“I learned to read and write but, beyond that, I was self taught,” says Vincent Jelinek, founder of Increation. “I managed to put myself through college and completed a diploma in woodwork.
At the age of 18, he knew he wanted to set up his own furniture firm so he approached the banks for a loan. No such luck. “I was knocked back three times. They told me I was too young, inexperienced and lacked security. Well, they had a point!”
As a final port of call, he got in touch with the Prince’s Trust – and struck gold. They helped him to write a business plan and, after a Dragons’ Den style pitch to a panel of judges, he was given a £3,500 loan, plus a £3,000 grant from Hackney Business Ventures.
Jelinek spent the money on the rental deposit on a workshop in East London, machinery and advertising in Yellow Pages.
Seven years on, he’s built Increation into a £1m-turnover furniture design, manufacturing and project management firm, with 25 employees and an eight per cent profit margin.
“The buildings industry has a bad name. There are a few cowboys and rogue traders out there who have tarnished the whole sector, so I’m trying to raise the bar by providing great customer service.”
As an example, Jelinek recalls accidentally undercharging a customer for a set of bedroom furniture: “I worked out the profit-and-loss and realised we were making a grand total of 25p per hour on the job. But we stuck by our word and completed the work. The customer was so pleased that he came back and spent £25,000 with us on a new kitchen.”
Jelinek plans to hit the £10m mark in the next seven years and is considering cross exporting back to wealthier individuals in China: “We can’t beat China in terms of manufacturing costs – but we can offer British design."