Superfast broadband helps businessman carve out new career as cabinet maker

Michael Barnfather quit his office job of 30 years and launched his own venture as a bespoke cabinet maker – thanks to the arrival of superfast broadband.

Michael Barnfather quit his office job of 30 years and launched his own venture as a bespoke cabinet maker – thanks to the arrival of superfast broadband.

The former office worker launched his Withernsea-based enterprise, Curved World Woodworks, in January last year, but says he would have struggled to survive without high-speed broadband and support from Broadband East Riding, a partnership between East Riding of Yorkshire Council and BT.

To help get his business off the ground, Michael attended the free business support workshops in social media, finance and using ‘cloud’ services[1] last summer.

The workshops, funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and administered by the council’s business support service, were designed to help businesses get the most out of being connected and to boost growth. The 200 businesses that took part also received the expertise and guidance of a dedicated business adviser providing one-to-one support.

Using the knowledge gained from the workshops, Michael transformed his business – moving his operation into the ‘cloud’ and using social media to promote his work online.

Michael uses a computer assisted design (CAD) programme to help bring his wood crafted creations to life and is now able to upload and store all his digital plans and drawings quickly and safely using a ‘cloud’ service.

“Attending those courses was a revelation. Before I had no clue what the cloud was or how to use it, now I don’t know how I could do business without it. Using CAD a lot, I need storage space and the cloud really helps – before I was trying to store everything on memory sticks and hard drives which meant things got easily mislaid or lost.

“It also means I can access my work anywhere, whether I’m at home, in my workshop, or visiting clients.”

Armed with his new found knowledge, Michael still faced a final hurdle: slow broadband.“Sending over large files to clients the upload would sometimes just stop, it was that slow.

“My old broadband connection would drop out or when I was trying to save a file it would just freeze and I would end up losing a whole day’s drawing work. Then, about six months ago the Broadband East Riding roll-out reached my street, and I upgraded straight away.

“With superfast broadband everything is fantastically fast – I can upload big files with the designs I’m working on in a matter of seconds. It saves so much time and makes it much easier to communicate with customers. All my customers are online and tend to expect you to be able to respond instantly. If I’d tried to manage with my old broadband I would definitely have lost customers.”

As well as boosting his speed – having superfast broadband has encouraged Michael to create an online showcase for his work which specialisesin curved surface furniture and boat building.

He said: “I use Facebook to upload pictures of the things I’m working on – which is really quick and easy with the superfast connection. And it provides a great way for me to stay in touch with customers and for new ones to find me. Without the training courses I would never have thought about using Facebook. I think it has definitely helped me to bring new customers in – it has got me work from a number of architects - which is a real feather in the cap for me. It provides you with a virtual shop window to the world.”

Councillor Jonathan Owen, deputy leader of East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “The example of how faster broadband speeds are helping to improve the lives of residents is really great news and is a positive endorsement of the Broadband East Riding programme.

“Good internet connections are vital for family life and modern business operations. It is therefore important that people check if superfast broadband is available in their area and upgrade with their preferred internet service provider, as it is not an automatic switch.”

Broadband East Riding has already made the superfast broadband network available to more than 42,000 properties under the first phase of the programme. The second phase of Broadband East Riding will see an additional 4,500 properties getting access to superfast broadband by December 2017.

In the East Riding, engineers working for Openreach, BT’s local network business, have installed over 250 fibre broadband cabinets, which are connected to the network by more than 180 miles of underground fibre duct. More than 40 exchange areas are now live with fibre.

Openreach’s network is open to all broadband service providers on an equal wholesale basis and so households and businesses in the East Riding can benefit from highly competitive products and pricing, bringing greater choice and affordable prices from a wide range of service providers.

For up to date information on the roll-out of Broadband East Riding, visitwww.broadband.eastriding.gov.uk and for Curved World Woodworks, go towww.facebook.com/Curvedworldwoodworks

For information on support available for businesses, go to www.eastriding.gov.uk/business or email Adrian Shaw, business services manager, at adrian.shaw@eastriding.gov.uk

[1]The Cloud: Cloud computing is the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network (typically the Internet).