BBX Devon Blog – 4th May 2021 – Cornwall Polished Plasters Start Up Experiences

Setting up a new business can be quite daunting, there’s a lot to learn. Not only do you have to be confident in your product or service, but you also have to know about: tax returns, branding, how to sell your product, understand your target audience, legal aspects, setting up a business bank account etc. etc.

One such individual who has undergone this process is Joshua Rundle of Cornwall Polished Plasters.

Josh started out in construction at the young age of 19. At first, it was general labouring jobs but then moved into plastering. For most of this time he was employed, working for a firm; however, he ended up moving to various locations such as Bristol and Somerset. Due to the transitory nature of his life at the time, it was easier for him to be self-employed.

Throughout this period, he perfected his trade as a plasterer and his career changed directions slightly where he went into teaching plastering.

After a while, he decided to return to Cornwall and went back into construction working for a firm doing plastering and rendering. Needing stability, Josh remained in employment for a while; however, it was always his dream to run his own business. Although the stability of employment was necessary, Josh wasn’t happy and decided to try his hand at something different. As a complete change from anything he had ever done before, he went into military service, unfortunately, this didn’t last very long due to an injury he sustained and as a result, was signed off and left the armed services.

Upon leaving the military, Josh had to re-think what he was going to do as a career and one thing that he couldn’t shake was the idea of running his own plastering business. In particular, there was a technique he was made aware of that he particularly wanted to try – Venetian plastering.

One question that comes up a lot in relation to his work is – what is Venetian plastering?

Venetian plaster is also known as marble plaster, polished plaster or Italian plaster. The technique has been around for centuries. The earliest it can be traced back to is in the 1st century AD in what was then known as Mesopotamia, now modern-day Iraq. It was popularised by the Romans as they saw the potential for it to be used for art as well as practical building purposes.

The difference with Venetian Plastering is the process that goes into the finished product. The effect is designed to simulate natural stone and artisans would blend various pigments, lime plaster and marble to create the effect. Once the pattern was satisfactory, it would be polished and burnished to the desired sheen.

After years of working in plastering, Josh saw it as an opportunity to express his creative side and he wanted to try something different that he thought would also appeal to customers. In a very serendipitous moment, he came across a webinar that taught the fundamentals of Venetian plastering. In a twist of fate, the very day it took place, his work for that day was cancelled. Seeing it as a good sign, he joined the webinar and became fascinated with the whole process and idea and committed himself to learn all about it.

After the first webinar, he went online and researched as much as he could about the entire process. He attended several webinars, found as much information as possible and studied the techniques and various approaches with enthusiasm.

At this point in time, the pandemic was starting to shape and affect our life and economy. Lockdown was put into place and businesses were closed. In a way it was a fortunate time for Josh as it allowed him to allocate that time to continue his research.

Once he was satisfied with his research, Josh moved onto the next far more daunting stage of experimenting. He’d already started developing relationships with various suppliers and one supplier, in particular, he found helpful and connected with. Although it was a financial risk, he took the plunge and ordered samples of the raw materials to start working with.
It was a painstaking process of putting all the theory into practice and finding out what worked well and what didn’t.

There were a lot of frustrations as a lot of mistakes were made, costing him time and money; however, he persevered and carried on learning his craft in his garden shed.
Although it was a lockdown and most businesses were closed, the construction industry was still allowed to operate and although hours were less – Josh was still employed and carrying out his usual job when he was called upon. Practising his new skill was something that had to be done in his spare time: after work, during his days off and around his family.

Towards the end of lockdown, Josh decided to take the plunge and commit himself to his business fully. It was a daunting thing to do, but Venetian plastering was his passion and something he felt he owed to himself to achieve.

Looking back on how things were for him then, Josh remembers how to cross and irritated he was to put all that effort into his work and not to have customers come to him. He kept wondering, well where is all the business? Why am I not getting any enquiries? It was only after time and speaking with others that he came to realise that setting up a business is more than just knowing your product and service. There were all the other aspects of running a business that he had to learn.

Three things helped Josh grow his business; one was a client who runs a high-end kitchen showroom. Josh put a feature wall into the showroom, which was designed to complement the bespoke kitchen on display. After that, his business started gaining some real traction. Having a location where people could come and see an example of his work was a real help. He developed a solid working relationship with the kitchen designer who gave him guidance with regard to his business and also referred him to clients, which ended in confirmed work for him.

Conscious of the fact that he was a new business, Josh wanted to ensure that his outgoings were minimised. One way he managed to do so was through using BBX. After hearing about the platform, he found that as a new business it could help him with certain areas of his business. The main areas he utilised were assistance in hiring a solicitor and outsourcing his branding. Both of these services he could access without having to use his cash capital. The other area he found useful were the leads that were being provided. As with any new business, cash flow and new leads are critical and Josh was glad of the help provided by the BBX platform.

The third thing he found to be of particular help was networking. He found it to be helpful for making connections within the industry and developing relationships with established businesses. Those relationships meant that he was able to ask questions of people that had been through the process was undergoing now. It also opened up conversations of potential collaborations – something that he already has in the pipeline. Aside from industry networking, it’s also been a great way for him to discover new customers.

Although Josh for most of his life was a general plasterer, his real focus is the Venetian/Polished Plasters side of the business.

His end goal is to have a company that just does Venetian plastering and is known in Cornwall for creating feature walls.

With the product being fully customisable in terms of colours, patterns and finishes, it’s a way of turning your wall into a piece of art.

The product is suitable for everyone and Cornwall Polished Plasters is open to residential and commercial work. Aside from creating a masterpiece in your own home, it’s something that is also well suited to certain commercial businesses.

Hotels for example where a Venetian Plastered wall in the foyer can make a real statement would be an ideal customer. As would restaurants, solicitors’ offices, private dentists etc., in fact, anyone with a premise that is looking to add a touch of luxury and class to their establishment.

When asked what advice he would give to a new business setting up, Josh’s response was to persevere.

There are a lot of challenges and you’ll get disheartened with the whole thing. There are so many new things to learn and you have this expectation that once you have everything set up, that business will just come to you.

That’s not the case, be realistic and accept that finding customers can be hard work. You have to market yourself, get the word out about who you are and what you do and why customers should come to you. It can be difficult as you get demoralised when you don’t see any results from all your hard work, however, you have to persevere.

Learn your products, learn your market, learn your customers and keep going. When you hit a brick wall, keep going, find new ways around it. He tried and failed so many times when setting up but he kept coming back and trying again and again. He knew that this was what he wanted to do and that gave him the motivation to carry on.

Now he’s feeling really optimistic about where his business is going. He’s keeping his perspective realistic and is aware that business is the same as life; it will have its ups and downs. Overall the amount of interest that he has generated in the last year has boosted his confidence and several enquiries are close to converting.

Although based in Cornwall, Josh is happy to travel anywhere as he is always keen to gain new experiences. He feels that you have to do things that are outside of your comfort zone. You won’t learn from staying safe as it’ll just be a repetition of what you already know. Growth comes from doing something you know nothing or very little about – experience is gained from undergoing and trying new things.

So what are his plans for the next year? To keep doing what he is doing, although ideally, he would love to have one stunning large piece for his portfolio. He’ll keep his eyes open for this opportunity but in the interim, he’ll keep growing his business, building his customer base and grow awareness of what he does.

 

Written by Marie Serrano

 

For more information on Cornwall Polish Plastering, go here

If you missed our other blogs, go here


For more information on BBX Devon please contact Jon Iacomino on 07904 146136 or email jon.iacomino@bbxworld.com

 

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