15 July 2024, 02:55
By Furniture News Oct 13, 2016

Jodi Schofield, Burgess Beds

Jodi Schofield is the sales director of Burgess Beds. Established in 1927, Manchester’s Burgess Beds was named Manufacturer of the Year in the 2013 NBF awards, in recognition of the company’s strong practices and ongoing export growth. Burgess, which manufactures hand-made and bespoke mattresses and beds, also holds a Manufacturing Guild Mark, further proof of the company’s excellence in the field of British manufacture.

How did you enter the trade?
My father Andrew Jackson was the operations director at Slumberland, and my mother worked at Hymen when it was owned by Peter Buckley, so the furniture trade has always been part of my life! When my dad bought Burgess, I was given a great opportunity – to go and work for him.

Who was your inspiration?
My grandma and my parents. My grandma is Polish, and was taken away from her family at 16 years old during the war. She never ever complains, has worked very hard all of her life, and is one of the most adaptable and amazing people I have ever met. Also my parents, for their work ethic – they too have worked extremely hard.

What was your career high point?
There have been a few! Seeing our export turnover increase has made all the hard work and effort worth while. Becoming a freeman of the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers – and the opportunities it has given me – was great. The people I have met along the way who have become very good friends, having the trust from my dad to become sales director, and of course the NBF Manufacturer of the Year award!

… and low point?
When the recession hit, we had just moved into our new factory and one of our largest customers unfortunately went out of business, losing us 20% of our business. We all kept our heads down, worked well into the late hours and, with the amazing support we received from our retail base as well as friends, we pulled through – and, as well as managing to get the lost business back, increased our turnover.

… and the turning point?
When I started working at Burgess I was the tea girl! I was then put onto the shop floor and made to hand-tease the loose long-stranded hair for Peter, who at that time was one of our head craftsmen – I had to learn everything from shadowing people. I just kept quiet (a very rare thing!), listened and learned. 

One day an interior designer contacted us, and I was the person who took that call. They gave me an extremely difficult bespoke project, which I managed to pull off. My dad then gave me a bit more leeway in the sales and design process, and I worked very hard to get the free rein that I have today.

Describe a typical working day …
Having a two-year-old child, I awaken very early. I check my emails. I then call the factory, as I am based in the South. After that, not one day is the same. Sometimes I am out seeing customers, some days can be taken up with bespoke projects or new design work for Burgess. I am very, very lucky, and never get a Groundhog Day feeling! I then tend to work into the night, and before lights out make a to-do list for the next day.

If you had to start over, you’d probably pursue which career?
This may sound like a cliche, but I wouldn’t want to do anything differently! I am one of the few who absolutely love my job and my enthusiasm for it never wavers!

What date on the business calendar do you most look forward to?
I don’t have a particular date but I do enjoy the trade shows, even though it can be quite nerve-racking to showcase your new designs (even if you do have complete confidence in them), as while it may be something you love, others may not! 

Also, we host a student tour every March at our factory, part of a larger tour, which is great as the students always have a great energy!

What is the most important issue affecting your business right now?
Timber costs. Burgess is FSC-certified but the cost of timber has rocketed and we have to fight to keep those costs down. Also skilled labour, which is why we are looking forward as a company at an apprenticeship scheme.

What company do you most look up to?
There are a few. John Sankey – a few years ago I had the privilege of seeing how their products are made in their factory, and their designs and fabric choices are wonderful. With beds, probably Vi-Spring – they make a lovely product, as do we of course!. In terms of design, B&B Italia has the edge for me.

What would you most like to change about yourself?
I tend to be very outspoken and honest, especially if I don’t agree with something, which is not always a good quality to have. Sometimes it is best just to keep quiet and take notes, and make sure whatever has annoyed you doesn’t happen again!

What do you enjoy most about working in the trade?
I love the industry as a whole. It is innovative and enthusiastic – as are the people I have had the privilege to meet and work with. I don’t think I will ever tire of looking at new trends and lose my enthusiasm for our product.    To see the skill it takes to make a piece of furniture from design to manufacture is, for me, inspiring.

Leave us with an industry anecdote please!
There are probably much more experienced people with better anecdotes than I could give!

So instead, I’ll offer some advice – which would be to embrace change. Trends and designs move so quickly, it is easy to fade into the background. Embracing change is quite a hard thing to do as it is not ‘safe’, but for us it has only ever been a positive thing.

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