How one SME owner turned his hobby into a business

  • 12 Aug 2020

Setting up Norfolk-based East County Classics allows William Maskell to focus fully on his love of restoring classic cars.

How did you come to start up?

We established East County Classics (ECC) in January 2016. I worked at the MG Owners Club for 15 years as a vehicle technician, and before that at Ely Service. I set up ECC with my wife as we wanted to take control of our working lives and offer customers a reliable service doing something we enjoyed.

How has the business grown since then?

We are in our fourth year and have completed several full restorations. Our customer base has grown substantially and we have not only local customers but also people from across the UK and abroad. We became limited in 2018, which has allowed us to view our business differently and think about growth.

Can you run me through a typical day?

I arrive at work at 8:30am, although I often check my emails and messages before I leave for work! I respond to any queries and order any parts, then spend my time in the workshop working on cars, while managing phone calls and deliveries. It’s enjoyable to have different jobs so I never get bored! My wife takes care of the marketing and accounts alongside our accountant, so I am lucky to have time to focus on the workshop.

 

What’s been the highlight so far? 

Having a good customer base and relationship with our customers. Even though we had a business plan and had carried out our research, we were incredibly nervous starting ECC. We feel pleased that customers value us enough to come back and recommend us – word of mouth is so important. We care about our customers and build a relationship based on honesty and reliability. 

What’s the strangest request you have ever had from a customer?

I have been asked to weld-repair a Samurai sword!

What one thing couldn’t your business function without?

The teamwork my wife and I have. She lifts me up when I’m down and vice versa, and we know each other well enough to blow off steam without it affecting our relationship. 

What’s the best thing about working for yourself?

Being in control of my time. My wife had a difficult pregnancy last year and it was great to know I could be with her at appointments. It did mean extra work at other times, but it was worth it and something I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. 

And the hardest part?

No sick days or holiday pay! It’s also hard to switch off when you do finally give yourself a break. 

 

What do you wish you’d known when you first started out?

That things would get easier, and that tough times are hard but the end result is worth it. There were times we were wondering if we could continue, but we did, and the hard work and sleepless nights paid off. 

If you could go back and change one thing, what would it be?

To find out more about business contracts such as electricity and internet; dealing with companies when you are a business is a lot harder!

How does your FSB membership help?

The business advice and articles help us keep on top of things like new laws and technology. We have also used the legal advice service and our bank account is through The Co-operative Bank with the cheaper FSB rate. 

Where will the business be in five years’ time?

We are aiming to move to our own unit, with more space and a classic car storage area. We would also like to train an apprentice.

 

What do you do outside work?

When I’m not spending time with my wife and our son, I enjoy genealogy and walking.
 

Related topics