Mike Whittal at the Chippendale furniture school

Alumnus Mike drops in

It’s always nice to be able to celebrate a former student’s success, and doubly so when they come in to talk to our professional course students about what has helped shape their success.

So this week we were delighted to welcome Mike Whittall from Turiff in Aberdeenshire, who won our Best Portfolio Award 2016.

Mike, who now runs Ochre & Wood, was giving a talk to students about how he set up his business and advising them on some of the important things to consider.

“Many people come from a career where the company they worked for had a steady income.  When you first start out in woodworking, that isn’t going to be the case,” says Mike, who is a former tax advisor.

“There will inevitably be peaks and troughs of work, and so you must accept that as your new kind of business model.

“What I’ve found really important is not to become despondent during the troughs, and to keep telling yourself why you’re passionate about woodworking and why you came into the profession,” he advises.

“Also, the woodworking fraternity is really friendly and helpful so make the most of your new network of fellow makers by reaching out and staying in touch.”

A key first step, he says, in creating your own woodworking business is to decide what kind of woodworking you want to concentrate on.

This will then influence the size of workshop and the kind of equipment and machinery you will need.  In Mike’s case, that is to create new furniture, restore old furniture and teach.

“The next step is to identify your potential customers and, having done that, decide how best to reach them,” says Mike.

“That requires a good website and working the social media channels.  But it can also be about running PR campaigns with the press and media or exhibiting at trade or country shows,” he says.

Mike’s key message to our students is to identify the type of work you want to do, take the time to promote yourself and your work and, with determination and hard work, you will succeed.

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