Wage growth may have slowed but well-heeled individuals will always have a taste for luxury items. This is especially true in the UK, which is set to become the largest luxury goods market in Europe by 2018, by which time the continent’s market will have grown to £96bn. It would seem there is no better time to get a piece of the action, which is exactly what Hot Box Stoves is doing. The North Yorkshire firm specialises in the supply and installation of high quality wood burning and multi-fuel stoves. It installs around 160 stoves each year for a pretty penny, both for domestic and commercial customers across the Yorkshire region. It is now in search of new franchisees to help it expand its business throughout the UK.
Demand for wood burning and multi-fuel stoves is increasing, largely because of the cost and environmental benefits they offer. Stove Industry Alliance manufacturers have experienced a surge in interest, reporting that an estimated 200,000 stoves were fitted in the last year alone, reflecting the fact that consumers are seeking more efficient and cheaper methods of heating.
After leaving university with a degree in economics and management, Hot Box Stoves’ co-founder Oliver Neal worked in the construction industry for six years. This experience gave him a lot of technical insight, and in 2009 he wanted to install a wood burning stove in a house he had bought and was renovating. “I’d purchased the stove online and had gotten quite a good deal but when I approached one of the local stove shops to install it they wouldn’t as I’d bought it myself.” And so he set about doing it himself.
Neal enlisted the help of his old school friend Tristan Andjel, who at the time was running his own small plumbing outfit and had plenty of hands-on knowledge. “Somewhere in the installation process we both looked at each other, realising there was a gap in the market, and decided that we’d have a go,” says Neal. “I sat that evening scribbling on a pad with some ideas for names and came up with ‘Hot Box’.” He knew that corporate identity would be key and so enlisted professional help with the logo. “The Hot Box brand was born and it is now instantly recognisable.”
Hot Box currently has four directors. Neal is MD and focuses on business development; Andjel takes care of a lot of the day-to-day stuff like surveys, quotes and overseeing installations; leading biomass technician Adam Tyler takes charge of much larger projects; and Neal’s dad Geoff, who is a silent partner with a wealth of experience, provides much-valued advice when it’s required. Neal and his father collectively own three businesses: Hot Box, a family roofing company specialising in listed buildings and churches and another business that buys and sells reclaimed building materials.
The first ad Neal put in a local newspaper cost £150. This was on February 11, 2009 and by Valentine’s Day Hot Box had its first installation – and it has been growing ever since. Given his connections in construction Neal was also able to spread the word quite easily.”