Gravity Flooring had a modest beginning. Its first 'premises' was Jonathan Dowling's small flat in Wandsworth. There were a few rocky years in the recession, but today Gravity Flooring claims to be a force to be reckoned with.
Jonathan Dowling started in the trade as a carpet and wood flooring salesman for Tyndale Flooring, which was then owned by his father, who sold the company around 12 years ago. (Tyndale Flooring went into administration in 2011).
Growth of the Company
'After my father left Tyndale Flooring, I set up Gravity Flooring with Gary Dormand. We expanded the company steadily and soon needed space in a friend's warehouse.'
It was not long before Gravity Flooring outgrew the premises and had to rent its own small warehouse in Sunbury On Thames, and then took over the warehouse next door.
Another surge in business meant Gravity Flooring having to move into larger premises including storage facilities and offices in Staines, from where the company operates today. Jonathan and Gary employ 10 people in the office and warehouse, and five fitters.
GravityFlooring is involved in both contract and supply.The contracting side of the business has two regular long-term customers from the hotel sector. 'On the supply side, we work equally with the hotel sector and the high-end residential market too,' Jonathan explains. But when the last recession hit, Jonathan's business was reduced to just a couple of top hotel chains.
'We were in a dangerous position and turnover fell by 50%,' he says. 'The company was very vulnerable and we had a shaky time, especially when one client went under, owing us a significant sum of money.'
To rebuild the business, Jonathan and Gary began a campaign to contact every past, present and potential client, and soon had a growing number of clients on their books.
The Hard Work Begins to Pay Off
'We use materials and factories from around the world and I travel around Europe and the FarEast,' says Jonathan. 'We carefully assess market trends and hold detailed discussions with customers and factories.'
'The process of developing new products takes around 18 months from the design stage to receiving stock and producing marketing material, so this is a risky business.'
'Most of our customers are UK based, particularly London and Glasgow, but we do supply some US companies and our export business has great potential.'
One recent commission for Gravity Flooring was from Tom Giannini Architects. It was to supply and install carpets at a high-end property in Regents Park, London.
'Designer Tom Giannini came to us because they required specialist precision measuring, templating and designing of carpets for a staircase, corridor and bedrooms,' Jonathan explains.
'The corridor carpet needed to be 100% wool hand tufted with a carved bespoke design, and the bedrooms were 100% wool machine tufted. Each room had a bespoke boarded design.'
The process started in April 2012 and the installation was split into phases starting in April 2013 and ending in June 2013.
'The templating, designing and coordination for the stairs was the most important aspect after the design of been confirmed because of the intricate alignment of the diamond pattern down the stairs and on the landing.
Another challenge was trying to install the carpets while the rest of the building was completed,' he continues.
'Feedback from the client has been extremely positive. He has several other houses of this ilk so we have high hopes.
'The market for high-end flats in London is thriving. Around 80% are bought by Russians, many off brochure and about 15% are only lived in for a handful of weeks a year.'
This may not be good news for the long term economy, but it is good news for Gravity Flooring; turnover has recovered since the problems during the recession and the company is growing again.
'We are careful who we work for and usually require payment for products up front,' Jonathan says.
'Our membership of the CFA has been very valuable. I have asked them for help a couple of times over the last few years -- because of sticky situations regarding payment.
'The CFA provided two free consultations with a legal company, which was extremely helpful.
'Our company is heavily influenced by the market; we're like a dog on the end of a lead and have to be flexible and adapt in line with market activity in order to build a sustainable company.'
He emphasises his strong environmental credentials and uses a baler to compress waste.
'Wherever possible, we buy materials and adhesives from suppliers with committed environmental policies.
'We use packaging that is recyclable where possible as well as recycled flooring materials, and try to find markets for them to be re-used or recycled into.'
Next on the agenda for Gravity Flooring is a brand building exercise within the trade. 'We've realised the importance of generating a reputation, and although we aren't yet a huge name in the market... Watch this space!'