Lewis Birch has come a long way since his days as a playground wheeler-dealer.
For the last four years, he’s been running his rapidly growing interior design business Birch Joinery NW Ltd and now he’s relaunched it as Birch Interiors.
Despite the recession it has been a busy couple of years as more people are choosing to renovate their homes rather than moving.
The business now operates from plush new premises in Mawdesley, and provides a comprehensive design, supply and fitting service for bedroom, bathrooms and kitchens.
Now 27, Lewis says his entrepreneurial talents showed themselves at an early age – and occasionally landed him in hot water.
He got into trouble for selling sweets, crisps and drinks on the playground at Bishop Rawstorne High school in Croston.
“I always knew I wanted to start my own business,” he said. “I wanted to be my own boss and control my own fate.
“When I went to high school, I used to take two rucksacks; one for my work and one full of sweets, crisps and pop which I sold on the playground.
“It was a cracking little earner, until it landed me in trouble, as I nearly put the tuck shop out of business.
“My parents were called in and although they were supportive, that was the end of that business. However, I think I used to earn more money back then than I do now.”
After leaving school at 16, and working in sales for three years, Lewis decided to pursue his ambition of starting his own business.
He explained: “I was a sales rep at 19 and earning good money with a company car, but it was then I decided to start my joinery apprenticeship. Although this was a gamble and a huge drop in wages, I had big ambitions.
“I started Birch Joinery NW Ltd in 2006 whilst in my final year of college and at that time I initially contacted the Business Venture Group in Leyland and attended their Head for Business course.
“However, I had the ambition to grow the business further and I realised that more than 60 per cent of my work was fitting kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms, which I loved, but I wanted to combine this with my passion for sales and a comprehensive service for my customers.
“I’ve waited until now to generate the relevant experience and contacts in the industry and now I am in a position to provide the full service from design, to supply, to fit. I have got the complete team from plumbers, plasterers and electricians through to tilers.
“With the help of loans and advice from the Business Venture Group his risk has paid off.”
Birch Interiors gained much of its initial funding through a Rosebud loan from Lancashire County Council, which provides financial support to small and medium businesses.
This helped fund his first shop in Mawdesley, which covers an area including Blackpool, Chorley, Leyland, Southport and Preston.
He also enrolled in the BVG mentoring programme in which a more experienced entrepreneur acted as a free business consultant to help him get off the ground.
His plans for the next five years are to open another two shops, with Lytham St Annes and Southport likely destinations.
He then hopes to continue to expand and open a new shop every two years.
Lewis said: “I hope to have three full-time staff working in each shop – one showroom manager, one fitter, one admin/receptionist. I am looking to generate a brand known to everyone in the North West within five years.
“This business is everything to me and I want to see how far I can take it.”
The would-be Sir Alan Sugar said that the secret to his success is his determination.
“I put my heart and soul into this business and I put the hours in because I wanted to make it work,” he said.
His advice to other budding entrepreneurs is to know the market and do your research before starting out and to be 100 per cent committed.
In 2011, he hopes to double his turnover and take on more staff ready to expand the business.
Contact Lewis Birch on 01704 823261 or 07502 323934. For more information about the Business Venture Group services please contact us on 01772 42 22 42 or visit our website at www.bvg.org.uk.