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A Great Place To Be Sitting With Daro

15th August 2018 Paul Andrews

Daro continue to be the UK’s leading name specialising in quality cane and rattan furniture for the home and all weather outdoor furniture for the garden. 

Founded back in 1974 this family firm continues to thrive.  Paul Andrews visited them and spoke to Managing Director James Brown to find out more. 

The start of the Daro journey began with a leap of faith and an opportunity, something that the founder grabbed with both hands and now Daro is the UK’s leading name in their sector, a significant difference to the business that was founded selling sponges and other small wicker like products at the local markets by the father of the current MD James. 

As James explains, "Like many family business entrepreneurs Dad began doing the markets in his spare time whilst holding down a job as a sales rep but it soon became obvious that he was earning more through the markets and with a big leap of faith and the support of Mum he launched the business in the garage.  The markets led to wholesale contracts and over time added new accounts and finally moved into the premises that we are in today in Northampton in 1989.  I was just 11 years of age when it all started!”

For James and his sister and co-director Hannah there are lots of memories of the family business such as the numerous agricultural shows that he went to where they would tow a caravan on the back of a van and he would get involved putting the tent up.  Business education also started early as James explains.  “I was set up in the middle of the stand and tasked with selling the wastepaper baskets and would sell out and at the end of the day as a reward was paid and then allowed to go around the show and buy something!    I also remember that Dad had to travel a lot to the Far East and those were the days when telephones were not readily available and he would be gone and we would not speak to him for several days at a time.”

James grew up and has now taken on the family business and to an extent is the first to admit that there was a plan, of sorts.   “The business is in my DNA to an extent but Dad was keen for me not to come straight in to the business and encouraged us to make our own choices and follow our dreams.  I played rugby at school and for Northampton at a Junior level and was lucky enough to have the opportunity to go and play in New Zealand in his gap year but the coaches were honest with me and told me that I was not going to make it in professional rugby.” 

For many, this would have been a significant blow but as one door closed, another opened.  James turned to education and spent four years at university studying business and French, a dual degree that enabled him to spend a year in France where he managed to play rugby for La Rochelle during the time abroad.  As James adds, “This was a great time for me as I not only played the sport I loved but became fluent in French as a result of the sport too. I returned to the UK for my final year and then graduated getting a job with Proctor & Gamble.  I enjoyed the role and was promoted, became a team leader and then there were lots of changes and I became frustrated.  My accounting stood me in good stead and I left to take up a role that had become available at Daro, the plan being to work to help with the growth that had happened due to the availability of credit." 

Like many family firms there is a story behind the name.  As the business started and grew, David, James’s father dragged in his Brother in Law, Roger, merged their names and DARO was born. 

Today, the business has grown to 45 staff and a sizeable turnover with core values of Trustworthy, Happy and Genuine at the core of the business.  Like other sectors, there is a lot of challenge and disruption in the market place and Daro is having to respond to the challenges.  Lifestyle changes, outdoor living, prevailing economic challenges, the internet and the weather all present the business with constant need to evaluate and evolve. 

As James explains, “margin is one of the biggest challenges we face as a business with the rapid increases in production costs.  Much of the raw materials for production come from Indonesia where there has been welcomed reduction in deforestation causing significant increases in the prices of natural rattan materials which is a by-product, 25% in one year. The Indonesian government have introduced regulations to help control the plantations and this has also reduced supply and pushed prices up.  The internet is also a challenge as people are looking to buy more and more online and we have been working on a strategic plan for the future of the business and planning to address the challenges we need to in order to survive.”

Daro are also able to add differentiation through their customisation of their products, the soft furnishings and the fabrics that the furniture can be supplied in, and also have the national account for Laura Ashley that adds further innovative fabrics and products to the product portfolio. 

The family business is also supported by a great team of designers who look to introduce new pieces that help to make the business current and on trend, responding to the demands of an ever changing market place.  Today the company continues to grow and flourish, driven by their position as market leaders but also a desire and commitment to the development of their furniture products, soft furnishings and cushions.

As James concludes, “As a family business we have come a long way since Dad started the family journey and much has changed.  The world has become a smaller place which helps with travels and sourcing of raw materials and products and we are embracing change and new technology such as the use of the latest polyethylene UV and water resistant materials and strive to really deliver a high quality and versatile range of patio, lounge and dining furniture.  We have invested over the years and pride ourselves in our own British soft furnishings factory where we make all of our own upholstery.  Products are supplied through a range of stockists who understand who we are and what we do with the right understanding and knowledge to help customers when choosing our products.”

“We have come a long way and really do have a passion for our products and hope to be at the forefront of the sector for many years to come.  When it comes to the next generation who knows what the future holds.  I work with my sister and there are two in the next generation, aged five and two, so they are only just starting out on their journey and it may or may not result in a role in the family business.  We’ll have to wait and see!”

Find out more at www.daro-cane.co.uk 

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