Starting your own business in a buoyant economy is a challenge for most entrepreneurs. For ex RAF Serviceman Oliver Williams it was one that he relished and the talented 28 year old invested his life savings into creating Ollywood, a full service custom woodwork, installation, signage and graphics company based in Newport.
Utilising the skills and experience he gained from his time in the RAF and the networks of ex-servicemen across the UK, Oli very quickly began to win contracts with event companies, shopping centres and other businesses for a wide range of bespoke visual creations for use both indoors and outdoors, which were all designed and produced in his local workshop.
In February, his team had grown to four skilled craftsmen and Oli had just returned from north of the border, after a meeting with the owners of Scotland's largest and most diversified hospitality group, with a collection of over 50 venues.
Within 12 months of starting the company, Ollywood’s growth was about to move up a gear propelling the business forward.
Then the pandemic struck and the country came to a standstill.
The vast majority of businesses across the world have been impacted in some way by Covid-19. Ollywood was no exception, and had been hit particularly hard because nearly all the projects created by Oli and his team were for use in public areas and at public events.
Not one to shy away from a problem, Oli quickly began to explore opportunities to utilise the skill sets of his team and find new product ranges to maintain the vital revenue to keep his business going.
With a large percentage of the population furloughed, many started DIY projects in their homes that they had been putting off, whilst others made the most of the good weather and started improving their back gardens.
Both of these popular options provided Oli with possibilities to diversify from his core services. Ollywood began to use stock they already had in their workshop to design custom dining tables and other home wooden furniture. They shared their creations via their very active social media pages and quickly began to receive orders. They then started to build decking areas and garden furniture, erect fencing and even build outside bars for customers. Oli had created brand new revenue streams providing vital income for his business with minimal cost as he was utilising existing stock.
Many entrepreneurs would be happy with this achievement and continue to hunker down and provide these services during the lockdown period.
Oli had different plans. Responding to the rapid growth in demand by businesses for office furniture that will help them protect their staff and clients, Ollywood began designing and building their own sanitiser dispenser stations, perspex screens and social distancing markers. Recognising that many of his competitors have significantly inflated their retail prices, the Ollywood product range was priced very competitively and within two weeks of launching the business had secured orders from across the UK.
This has continued to grow over the past two months, and instead of having to make tough decisions about possible redundancies, Oli is now on the verge of recruiting additional members to his team and running out of space in his workshop.
“It’s been one hell of a challenge,” admits Oli, “we could have gone from heroes to zeros almost in the blink of an eye, but with the help of my fantastic team, we have all pulled together and really turned the business around. I am so proud of everyone involved with Ollywood and can’t wait to see what the future holds for us.”