ehk!

Business Name:  ehk!

Support received:  Start Up Loan

Location:  London

Website:  http://www.e-h-k.net/


From Botswana to Islington, ehk! are a power team of architecture, design and research and writing services. With a start-up loan of £20,000 shared between two directors and free business support, they started their own practice, which provided them with the freedom to get involved with smaller and more quirky projects, such as shop fit-outs, urban art and community projects.

Richard, Elisa and Stephen met while studying Architecture at Queen’s University Belfast in the late 1990s and have remained close friends.. Since graduating, they have worked for different architecture practices for around 10 years, gaining experience in all aspects of the profession.

They decided to set up their own practice, ehk!, to enable them to deliver this vision and have been collaborating with London based stonemason Nancy Peskett on a number of public art projects.

They’ve also worked with Workshop East on a study on shared spaces in London, which fed into research conducted by the Greater London Authority (GLA) on how to best support start-up businesses. Based on this, the GLA has published a map of Incubators and shared working spaces, which is a fantastic resource for new businesses.

Find out how Ehk!’s journey has been so far…

How has the London Small Business Centre supported you?

We came across London Small Business Centre while we were in the process of starting up the company, and they have been absolutely fantastic. While we already knew a lot about Architecture, and even about some aspects of running a practice, starting a business was a huge learning curve for us. It was absolutely vital to have our Business Advisor, Pete, on board to give us impartial, honest advice. Most other people who offer advice have a vested interest – they mostly want to sell you something. Pete just wants to see our business succeed.

LSBC has been with us right from the start. Pete helped us write our business plan and put our financial forecast together. He helped us make decisions about how to best invest our time and money and how to get our business out there. We are passionate about architecture – about our clients and the buildings we design. Having Pete helped us keep an eye on how the business supports itself and making sure it is financially viable has been absolutely essential to our survival.

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“It was absolutely vital to have our Business Advisor, Pete, on board to give us impartial, honest advice.  Most other people who offer advice have a vested interest – they mostly want to sell you something.  Pete just wants to see our business succeed.”

What were the challenges of starting up?

The early stages of starting a company are very much about establishing trust in the service you provide and building a reputation. This takes longer with Architecture than with product based businesses, because Architecture is a slow process – it takes such a long time between being commissioned and finishing a project. However, a year in we are seeing the first referrals by clients, which gives us confidence that we are doing a good job.

How was your Start Up Loan was invested?

Fortunately the start-up costs for an architecture practice are relatively low in comparison to other businesses. We already had much of the equipment we needed and we did not need to buy any stock. Our particular challenge was cash-flow – there is a long gap between being commissioned for a project and receiving the first payment. We used our loan to help us with cash flow, rent a studio space, and invest in marketing materials.

Ehk! and beyond?

In the past year, we have been collaborating with a stonemason on a number of public art projects, which we are hoping will come to fruition soon.

Also during this past year, we worked with Workshop East on a study on shared spaces in London, which fed into research conducted by the Greater London Authority (GLA) on how to best support start-up businesses. Based on this, the GLA has published a map of Incubators and shared working spaces, which is a fantastic resource for new businesses.

This year, we would love to build on what we learned from this commission by collaborating with other start-ups on creating pop-up spaces and interiors.

There are so many exciting, young companies in London right now, and it definitely feels like we are part of a greater movement.

Images: Copyright ehk!

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