Pat Murphy designs and creates a range of contemporary wooden pieces for the home. He tells Think Business how at the age of 50 he turned a passion for woodworking into a thriving business. CK53 Design is located at his home in Kildorrery village in Cork.
What led you to set up your company?
I’m 50 years old with no exposure to anything to do with timber during my childhood. I was at home one day, and I just had to make something. That’s where it started and it’s morphed from there. Woodworking started off as a hobby in 2005 and I fell in love with it. I’m 100pc self-taught. I learned everything through YouTube videos. After the family butcher business closed I worked as a floor manager in a shop for 13 years.
“I’m 50 years old with no exposure to anything to do with timber during my childhood. I was at home one day, and I just had to make something”
During this time, I spent the evenings and weekends woodworking. The business really took off last year. I gave up my part-time job last September. I was part of a Facebook group called Shop in Ireland, a shop window for small businesses to showcase their products during lockdown. I joined in October and my business exploded. I made a set of three reindeer coming up to Christmas and my social media went crazy. I sold 700 sets in two months.
What makes your company different?
I make products that no one else is making. A lot of my products are bespoke and I also personalise them. I touched on people’s love of animals. Our reindeer and robin are very popular and we have just launched a dog.
“The LEO helped give my business an identity through everything from labelling to packaging and my story. There is loads of help out there but people have to look for it”
If a customer asks for something bespoke to be made, we do that and we personalise gifts too. I love getting bespoke commissions, it gives me my buzz.
What challenges did you meet and how did you overcome them?
I am still transitioning to being a professional woodworker, especially with regard to machinery. I’m doing a small amount of wholesale, as well as selling through my social media channels. The only way to make money with wholesale is to have a high production rate, which I don’t have at the moment. Another major drawback is that I use only the best hardwoods and the price has gone up 30pc since January due to Brexit. I refuse to work with anything less because my business is built on sustainability. I’d like to think that anything people buy from me is an heirloom.
“Lockdown has been fantastic for the shop local, buy Irish, Champion Green campaign. Being part of that movement has helped tremendously”
What supports did you receive to set up your business and how could support for entrepreneurs be improved?
The local Enterprise Office was very helpful, especially with mentoring. They helped me decide what products to focus on, as I was making so many different things at the start. They helped to give my business an identity through everything from labelling to packaging and my story. There is loads of help out there but people have to look for it.
I’m very involved in Cork Craft & Design craft collective. I’m also chairman of a group called the Blackwater Valley Makers, a collection of artists, craftspeople and designers from Cork. There’s always help available through those organisations. Lockdown has been fantastic for the shop local, buy Irish, Champion Green campaign. Being part of that movement has helped tremendously.
What was the most important thing you learnt and what would you pass on to other businesses?
Time management is hugely important. It’s crucial when you work for yourself to structure the days and weeks, to have a projected plan of work to be done. Doing a cost analysis is also important. At the beginning I had a lack of confidence in my ability because I am self-taught. I love what I do but I make sure that when I get a commission I’m well covered in terms of my time, costs and making a profit.
“At the beginning I had a lack of confidence in my ability because I’m self-taught. I love what I do but I make sure that when I get a commission I’m well covered in terms of my time, costs and making a profit”
People starting out pay themselves a wage. Where’s the profit to grow the business or buy or fix equipment? That’s the number one mistake people make when they’re starting out in the craft game. They love what they do and they get by. When you take the next step, you have to cost it out and include your profit.
What are your plans for the future?
My products are available in a couple of shops around the country. I’m slowly feeling my way into the market. I’m not looking for wholesale customers but rather letting them find me at the moment.
“I came to this game very late but I know where I want to go and I’m in a hurry to get there”
My growth plan for the business is to improve my machinery and that will improve my output. I came to this game very late but I know where I want to go and I’m in a hurry to get there. I have products that sell. I sold to half the countries in Europe and to America at Christmas. As well as increasing output to Europe and further afield, I intend to target the corporate market. Corporate gifting is a huge market and one that I am well suited to cater for.
Interview by Olivia McGill
Published: 21 May 2021