Oaklands student carves a career out of mud kitchen success

22 September 2016

A carpentry student from Oaklands College has combined study skills with some business nouse to create his own start up woodwork enterprise over the summer break.

17-year-old Level Two Carpentry student Harry Henderson is the bright spark behind Cottonmill Carpentry, a woodwork business producing outdoor child-friendly woodcraft such as work benches and mud kitchens.

In just six weeks, he’s racked up over 35 items made, a loyal social media following, glittering testimonials and an order sheet which sees him in high demand until Christmas. All that, and also he’s back at college to committed to continue his level two studies this September.

His niche is ‘mud kitchens’ – a wooden garden play kitchen where kids can play and get messily creative outdoors. Harry saw the on trend garden additions as a great opportunity to capture the imagination of local schools, parents and children alike.

The basic mud kitchen design is a two tier low structure with sink bowls and optional bamboo utensils, sleek smooth edges with a  glossy varnished weatherproof finish. There is the opportunity to add extra design additions such as stencils and names.

Retailing at an initial price of £100 upwards, Harry uses his passion and craft in carpentry to produce high quality pieces which are built for fun and built to last. Each kitchen takes about an hour to assemble, with a series of days required to varnish in the necessary stages.

Based from his parents’ home in Cottonmill, St Albans Harry has commandeered the shed and garage to a house workshop and storage, and kick started his business through word of mouth and effective use of social media. He said: “Interest grew really fast – once I made my first few, I gave them to family friends and to my local school. After a few enquiries and orders through the Facebook page I just ran with it to see where it could lead. I’m amazed I’ve got this busy so quickly!”

In order to meet demand, Harry now is looking to produce on average four kitchens a week in the run up to Christmas, continuing to fit his booming business around his studies at Oaklands St Albans campus. Working free time during the day and weekends, he is able to keep up with weekly turnaround with the support of his family, with mum Sharon, dad Alan and sister Shelli all doing their bit to keep him on track.

He adds: “My mum has been great in sharing it via her friends and contacts, my sister helps with social media and my dad helps with getting supplies every week and delivery. Over time, the mud kitchen design has evolved – and that’s mainly from customer feedback. In adding their own twists, they’ve given me plenty of ideas to develop next year.”

Despite his business success in such a short space of time, Harry remains realistic about growing the business in tandem with his growing skillset. Plans for 2017 involve a website, a further development in design and even some extra hands to keep orders moving with demand.

“I do have friends from my course last year who could help out. Although it could mean more orders and more money, I have to be sure we keep the quality. As everything goes out under my business and my name, I need to make sure it’s right.”

Early indications are the work will be there when Harry completes his qualifications. In addition to booming orders in his niche children’s outdoor play, he’s been asked to quote on jobs to fit doors, fit offices and even work on domestic kitchens in the local area and looks forward to what the future may hold.

“At the moment, I need to get all my skills from my studies so I can take all those sort of jobs on, I haven’t got the experience yet. I started this venture looking at ways to pay for my car insurance, it’s a huge amount of money when you’re 17 and just passed. I never dreamed I could build a business so quickly and it be doing so well. I can’t wait to see what the next step is next year, but for now Its’ head down working to fulfill those festive orders!”