FROM its humble beginnings operating from a 26-year-old’s spare room, a home heating oil supplier is on track to exceed £3m in sales this year.
Stockton-based HomeFuels Direct has been growing year on year since the company was established in 2008 and is now a leading heating oil supplier to homes across the UK.
The firm was founded by Christopher Bicknell during tough economic times and has seen its revenue grow from £54,000 four years ago.
The business, which employs four full-time staff, was run from Bicknell’s spare room before moving to Stockton Business Centre 18 months later.
He said: “In just four years it’s gone from this little business I thought I’d give a go, to a business that is very successful in its own right. We are supplying nationally and we are expanding into Southern Ireland with the intention and aim of replicating the same business model as the UK.
“It’s probably supplying 95% domestic and the rest is commercial customers with the construction industry and motor trade. This is all through online sales and, on occasion, over the phone.
“At the moment everything is being operated from our Stockton office, but our intention is to open an office in Cork and build the business up over there.
“Our long-term ambition would be to supply oil to every English-speaking country around the world, so Ireland is a bit of a trial run for us.”
In the particularly cold weather during November and December 2010, oil companies saw huge increases in orders that caused delivery backlogs and made prices soar by 70% from 40 pence per litre to around 70 pence per litre.
According to Bicknell, the world economy has been supporting crude oil prices lately, which in turn pushes the cost of home heating oil upwards.
“We buy from the market so unfortunately the prices have shot up,” he said. “But we have always tried as a business to make sure that we are fair with our pricing. We are here for the long term and it is in our interest to build up the best relationship with our customers as we possibly can.
“We are continuing to face tough economic times and soaring oil prices but nevertheless we have built the business by being sensible with our strategy and listening to what our customers require when buying home heating oil.”
Bicknell worked in logistics before setting up on his own in 2008. His previous employer was making redundancies so the young entrepreneur decided to take the plunge and launch his own business. The venture has been entirely self-funded and profitable since day one.
“We have big plans in terms of growing the business but I’d hate to put a figure on it at this stage,” he said.