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My business: Turning a passion into a successful business


Taking over his father’s bespoke joinery business has allowed Phil Cooper to turn his passion for working with wood into a career at Cooper Joinery & CNC Services Ltd.

How did you come to start up? 
My father John started the business in 1982, and I started working with him as an apprentice when I left school in 1986. When the time came for him to retire I 
took over.

How has the business grown since then?
We started in a small workshop in the village of Rustington, West Sussex, and 10 years ago moved to a larger commercial unit about a mile away. This year we invested in a 5-axis computer numerical control (CNC) machine to enable us to keep up with the demand for bespoke designer-led projects. This allows us to programme using computer-aided design software to each item’s exact measurements. We can machine complex pieces, shapes, patterns and engraving options on timber quickly and with precision. It has also allowed us to offer a 5-axis CNC timber machining service to other businesses.

Can you run me through a typical day? 
We start at 7.30am with coffee. Then I discuss the day ahead with the workshop team. The day could involve setting out and designing the next job, meeting clients, quoting for future projects, ordering materials or, if I am lucky, I get to do some actual joinery.
What’s been the highlight for your business so far?
Moving premises was a huge step for me to take.

What’s the strangest request you’ve had from a customer? 
We were asked to make a roundhouse underneath a local windmill in High Salvington, 
built in 1750.

What one thing couldn’t your business function without?
My team! We all work well together, and have a shared goal to make the business a success, taking pride in every item we send out and install.

What’s the best thing about working for yourself? 
I don’t see it as working for myself – I see that I am part of a team, which is a great feeling. 

And the hardest part? 
Time management! I love my work, and never have enough time to do everything I need to. I am at my happiest when working with wood.

What do you wish you’d known when you first started out? 
How fast customers’ needs and expectations would change, and how much more personal the relationship is between a client and our business. When I started, my father only dealt with builders. Now, thanks to advice from the media and DIY programmes, builders are often bypassed, and designers and clients come directly to us. 

If you could go back and change one thing what would it be? 
I wish I had moved to the new premises sooner. The difference is incredible.

How does your FSB membership help? 
To know we have support at the end of the phone or online for all our business needs gives us peace of mind. We have attended some local events, which we have found informative and inspiring.

Where will the business be in five years’ time? 
Still producing the bespoke joinery we are known for, along with a back catalogue of 5-axis CNC work.

What do you do outside work? 
I have recently started fishing again, which has been great to help me relax.