Anyone who meets Maxine Hayter – who provides informed and honest sales advice, as one half of the husband and wife director team behind leading Sheffield independent blinds specialists Bespoke Blinds & Poles Ltd – is left in no doubt about the passion and commitment herself and hubby Neil (who’s in charge of all fitting and installation) have for their business.
Launched in 2007, Bespoke Blinds & Poles Ltd have two showrooms in the city – one in Beauchief and the more spacious location in Hillsborough has just celebrated its 1st birthday. Time for a chat…
Happy Birthday to your Hillsborough showroom Maxine. What’s new?
Cheers, Stella. Loads of new stuff is going on here. The sunshine always brings our customers to us – either for blackout blinds, especially now the clocks have changed, or for advice on cutting down heat and glare in rooms, especially conservatories.
Awnings are this years’ must-have, and we’ve taken on a new supplier making our offer much broader (we get inundated with requests to open accounts with people, and it takes a while to meet them all, vet the quality of their products and make a decision!)
At this time of year we always get updated ranges in as well, so we start considering new display products. As you kindly mentioned, we’ve just completed our first year at our second showroom, and that’s been exciting for us as well. Our staff; Danielle and Emma; have really settled in, and are now an integral part of the team. As members of the BBSA (British Blinds & Shutters Association) we’re committed to raising awareness of Child Safety in the industry. One of our suppliers has brought out two new, innovative control mechanisms which sit superbly within our recommended ranges and safety product ranges, so we are busy promoting these to our customers old and new.
What’s the biggest challenge you face as an independent business?
One of the main things for us is finding time! Our customers come to us for quality products and quality advice, and our installation service is an integral part of this. This makes diary time, and appointments, very precious – luckily our customers understand and wait (and we always have a “cancellation” list on the go, although it’s rare we get any!)
Another one is footfall. The majority of our products are bespoke, and not something you would want to purchase over the internet. We try and get our presence out there in the virtual world by as many means possible so that our customer can glean as much info as possible (should they want to) before they visit us. We want our customers to see that we are worth the effort of a visit!
Here’s a magic wand. What three wishes will you make? (for business or pleasure)
Only three! Here goes…….
Business 1: I would like anyone considering dressing a window to think, before anything else “I wonder how Bespoke Blinds & Poles would handle this one?”
Business 2: I would like an eight-day week, so we can still open for six of them (as now), and have two days off work!
Pleasure: I would like more time to go hiking (our favourite pastime) especially in this lovely weather.
Pass it on. Your biggest business lesson?
Just because “experts” say it’s a great idea, doesn’t mean it will work for you. Stay focused on your core products – too much diversification will weaken your offer.
And the worst commercial mistake, you readily admit to?
Spending a fair amount of money on a marketing promotion from a cold call! This was when we first opened, and taught me very quickly to do your homework before committing to anything. I’m still mad with myself about that one!
Your favourite places in Sheffield (for business or pleasure)?
Definitely the open spaces and the pubs! We are so lucky as a city to have the space we have – most weekends were spent in Greno Woods, Longley Park (when they had the open air swimming pool – no comments on age, please ;-)) and Hillsborough Park. When I met Neil, we spent Sundays in Graves Park with his daughter Gemma.
Pubs – I love the Thornbridge Brewery atmosphere and our local is the Coach & Horses at Dronfield. There’s also a great pub at Holmesfield; the Rutland Arms; which was bought by a great couple just over a year ago. Both these pubs let dogs in, so we get to do a hike, and finish with a great, well-kept pint.
I don’t get to Sheffield City centre too much, but I enjoyed a lovely lunch in Henry’s on Cambridge Street the other week and in all three cases the staff and service is impeccable. I learnt a long time ago that service is as important as the product. It’s what we strive to provide in our business, and I am always appreciative of it when I enjoy it in other businesses.
Bespoke Blinds & Poles Ltd: