|Hard work is paying off
WHEN the directors of Double "M" Shoemakers of Rushden have a boardroom meeting to discuss policy, it's likely to be a chat over a cup of tea in a corner of their small but busy workroom.
Glenys and John Murkitt, Louise and Rodney Maycock
with a selection of their shoes
Directors John Murkitt and Rodney Maycock, who only founded their firm in February after a lifetime working for others in the shoe industry, spend most of their time with their sleeves rolled up making shoes to their own design.
It's only a small factory of 1,300 sq ft tucked away in a corner of George Bull's premises in Glassbrook Road. They rent space from this Rushden shoe component firm and say they have had considerable help since they started up on their own. Until they decided to take the plunge and invest their life savings in their own business, both men had well paid responsible jobs working for Alfred Sargent and Sons, the old established Rushden family firm.
John (38) was lasting and making supervisor and Rodney (40) a designer and pattern cutter and could still be working for the same firm if they hadn't opted for their own business. After training as a designer at Rushden Boot and Shoe College, Rodney worked for the local firm of Walter Sargent until it closed about 18 years ago and then with Coggins of Raunds, before joining Alfred Sargent. John was a full-time student at Kettering Technical College and trained in the bottom and making side of the industry before joining Sargents. So between them they have all the skills and technical know how necessary to make shoes.
Rodney's wife Louise (30) adds her skills in office administration and beading and skiving to the business, and John's wife Glenys (36) does machining.
Since the firm started, jobs have been provided for two women and two men, and it is planned to take on another woman closer in the near future. "We have taken four people off the dole who might not have had jobs. One of the lads now working for us was made redundant when he used to work with me", said John.
So far the two partners have invested about £20,000 in machines and materials which they bought mainly from the former CWS factory in Portland Road.
John, who doubles up as chairman and joint managing director, says they have "put everything on the line" to make a success of the business.
Although they still have a few months of their first trading year to run, both partners feel confident they will break even. Currently they are turning out 250 pairs of men's and boys' shoes and with the addition of another machine hope to boost production to 500 pairs a week. It's a modest enough target but the maximum they wish to grow to is about 1,000 pairs. Rodney, who designs in his spare time, also looks after sales. He is also joint managing director and company secretary.
So far sales have been restricted to local wholesalers and markets but contact has been made with a Nottingham shop with which they soon hope to do business. Because production is small, it gives the firm great flexibility and keeps overheads to a minimum. "We had a target of 300 pairs a week but that went out of the window and it's now about 250 pairs. We look on 140 to 200 pair orders as big.
"We are producing what the customers want. We do our own hand cutting which gives us considerable flexibility and we would take on an order as small as a dozen pairs", the partners explained.
"We are selling to anyone and everyone. We want to stay on small individual items. We can't compete on cheap mass produced stuff."
Shoe styles range from high fashion to "city" shoes and they also make disco shoes and some points. Prices range from £7 to £9 a pair wholesale, retailing in a £16 to £20 price range.
Once they really get established and the Double "M" brand gets better known they hope to introduce more individual styles and have ambitions to produce a high quality shoe.
They admit the start up months have been a hard uphill struggle working around the clock and weekends to get established.
"We were doing a lot of work and not getting any results. Now we are producing shoes and we know where we are going," said John.