Today I’m introducing you to Casper, one of the co-owners of children’s Furniture brand Aspace. Here Casper shares how he became involved with Aspace, how the balance between work and family life is less of juggle by relying on your team, and how finding and working with the right business partner is key to success.
Do have a read of Casper’s business journey below and if you love quirky and unique children’s furniture take a nose at their website. My children love their Leopold Lion Rug that I was very kindly gifted.
Tell me a little bit about you, your background, and your business?
I am 54, married to Gina, and have a 17 year old son called Rufus. Following my education at Harrow School, I headed off to explore the world for two and half years. I backpacked through Australia, New Zealand as well as countries such as Nepal, Burma and India.
With no desire for further education, I embarked upon a portfolio career. This included a diverse range of business activities: restaurant manager for TGI Fridays; setting up and operating a fast food Burger franchise, an agricultural spray nozzle salesman, working for the BBC, as well as becoming a West End theatre impresario and executive producer of All Year Need Is Love! in 2001.
Reaching my mid-thirties, I found myself at yet another career crossroads. At which point I enrolled and completed a 5 year MA in Integrative Psychotherapy at Regents University, London. Any business aspirations were firmly left behind as I completely immersed myself in my studies and client work. It may have taken 35 years but I finally found my vocation. I loved the stimulation and challenges of individual and group client work spanning addiction, bereavement through to identity, self esteem and self worth issues.
For the past ten years, I have volunteered for Cruse Bereavement Care and currently Chair the local West Berkshire Branch. Alongside my therapeutic career, I first became involved with Aspace Children’s furniture in 2012 where I am currently co-owner and Chairman.
What motivated you to set up your own business?
Technically I never set up Aspace! The original business was started by my brother-in-law. I knew the products from first hand experience as a parent. My direct involvement came in 2012 when I answered a “call for help” from the business as the banks were beginning to circle. At the time, the company was a small to medium sized mail order enterprise which manufactured furniture in our Wiltshire factory and operated eight standalone Aspace stores in and around the London area.
The Aspace Children’s Furniture brand was at the vanguard of setting new trends and standards for children’s furniture. The brand became synonymous for designing safe and reliable products that could adapt and grow with a family. For example, cots disassembling into beds or bunks into two standalone beds. In essence, the objective of Aspace is to create good looking furniture pieces that are simple to put together, easy to take a part and yet remain strong, sturdy and versatile alongside family life.
Originally, my early motivation was to help and support my wife’s family. This developed in to a determination to safe guard the long term future of the brand. I was mindful of the one hundred twenty livelihoods which were dependant upon the continued success of the business.
How do you balance or juggle your business around family commitments?
By having the good fortune of teaming up with the very best of business partners! Seve as we call her, has been living and breathing the brand almost since inception over 20 years ago. As C.E.O, Seve looks after the day to day operations of the business, allowing me the time to juggle my therapeutic work and involvement in family commitments
We make a great Anglo-French team. We have complimentary but different strengths who are strong on effective collaboration. We are very much supported by a loyal and long standing crew who are as passionate and committed to the success of the brand, as we are.
What do you view as your biggest success since setting up your business?
The biggest success emanated from my greatest failure. A hard fought battle to save the business finally came to an end on the 29th February 2016 as last ditch efforts to raise further financing were exhausted. To have to stand up in front of the remaining team and say “we have lost the battle” will be one of the saddest and most heart rendering moments of my career.
Today, it can be difficult to consider the darkness of those days as we confronted a tsunami of challenges. A definite “Phoenix rising from the ashes” story. The success of which can be translated into buying back and restructuring the brand to create what it is today.
What are your top tips for anyone who is thinking about setting up their own business?
Owning and running a business can be incredibly exhilarating, yet terrifyingly stressful. Like any successful relationship, the key is finding the right partner who shares a similar passion, vision and values. Someone who will share the successes as much as the inevitable storms. It certainly helps when, like Seve, they are fun, energetic and get direct to the point.
Invariably, sharing the highs and lows of the business roller coaster helps reduce stress, both in terms of responsibility and decision making. This enables both of us to take time out, recharge the batteries and enjoy family life!
Thank you so much Casper for taking part in my series this week, it’s been great to feature you and I wish you all the best for the future.
If you like what you’re reading and would love to be part of my Parents in Business series just drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or have a nose at some of the other businesses I have featured in the series: Officine Haven, Grape and Nectar and Boiler Central,