Entrepreneur builds £23m company to challenge lost family business

Growth | Manufacturing | Midlands | Retail
Charles Walton

Entrepreneur Charles Walton has told how he built a £23m garden buildings company after his father decided to sell the century-old family shed business.

Charles had hoped to become the fifth generation to run his family’s shed manufacturing business but had to make other plans when his father and uncle decided to sell the company which their great grandfather has started way back in 1878.

Instead, Charles launched Kybotech in 2000 and later created the BillyOh garden buildings brand. He has since built his own factory, creating a series of giant garden sheds to house the manufacturing equipment.

Today, Kybotech has a turnover of £23m a year and over 220 employees. Operating from a 20-acre site in Nottinghamshire, BillyOh sells more than 165,000 items online each year and makes around one in every eight sheds sold in the UK.

Charles said: “My father and uncle chose to sell the family business at a time when the internet was still in its infancy. I could see the potential in a website selling sheds exclusively online but not everybody was convinced. The perceived wisdom at the time was that such a traditional object as a wooden garden building could only be sold in person.

“Lots of people told me that customers would only buy sheds if they could reach out and touch them but I wasn’t so sure. This was pre-Google, we were relying on early search engines such as AltaVista, but I thought if customers could find them online then they would buy.”

Charles launched his first website in 2000 from a room above his parent’s garage.

“In those early days we did everything we could to get our website seen, even taking out classified ads. It meant we were one of the first to market in the digital space and today a majority of new sheds are sold online.”

“It’s been wonderful to be able to create jobs and offer something back to the community. More than 140 years after my great-great-grandfather launched his business it’s been very rewarding to start up again from scratch and, thanks to the internet, make a success of traditional wooden garden buildings all over again.”

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