Victoria Brocklesby is Founder and COO at Origin, the UK’s leading window and door manufacturer.
In 2002, Victoria founded Origin with her cousin, Neil Ginger, when she was just 21 years old. Throughout the years, she has worked across every department at Origin, using this knowledge to improve performance and instil the best sustainable practices possible – something she views as a journey, not a destination. Throughout every part of Origin’s success, Victoria has been front and centre, driving the company to be a trailblazer within the UK. Two decades later, Origin has transitioned from a small start-up to a large company that employs over 350 people and offers industry-leading products and customer service.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
After finishing my undergraduate degree where I studied physics and space at university, I moved straight into a career in manufacturing aluminium bi-fold doors – which is a far cry from my original plan of a desk job in the city. In the beginning, I acted mainly as an admin manager for Origin, but over the years, I’ve worked in almost every department. Although my job title is now technically COO, my role is all-encompassing, and I wouldn’t want it any other way!
Origin turned 20 in 2022 and I’m very proud of how much we’ve been able to achieve in that time. We’re no longer a small company offering one design; we have a full suite of industry-leading products and employ hundreds of people across the world.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
At the time, my cousin, Neil, was working for his father helping to build swimming pools. Customers were constantly requesting bi-fold doors be added to complete the look of their new outdoor pool areas, but it was near impossible to find anything of a high standard in the UK at the time. If they were able to, some of the lead times for the doors to be delivered were six, eight, or even 16 weeks. So, we created Origin to bridge the gap in the market for British-made, high-quality bi-folding doors that were available within a short lead time.
How did you achieve awareness?
We benefited from the economic crash in 2008 when several of our competitors went out of business and we were inundated with orders, which certainly helped us cement our place in the market. Our focus on quality is another way we have achieved awareness in the market. Not only are our products high-quality, but our service is too. We have adopted a world-class production system which allows us to offer our ‘Your Lead Time, Not Ours’ service, which essentially removes lead times completely. We were the first in the world to offer this.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
Around the time of the financial crash, when we were dealing with a lot of orders, we were unsure of which direction to take the business in strategically. Recognising that we needed some help to maintain growth and set the future of the business on the right track, we worked with a very lovely angel investor who helped us set the groundwork for what Origin has become today.
What are the key successes?
We’ve hit some incredible milestones in the last 20 years, from launching new products to reaching financial growth targets. In 2020, we were awarded a Queen’s Award for International Trade which was a very proud moment, not just for me, but everyone at Origin. It really demonstrates how much the company has grown since we started out.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
Our biggest challenge in recent years was trying to deal with and get ahead of materials shortages during the pandemic. Certain materials, such as aluminium which we use to manufacture our door and window frames, and polyamide which is an essential part of our thermal breaks to ensure our products are thermally efficient, were in short supply across the globe due to factory shutdowns and difficulties transporting goods. Without these materials, we can’t manufacture our products.
To safeguard the business and ensure we could continue to serve our customers, we invested heavily in a new warehouse facility which allowed us to stockpile materials. It was a huge undertaking, but it was an investment in Origin’s future and allows us to futureproof the business.
What are your plans now/for the future?
With the UK on the verge of a recession, the immediate challenge for us is navigating this tricky period in the housing market where people are delaying their plans to move and reassessing their ability to renovate. Origin has been through fluctuations in demand before, and we survived the 2008 recession. All of the knowledge we’ve built up in the past 20 years gives us confidence in what we do and how we do it. We know that we have a great product and superb service, so we will be sticking to what we know instead of retreating.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
A big part of it is getting rid of the ego, and not worrying about getting it wrong. Leave the ego at the door, come in, enjoy what you do, engage with people, and ask questions.
One of the biggest things I do is assume I’m wrong all the time. I don’t think anyone is always right, you can only improve on what you did last time. There are always opportunities to improve.
I test myself for that a lot because I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I like to get things ‘right’ the first time, but I have to remind myself that it’s not actually possible. You can give it your best shot, learn from the results to improve and you move on. It’s challenging that in yourself and within the culture of the business that will lead to success.
If you do get good results, look at the data and keep doing the stuff that is giving you those
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