2021 was a challenging but exciting year for Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens when it comes to business milestones. Our team grew to 23 people and we started to deliver sustainable kitchens and bathrooms to homes across the UK.
We also won two business awards – the Planet Saver award at the Sheffield Business Awards and the Social Responsibility award at the Sheffield Star Small Business Awards.
Like many other businesses, 2021 did not come without its challenges for Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens. Covid and Brexit played a huge part in our business operations. From navigating supply chain issues to having staff off due to isolation, we are immensely proud of our wonderful team for their continued hard work and resilience.
This month Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens turns 14 years old. A ripe old age for a business that started off in a spare bedroom in Sheffield.
We chatted to our managing director Rob Cole about his highlights of the year and what you can expect from Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens in 2022.
What made 2021 a stand-out year for Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens?
It’s hard to look at 2021 on its own, I think the last two years have been a real rollercoaster for anyone in business and particularly small businesses like ourselves. We’ve grown significantly as a business and built upon the strong foundations we had in place already. We’ve got a bigger and more committed team who share a common purpose and sustainable values and believe in where we are going as a business.
How do you feel to win not just one award, but two?
It’s always exciting to walk away with an award, so to get two this year in recognition of both our environmental achievements and our social responsibility is pretty special. It’s been a really challenging couple of years to be in business, with both Covid and Brexit having a big impact. To be recognised twice at this time really puts things into perspective and is a great boost for our hard-working team.
What were the main changes you’ve seen in 2021?
We’ve made a lot of changes to how we do business, we had to pivot and move fast in 2020, it all felt very reactive, but in 2021 we’ve been able to settle into new ways of working and responding to our clients and their developing needs.
We’ve seen a big growth in demand for our supply only offering across the country which has helped us bring our fantastic products to a much wider market. It has been a challenging year though. We’ve had to work harder and smarter and under greater pressure to keep our clients happy and ensure projects keep moving whilst external factors have combined to make this difficult. We’ve seen problems with supply chains on a scale we’ve never seen before, and the rapidly changing covid picture and regulations or people having to isolate at the last minute.
In spite of the challenges, our team has continually worked hard and delivered top quality and beautiful living spaces for our clients. That makes me all the more proud of them and what we’ve achieved together; the lovely feedback we’ve had from clients through this time has brought great satisfaction, I guess it feels like it’s been well earned.
What did the awards mean to Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens as a business?
The business landscape is transformed from what it was when we started out as a business, I think in the early days a lot of people thought it mad to be banging on about sustainability or wondered what sustainability had to do with kitchens. Now a lot of businesses are striving to become more sustainable, and let’s be frank, they need to. There are now other great businesses out there who are both socially responsible and sustainably-minded, it feels a true honour to be singled out for these awards. It was a pleasure to be up against businesses who we not only admire but consider as friends and part of our community, with all of us leading the way in our own industries.
Has your approach to sustainability changed over the 14 years since you founded the business?
I think our approach to sustainability has developed a lot since we started out and it continues to do so, we’re always looking at new ways to work, new materials and processes to reduce our impact on the environment.
The approach now is much more all-encompassing, at the start it was about my moral compass and thinking about materials and longevity, but now it covers all aspects of the business and how it and our team works. Whether it’s our almost entirely electric fleet, active travel policies, logistics policies, or trying to help people make their homes more environmentally sound.
Now that we’re established and have forged this way it’s allowed me to play an active role in the business community and focus on supporting other businesses to become more sustainable, whether that’s through the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce Council or as one of the founders of Sheffield Sustainability Network. It’s felt really rewarding to help other businesses on their sustainability journeys.
You have a new personal angle on sustainability too, don’t you?
Ha ha, yes. 2021 has been a big year for me personally too, I became a dad for the first time in the summer and bringing a new life into the world has reaffirmed my personal feelings about sustainability. I’ve long been committed to creating a more sustainable world, before it was fashionable I chose to make it the core of what my business was about. It’s scary and worrying bringing a child into this world though, I worry about her future and what the world will be like in 20, 40, 60 years time. I guess winning these awards at this time reminds me that I have been working hard to try and ensure her future is brighter, it’s easy to lose sight of this under the day to day pressures of business.
What’s next for Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens?
I’m really excited about 2022, I feel like we’re in a great place as a business and have the best team we’ve ever had, and that opens up lots of opportunities for us. We’re planning to grow the manufacturing side of the business to help keep up with growing demand and also to ensure we keep manufacturing with the most sustainable products we can. We also hope to add a design studio display space to really show off our lovely products. Covid put a lot of plans on hold, but now it feels like we’re ready to push forwards again and build for the future.