If you opened a window fabrication business today, what direction would you take it in? We talk to the industry’s newest operators, Ashfen Windows and Doors Ltd, about what drives their operation.
What’s it like to start a window and door company today?
Aluplast fabricator Ashfen Windows and Doors Ltd, is the dream project of Nick Ashford and Nat Weaver, who launched the business in February this year to fill what they saw as a large gap in the market: high-end products with the customer service to match.
Based in Derby, Nick and Nat bought the window machinery from another window company, which had decided to take a different strategic direction. This included a CNC router, saw, v-notcher, corner cleaner, and three- and four-head welders.
“We had run a building company for more than 20 years, and we had built up a great customer base,” Nat explains. “But last year we decided that we would like to try something different, and it didn’t take us very long to settle on window fabrication.”
Nick says that when he ran the building company, he could never find the right window and door supplier – one that would provide quality products alongside a decent level of customer service.
“We are both risk takers, and when we discussed the possibilities it seemed the right thing to do,” Nat says. “Window fabrication is far enough removed from general building to be different, but close enough that we understand the industry. “Also, the time was right to take the jump. If we didn’t do it now, we never would, and we would be forever kicking ourselves for not trying!”
Why did Ashfen choose aluplast as its PVCu systems partner?
Choosing aluplast as profile partner was a more straightforward decision, Nat says. Nick had already had conversations with suppliers about different systems companies, and aluplast ticked every box on Ashfen’s list.
“We were looking for a quality supplier who could help us make high-end products, in a wide range of colours, all in a reasonable timeframe,” Nat says. “We were never interested in a volume offering.
“aluplast’s sales director Ian Cocken understood our position, and has been a great source of help and information since we started.”
Nick runs the factory, manufacturing windows in the fully sculptured Ideal70 system, with a view to taking on the SquareLine Ideal4000 system in the near future.
“The flush sash, which is compatible with both Ideal 70 and Ideal 4000, has generated a huge amount of interest and has started to sell well, as has colour, which is now running at almost 60% of everything we supply,” Nick says.
Colour and finish options are key
aluplast’s colour range now extends to 40 foil finishes, including its next generation woodec and aludec foils. woodec is an ultra-life-like timber option that is available in four woodgrain finishes; Turner Oak Malt, Turner Oak Toffee, Sheffield Oak Alpine and Sheffield Oak Concrete. aludec is offered in seven aluminium-effect finishes that include aludec anthracite grey; jet black; aludec DB703; basalt grey; umbra grey; window grey; and aludec traffic white.
Smart-Slide PVC Patio doors
Ashfen also supplies bi-folds, conservatory roofing, sliding patio doors, as well as high-end composite doors.
“aluplast’s Smart-Slide sliding patio door system is starting to gain traction as a real aluminium alternative,” Nick says, “thanks to its ability to span up to 4.5m at a height of 2.5m with just a sliding sash and a fixed panel.”
While Ashfen brought some existing customers over from its machinery supplier, the new window fabricator has had a successful run on Facebook, where new enquiries have been very abundant.
“Much more of our business is coming from new customers and new lines of enquiry,” Nat says. “And while most are coming from the trade, we are also picking up domestic enquiries – homeowners who are sourcing products themselves.
“This is having a huge impact on our production levels, and we are already way above what we have projected at the start of the year.”
Higher quality and premium product ranges continue to deliver growth
With the window industry coming under increased pressure from increased input costs and cooling demand, now may not seem the obvious time to set out your stall as a new fabricator, but Nat disagrees.
“I admit we had low expectations,” she says, “but we tapped into a real trend as the country emerged from the pandemic. Interest in home improvements certainly grew, and people are definitely looking for sophisticated, higher value products – colour and flush sash casements have been brilliant for us in this regard.
“We are also getting enquiries from customers who are asking for advice. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that you need to be able to genuinely offer advice if you want to do well in this sector.
“And thanks to our extensive building experience, we can offer this with confidence, and it meets one of our primary objectives, which is to provide industry leading customer service.” Find out more about how we can help you to grow your business here