CBCC member interview - Jan Horak, Partner, Bohemian Craft Ltd.

On his adventures beyond the Polar Circle, acquiring passion for wood, tough beginnings, combining business and pleasure, and so much more…

Could you say a few words about your background?

I am originally from Olomouc in Moravia. After my studies at the University of Economics, I travelled for some time and my travels actually brought me to carpentry as I found passion for wood beyond the Polar Circle in Russia.

How did that happen?

During my further studies at the University of St. Petersburg my friends and I took a trip to the north of Russia, a place we found on the National Geographic website. We were tourists looking for northern lights, driving snow scooters, having fun. There in the sauna I made a deal with the owner that I will come back next year to work for him as a lumberjack. I did that. I lived there for 4 months, without electricity, in the middle of beautiful crystal-clear nature and in temperatures of -37°C. Since I got back to Czechia, I started looking for opportunities in companies dealing with wood.

How did you get from Czechia to the UK?

I used to work in a Czech company producing wooden floors and exporting them throughout Europe including the UK where the market was great. Unfortunately, the whole company was declining and the focus on the UK market changed. I decided to leave the company, but people working in London called me after two months and asked me whether I wished to come over and continue with the business independently. I did and since then we’ve been trying to establish ourselves as a Czech-owned London-based company.

What are your growth aspirations?

In addition to the UK, we’ve already done projects in France and Holland. We are becoming known for our first-class work, so I’m sure we’ll grow in time. All of us like travelling and having a project elsewhere also provides a great opportunity to combine business and pleasure.

Is Czech carpentry really known internationally?

Czech craftsmanship including carpentry is known and has a very good name. Our goal is to spread this reputation around the world.

How tough were the beginnings?

I came here when the backbone of the company was established but sales dropped. The first months were a matter of survival. For the first time in my life I experienced real stress, wondering how I’ll manage till next month. But that makes you stronger and more resilient.

What types of clients come to you?

There are two types. High end central London based luxurious architecture and design studios, so designers and people creating the entire concept of a property interior. That’s what we call residential.

Other B2B clients include large English flooring companies to which we provide flooring installations and project management. Although also residential, these projects include mainly high risers with e.g. 50 floors, 12 flats on each floor, etc…  

Where does the material you use come from?

99% is produced in the Czech Republic.

What’s your dream project?

My own house I’ll build. I’ll be physically involved as it’s another opportunity to learn and expand my horizons.

Is competition tough in the UK?

We don’t feel threatened by competition. We’re trying to create a whole new level of service making sure issues are minimal and resolved swiftly. We want to become a partner of choice and build our reputation on quality and excellence.

What are you most proud of?

The people working in the company who’ve made an incredible progress; they had to start a new life, overcome a language barrier, which wasn’t easy. And the fact that we’ve had no issues with warranty and quality; nobody is delaying payments, which saves so much time and energy.

What does the future hold for you?

I made a promise to the lads that we will have a project in the US. My colleagues always wanted to go there, so let’s work for it. That fun aspect of a business combined with exploring the world is something that keeps us going. Generally speaking, I would personally like to end up planting trees with the kids in a conceivable future.

How would you define yourself in three words?

Open-minded, organised, adventurous.

What do you do in your spare time?

I love to read. And the tube in London made me finally discover audio books. The issue, though, is you can’t put them on a shelf and look up an idea in them easily. I also love swimming. In addition, it is important as well as fun to cherish the lady.

For more information on Bohemian Craft, please visit: http://bohemiancraft.co.uk/


By Tereza Urbankova, member of the CBCC Executive Committee

We are looking for more CBCC members to be interviewed! Please email terezaurbankova@yahoo.com if you are interested.


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