Mark Douglass Designs
Mark Douglass • Richmond
Richmond Glass Designer captures new Asian markets
Mark Douglass has an impressive vision for his craftsman glass-blowing business – to be the most progressive and creative lighting brand in Australia and secure a more prominent foothold in Asia. With the support of a Victorian government grant, Mark is well on the way to achieving that goal.
For 28 years, Mark Douglass Design has been renowned for its innovative blown glass lighting, homewares and art installations. In 2012, Mark was awarded the prestigious Churchill Trust Fellowship in recognition of his contribution to the Australian glass design industry. His business consists of a stunning showroom in Richmond, as well as a glass blowing studio, warehouse and cafe in Kensington.
“We have gone through several reinventions and shifts in direction over the years,” Mark says. “In the early days, I was concentrating more on fashion clients and hospitality fit-outs but the business is now focussed on the design and manufacture of premium lighting and glassware.”
“It was fantastic for me and everyone involved to be guided by someone who understands small businesses and what it takes to overcome the inevitable growing pains.”
“It’s easy to work in the business but harder to work on the business,” Mark says. “Previously, I’d look at the odd bank statement and get a bookkeeper in once a month. But I didn’t really have a thorough understanding of the finance side of things. Even little things like using the right accountancy software. We were in a bit of a rut and needed a push in the right direction.”
Mark believes that the next phase of the business will come from continuing to capitalise on his design strengths as well as from streamlining his business processes and marketing his niche skills, designs and products to emerging Asian markets.
In 2016, the Victorian Government provided Mark Douglass Design with financial assistance to engage JDT International Consulting to review the business and develop a plan for the future.
“The first thing our consultant did was conduct a comprehensive SWOT analysis of where our business was at,” Mark says. “She asked questions such as: Who were our major competitors? What were our strengths and weaknesses? What are some potential threats to profitability?”
The answers to these and other questions allowed JDT to provide advice on the company’s business structure, budgeting, cash-flow, marketing and forecasting.
“One of the best things she did was sit all of our staff members down and give them a clearer overview of the current state of the business. It was fantastic for me and everyone involved to be guided by someone who understands small businesses and what it takes to overcome the inevitable growing pains.”
The Business Today
“We’d always sold our products internationally but we never had a clear exporting strategy,” Mark says. “Not only have we exported more of our products into Hong Kong and Macau, we have specifically chased and secured bigger clients in the local market. So instead of going after twenty or so small clients and reinventing the wheel every time we do business, by working with bigger organisations we lock in consistent, reliable and better paying work.”
“Overall it was a great experience for our staff in that it showed them how big companies evolve and become more efficient. Personally, it has allowed me to put the right steps in place to help grow the business whilst concentrating on what I do best – which is designing and blowing glass.”
For more information on Victorian Government assistance programs, visit Business Victoria.