Lancashire firm sitting pretty after Dragon advice

Teamwork: James Cook with Simon Woodroffe
Teamwork: James Cook with Simon Woodroffe
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Mentoring by a former Dragons’ Den star has led a Lancashire chair manufacturer to launch a new business.

In April, businessman, James Cook of The Odd Chair Company won a month of priceless mentoring from former Dragon and YO! Sushi founder, Simon Woodroffe.

Now, five months after his first mentoring session, James, 41, has not only grown his existing business by 20 per cent, but has also launched a new business, which will run alongside it.

The Odd Chair Company, based at Eaves, near Preston, is a traditional furniture business which has been in the Cook family for 45 years.

It employs 14 people and hand crafts every element of a piece of furniture, “from tree to finished item”’.

But James, a former solicitor, found that the handmade furniture his company makes using traditional methods was too expensive for many would-be customers.

SimonWoodroffe advised the businessman to take a step back from rushing around running the company and try to see the business more objectively.

James quickly started to think up ways of launching a new range, keeping the same high design standards but replacing certain elements – for example spraying chair legs instead of hand polishing them – to make the price tag more attainable.

The resulting collection, which has been given the Woodroffe seal of approval, will be available on James’ new website.

The businessman has also met with Liberty and John Lewis to discuss selling his new chairs in their stores. James said: “Everything finally seems to be coming together. I am delighted with the new chairs.

“We have not compromised on quality or comfort, but we have reached an attainable price. I think all of British business could benefit from mentoring.”

Simon commented: “James doesn’t know it but his attitude has completely changed. He’s stepped out of his comfort zone, made some samples and developed a new website.”

The mentoring session was organised thanks to a scheme set up by Volkswagen commercial Vehicles in partnership with The Times.