Rep­u­ta­tion for high qual­ity tim­ber fur­ni­ture restora­tion

Sup­port ser­vice of­fers mean­ing­ful, suit­able and en­joy­able oc­cu­pa­tional and skill de­vel­op­ment op­tions

Australasian Timber - - SPECIAL BUSINESS PROFILE -

It’s taken al­most four decades but a unique Toowoomba busi­ness con­tin­ues to go from strength to strength. In fact, its suc­cess has meant the need for new and big­ger premises.

What started as a small en­ter­prise of­fer­ing spe­cialised train­ing for peo­ple with a dis­abil­ity, has gained a rep­u­ta­tion as a cen­tre of ex­cel­lence in tim­ber fur­ni­ture restora­tion work, among any other facets.

KBH En­ter­prises was orig­i­nally formed out of a part­ner­ship be­tween Karakan and the Bail­lie Hen­der­son Hos­pi­tal formed in the 1980s. Ini­tially, wood­work­ing, craft and even glass bot­tle re­cy­cling was of­fered within the Oc­cu­pa­tional Ther­apy unit of the Bail­lie Hen­der­son hos­pi­tal to pro­vide peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties and/or men­tal ill­ness the op­por­tu­nity to de­velop new skills and also pre­pare for em­ploy­ment post-dis­charge.

Karakan was a lo­cal ser­vice provider in the re­gion and joined with the Oc­cu­pa­tional Ther­apy unit to en­sure that the ser­vices were main­tained and de­vel­oped to pro­vide mean­ing­ful, suit­able and en­joy­able oc­cu­pa­tional and skill de­vel­op­ment op­tions.

In the late 1980s the ser­vice was moved to ‘Bed­ford Street’ which was slightly re­moved from the gen­eral hos­pi­tal grounds and al­lowed for the sup­ported em­ploy­ees to work within KBH En­ter­prises as both in­pa­tients and out­pa­tients from the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

In 1994, Karakan was given com­plete con­trol of KBH En­ter­prises as the busi­ness moved com­pletely from the hos­pi­tal grounds and into a pur­pose­built Tim­ber Work­shop on 11 Grange Street, Toowoomba.

From 1994 – 2015 KBH En­ter­prises was funded by FaCSIA (De­part­ment of Fam­i­lies, Com­mu­nity Ser­vices and Indige­nous Af­fairs) to op­er­ate as an Aus­tralian Dis­abil­ity En­ter­prise (ADE) pro­vid­ing Sup­ported Em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties and/or men­tal ill­ness.

“Through­out this time we were funded to sup­port a max­i­mum of 21 Sup­ported Em­ploy­ees within our Tim­ber Man­u­fac­tur­ing and Fur­ni­ture Restora­tion Work­shop,” Gen­eral Man­ager Paul Booker ex­plained.

Steady work­force

“Apart from our Sup­ported Em­ploy­ees we gen­er­ally main­tained the work­shop with a Pro­gram Man­ager, a Work­shop Fore­man with Fur­ni­ture Restora­tion skills and a trade qual­i­fied Cabi­net Maker to take on the more tech­ni­cal as­pects of restora­tion as well as mak­ing cus­tom tim­ber pieces.

“We main­tained a steady work­force and built a strong cus­tomer base through­out Toowoomba and the Dar­ling Downs re­gion with many re­peat cus­tomers due to the high qual­ity restora­tion and man­u­fac­tur­ing work that was com­pleted by our sup­ported em­ploy­ees.

“By 2013 – 2015, al­though we had main­tained a loyal work­force and a strong cus­tomer base our mo­men­tum had slowed and our growth was stunted with just 15-16 sup­ported em­ploy­ees in our work­force,” he said.

In late 2015 there was a push to di­rect sig­nif­i­cant re­sources to KBH En­ter­prises to tap into the po­ten­tial that could be seen within the en­ter­prise but had sim­ply dwin­dled over time. By early 2016 there was a big push from within which led to a sig­nif­i­cant time of change within ev­ery as­pect of the KBH busi­ness in­clud­ing a sig­nif­i­cant re­struc­ture and re­view of how the or­gan­i­sa­tion would sur­vive and flour­ish into the fu­ture. A new Busi­ness Man­ager was brought into the fold and sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial and hu­man re­sources were in­vested in de­vel­op­ing a plan for the fu­ture of KBH En­ter­prises. “The po­ten­tial for the or­gan­i­sa­tion was quickly re­dis­cov­ered and in June 2016 we posted record monthly rev­enue of just over $28,000; pretty im­pres­sive con­sid­er­ing the re­cent av­er­age was around $12,000 per month,” said Paul.

“Over that 18 month pe­riod we were able to in­crease sales, im­prove pro­duc­tion and, most im­por­tantly, in­crease our sup­ported work­force back up to our max­i­mum of 21 sup­ported em­ploy­ees. Dur­ing this pe­riod we also de­vel­oped sig­nif­i­cant part­ner­ships with lo­cal high schools and the

Clif­ford Park Spe­cial Ed­u­ca­tion

School in or­der to cre­ate path­ways for young peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties into our sup­ported work­force; some­thing that was vi­tally im­por­tant with an age­ing team of sup­ported em­ploy­ees.

Fund­ing

“KBH was also at­tract­ing fund­ing from nu­mer­ous phil­an­thropic bod­ies to de­velop new pro­grams, prod­ucts and ser­vices and we were able to con­tract Tim­ber Sur­vey Peg pro­duc­tion to the bil­lion dol­lar Toowoomba Sec­ond Range Cross­ing,” said Paul.

With the sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ment over the past two years and the in­tro­duc­tion of the Na­tional Dis­abil­ity In­sur­ance Scheme (NDIS) KBH now em­ploys over 30 sup­ported em­ploy­ees.

“This growth of our work­force and in­creased sales and ser­vice has re­quired a move into a new, big­ger build­ing that will al­low us to pro­vide more ser­vices lo­cally and em­ploy up to 50 sup­ported em­ploy­ees into the fu­ture.”

The Grand Open­ing of this build­ing was held on 14 of Septem­ber to cel­e­brate Dis­abil­ity Ac­tion Week.

“In or­der to suc­cess­fully com­plete the move we needed to shut down pro­duc­tion for a few weeks, move all of our ma­chin­ery and prod­ucts, in­stall a new dust ex­trac­tion sys­tem and move our spray booth,” he said.

“Not only is our new work­shop around 50%, larger it also in­cludes a re­tail shop

and larger of­fice space for the in­di­vid­ual sup­port ser­vices that we now also of­fer to peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties in the lo­cal com­mu­nity. We have also in­creased our team to in­clude five full time roles in­clud­ing a Re­gional Man­ager, Sup­port Co­or­di­na­tor, Work­shop Su­per­vi­sor, Tim­ber All-Rounder and a Fur­ni­ture / Tim­ber Fin­isher in ad­di­tion to a great team of vol­un­teers that also sup­port all that we do at KBH En­ter­prises.”

De­spite its ob­vi­ous suc­cess in pro­vid­ing train­ing and help for those in need, KBH is def­i­nitely not rest­ing on its lau­rels.

Fu­ture plans

“We will con­tinue to build on our lo­cal rep­u­ta­tion for high qual­ity, tim­ber fur­ni­ture restora­tion as this rep­re­sents around 80% of our cur­rent busi­ness, and we will also con­tinue our growth pro­vid­ing sur­vey pegs and gar­den stakes lo­cally and through­out South East Queens­land,” said Paul

How­ever, he was quick to add

... “we are al­ways look­ing for new op­por­tu­ni­ties”.

A few of these are:

• - Tim­ber Fire Logs. “We re­cently pur­chased a ma­chine (with grant fund­ing) that con­denses tim­ber waste in­clud­ing saw­dust and shav­ings and com­presses this waste into high den­sity logs that burn longer and

hot­ter than tra­di­tional fire­wood”.

• - Range of Hand Made Tim­ber Prod­ucts. “With the de­vel­op­ment of the re­tail space in our new build­ing and an on­line store (soon to be de­vel­oped) we are now look­ing to de­sign, de­velop and re­lease a range of repli­ca­ble tim­ber prod­ucts. These prod­ucts will be sold as Cor­po­rate Gifts, Wed­ding Gifts, Home­wares and Out­door Games. We are work­ing closely with a lo­cal Univer­sity as they de­velop mar­ket re­search around which prod­ucts will be most vi­able in the fu­ture”.

• - Gar­den Main­te­nance & Lawn Mow­ing En­ter­prise. “Not ev­ery­one en­joys wood­work­ing and tim­ber restora­tion so we are also com­menc­ing a Gar­den Main­te­nance and Lawn Mow­ing en­ter­prise that will sup­port peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties and/or men­tal ill­ness with sup­ported em­ploy­ment in the Toowoomba com­mu­nity. We were given around $20,000 of fund­ing to start this en­ter­prise as well as the do­na­tion of a ve­hi­cle from Toowoomba Mahin­dra and sign writ­ing by Signs On Time”. • - Tiny House Project . “With sup­port from the West­pac Foun­da­tion we are build­ing a pro­to­type ‘Tiny House on Wheels’ that will of­fer a po­ten­tial so­lu­tion to hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties and/ or men­tal ill­ness and will also serve as a po­ten­tial ‘prod­uct’ for

KBH En­ter­prise into the fu­ture as more peo­ple join the ‘Tiny House Move­ment’ through­out Aus­tralia”. When Paul was asked about the long term fu­ture of the en­ter­prise he ad­mit­ted that while it was dif­fi­cult to iden­tify ex­actly where it would be in 5-10 years he firmly be­lieved the en­ter­prise would be in the same build­ing with a sig­nif­i­cantly larger sup­ported work­force and a num­ber of other ‘ex­ter­nal’ so­cial en­ter­prises so that the tim­ber work­shop isn’t over crowded.

“I be­lieve that we have a model that is highly suc­cess­ful and teaches our sup­ported em­ploy­ees some great skills while also pro­vid­ing them with the in­trin­sic value that comes with be­ing em­ployed and part of a team that is turn­ing out beau­ti­ful restora­tions and high qual­ity tim­ber prod­ucts.

“We be­lieve that de­vel­op­ing a range of repli­ca­ble, high qual­ity and in­de­mand tim­ber prod­ucts should al­low us to con­tin­u­ally grow our or­gan­i­sa­tion while still en­sur­ing that we can pro­vide valu­able, sat­is­fy­ing em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for our sup­ported em­ploy­ees.

“With the last 2 years in mind – there are very few op­por­tu­ni­ties that we won’t ‘give a try’ and for­tu­nately we have a great team of sup­ported em­ploy­ees who are ready and will­ing for the chal­lenge,” he said.

Who knows, there may be some re­tired, skilled wood­work­ers in the lo­cal area who could take on vol­un­teer roles, and greater work­ing part­ner­ships can be forged with mills, tim­ber pro­duc­ers or others in­ter­ested in sup­port­ing what is done at KBH.

Of­fi­cial cer­e­mony with a dif­fer­ence -- lo­cal State MP David Janet­zki (a strong sup­porter of KBH) does the hon­ours “Cut­ting the Rib­bon”.

Mem­bers of the KBH team af­ter re­ceived a $10,000 cheque from the West­pac Foun­da­tion.

The KBH ve­hi­cle.

Early times at KBH.

Roll­top desk restora­tion ... be­fore.

Roll­top desk restora­tion ... af­ter.

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