AN Outer Hebrides made-to-measure furniture manufacturer has upgraded its workshop and expanded its offering after securing funding, writes Ian McConnell.

Heb Fitted Furniture, on the Isle of Lewis, began in an unused spare room, with business owner John Groom identifying a gap in the market for a made-to-measure furniture service in the area. The business manufactures and installs bespoke shelving and cupboards to create a fully-fitted look in places around the home where standard furniture or shop-bought units do not fit.

Taxpayer-funded support service Business Gateway, which helped Mr Groom secure about £4,500 of grant and loan funding that has enabled the entrepreneur to purchase a wide range of tools and equipment, noted his furniture service had started as a “passion project”.

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Mr Groom approached Business Gateway for start-up advice prior to launching Heb Fitted Furniture last July.

Heb Fitted Furniture was awarded a £2,500 grant through the Outer Hebrides Young Entrepreneurs Start-up Scheme, which is delivered by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Business Gateway service and funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Business Gateway also helped Mr Groom secure an interest-free Comhairle loan of £2,000 and advised on his business plan.

Mr Groom said: “Without the advice and support from Business Gateway, I wouldn’t have secured the necessary funding to transform my shed into a functional workplace. The new equipment and improved workshop have allowed me to design a new range of bespoke furniture that simply is not available on the high street."

He added: "Starting a business in the middle of a pandemic was certainly a risk, and while I’ve had to navigate various restrictions during a key period of growth, Business Gateway’s guidance gave me a real confidence boost to start a business in these uncertain times.”

Fiona Chisholm, adviser at Business Gateway, said: “As part of Business Gateway’s start-up services support package, we were able to offer advice and support to help John develop a robust business plan and provide routes to accessible funding. This enabled John to upgrade his workspace, and expand his services, enabling his growth.

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“John’s passion was infectious from the very beginning. The business is unique in its offering and I am sure this will ensure he continues to attract customers, especially as we all continue to navigate challenges around home learning and working. We look forward to continue working with John on his venture, as we look to identify further areas for potential growth.”