Carl Drake, owner and MD at Rise Furniture and Mobility, sits in the Cabinet Maker People Behind the Products hot seat and shares an insight into his role, a love for Spain and a decent G&T.
Can you describe your current job role and responsibilities?
I am responsible for every aspect of running the business. From greeting and serving customers in the showroom; responding to any questions and orders online; attending home visit assessments to discuss customers’ needs… I’ve even been known to deliver furniture.
From our Harrogate showroom, I devise our marketing strategy, including managing the website; adding new product lines (which I source myself), through meeting new suppliers and managing those key supply partnerships.
I’m a founding partner of a North Yorkshire initiative to promote Independent Living. It’s a voluntary scheme offering support and advice for those in later years.
I also give presentations to healthcare professionals, charity action groups and local retired communities, donating my fees to nominated charities — MacMillan Cancer Support and Dementia Forward.
How long have you been in your current role?
My wife and I launched the business in October 2017.
Can you give a brief background on yourself?
I studied Furniture and Interior Design at Leeds. My previous roles have taken me all over the world, from boardroom to showroom, manufacturing and marketing, to retailing.
I have worked in all aspects of the furniture industry, including luxury fitted furniture, shop fitting to supplying furniture for super yachts.
I also ran my own advertising agency and design consultancy. Until 2017, I was managing director of one of the UK’s largest mobility furniture companies. I now own a multi-award winning mobility business.
What is the best thing about your role?
It’s very satisfying to know that our products are changing people’s lives, helping them maintain their independence, to enjoy life at home for longer.
What is the most challenging thing about your job?
Overcoming the stigma associated with mobility in the UK. Most of my customers are not disabled nor require specialist medical devices; they’re struggling with their mobility in later life.
Our showroom is far more lifestyle based, so customers can buy furniture and products that enable them to lead a more independent life at home. We think ‘mobility not disability’ and our customers seem to like that.
Can you describe your typical working day?
My customers are not early risers; they avoid the rush hour traffic, which means I can too. After a leisurely, stress-free commute, my working day usually starts just before 10am.
Once I’ve opened up the showroom and grabbed a coffee, I read the post; check my emails and the phones; before processing any online orders.
Most days, I’m around the showroom, greeting and serving customers, unless attending home visit assessments. Closing at 4.30pm means I beat the traffic going home too. I have a better work/life balance these days.
What would you say pulled you into wanting a career in the furnishing industry?
When I was at school, I thought I wanted to be an architect. But a conversation with a colleague of my father convinced me that interior design was more appealing. At the time, it involved studying furniture design for three years first.
Can you share something that your co-workers may not know about you?
In the 1980s I had a small part in a British film called ‘The Dresser’.
The film was nominated for an Oscar, several BAFTAs and Golden Globes. Set in World War II, it featured an all-star cast, including the late Albert Finney.
What are your favourite things in life?
Some say, my life and business has always been rather ‘full on,’ so spending quality time around my wife, dog and cat means a lot to me — they are my panacea.
We spend time relaxing at our bothy (a small cottage) in a very remote area of the Scottish Highlands (accessible only by 4×4) whenever we can. With no wifi or TV reception, it’s idyllic.
If it was not for work, my wife and I would spend every chance we could in Spain. The lifestyle and climate suits us.
Also… a decent, gin and tonic.
What are your future ambitions?
We’ve literally outgrown our Harrogate showroom, but it’s in a prime location. So we’re looking for a larger, second showroom, somewhere with storage. With my background in manufacturing, I do miss being involved with manufacturing, so I am keen to cultivate our own products. With 35yrs experience in the industry, I would like to develop more consultancy work too.
Do you have any furnishing industry icons you admire?
Ironically, I was influenced by architects who went on to become furniture designers, namely Charles Rennie Makintosh and Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, better known as Le Corbusier.
Do you have any career highlights that spring to mind?
As a young designer, I designed kitchens for celebrities and royalty; by the age of 25, I became chief designer for the largest shop-fitting company in the world.
But the biggest highlight has to be being named National Retail Business of the Year, last year. To beat more established businesses from all aspects of retail, really put mobility retail in the spotlight.
We are the first and only mobility business ever to achieve that accolade, something I’m very proud of.
What is your favourite piece of furniture you own? And why?
le Corbusier LC4 Chaise Longue. It is one of the most iconic pieces of furniture in the world. It’s as comfortable as it looks.
What do you love about the furnishing industry?
How diverse it is. I have been fortunate that my qualifications and experience have stood me in good stead. I have been able to successfully apply different aspects of my skillset to every role I have had.
What could be improved to make the industry better in your opinion?
With credit card and online fraud worth in excess of £20 billion a year, I would welcome a change in legislation that protects the retailer and not just the consumer.
For every business, the importance of online customer reviews can influence a consumer’s decision to buy. But it can also have an adverse effect on any business.
Google should reconsider how it might protect the very businesses that provide it with a lucrative revenue stream, from becoming victims of harmful, bogus and malicious reviews.
What industry trends are you seeing at the moment?
Our target audience is very much the older market, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have taste.
The days of chintz are long gone.
Don’t be fooled into thinking everything is beige, it’s not. Our best selling fabrics are muted greys, stones and putty colours.
Can you predict any future trends that may emerge?
Whilst low-slung Italian style furniture is very much en vogue, people are living longer. There are now more over-60s than under-16s; the number of 90 year-olds is also set to double in the next 25 years.
Older people often find it difficult getting into and out of low seated furniture. I expect more modern looking, stylish rise and recline furniture to emerge and become popular.
Did you know that Cabinet Maker has been established since 1880? How long have you been reading the magazine?
I had no idea it had been around so long. I didn’t pick up a copy of Cabinet Maker until 100 years later! It was, and probably still is, the ‘go to publication’ for the young job-hunting furniture designer.
If you weren’t working in the industry, what would you be doing?
I would probably be involved in animal conservation and the preservation of endangered species. This is something very close to my heart. In the 1990’s I got involved with Channel 4’s Nature Watch Trust programme, raising awareness of the plight of the Black Rhino. I’ve a small stake in a Borneo rain forest, to help protect the habitat of the Orangutan and since acquired some land in South America in order to protect the Jaguar.
And finally, if you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
Tenacious, Competitive, Loyal.