nero Poland, Cyprus and Dubai. We have also supplied a large number of local schools and businesses such as Nu Bar and Jaz Bar in Hull.
How do you see the business developing?
Well to an extent we have done things backwards. We developed a national and international client base before we developed a local one, so I would like to focus on the local market a bit more.
To this end we have just invested a significant amount of money creating a new showroom at our premises on Citadel Way in Hull, so people can come along and see the products in situ before buying.
Who or what has influenced your career so far?
There are two people who influenced me in my career – my mother and my wife.
Being brought up by a single mother, I always remember the long hours and jobs she needed to do to raise two children, I believe she taught me not to be scared of hard work and gave me determination.
My wife quit her job to study at university and I remember the hard work and late nights studying away whilst I was working an easy 9 to 5 job as a designer. I felt a little guilty about this, but also inspired.
I set this business up knowing at 32 I needed a change in my life. My design career was going nowhere, I wanted to start a family and I had no experience in business. I did not study business at college or university and I had no one to turn to in difficulty, but my mother and my wife gave me the drive I needed to succeed.
How do you spend your spare time?
I like to relax, switch completely off from work and spending time with my two children, and following the mighty Tigers on their glory days.
Finally, soapbox. Is there anything that really gets on your nerves?
I don’t like pushy sales people and people who will tell you anything to get a sale. I try to be as honest with customers as I can be, even if I lose a sale. That way at least I can sleep at night not worrying about someone who has invested in a product which is not fit for purpose. I believe people buy into people and I think honesty in life and business will go a long way.