A Sheffield entrepreneur has received prestigious recognition for the £14.2m of business he has helped stimulate within the county’s building and construction industry.
Craig Wilkinson, founder of the Trades Hub Academy, picked up Business Man of the Year at the inaugural Yorkshire Choice Awards. Initially nominated by his peers, Craig was among strong competition in his category, but ‘people power’ led to him being crowned the winner. He received thousands of votes from members of the public.
Having left school at the age of 16, Craig became an apprentice joiner. Eight years later he set up his own business – loft conversion firm Restyle Lofts – which grew to become the most successful company of its kind in Yorkshire.
But it was in 2012 that his journey with the Trades Hub Academy began. Repeatedly asked to share the secrets of his business success, Craig arranged for 40 industry contacts to meet him in a working men’s club in Sheffield one Friday afternoon. Quick-fire discussions about networking, planning, strategic marketing, websites and social media unfolded and, from that very first event, £250,000 of business was passed.
The Trades Hub Academy soon became a regular fixture in these contractors’ diaries, with Craig chairing networking and knowledge-transfer meetings every month. Keen to give something back to the industry that had done so much for him, the focus was helping attendees grow their business whilst delivering more added-value to clients and securing a better quality of lives for themselves and their families.
Craig explains: “I know from personal experience what factors can hold trades people back – working long hours, little time with family and friends, an unmanageable level of paperwork, delayed payments, poor marketing – the list goes on. Having built, grown and sold a building company I have made all these mistakes along my journey. I set up Trades Hub Academy to help highly skilled and ambitious tradespeople who want to improve and grow their businesses without making all the classic errors.
A second Academy was ‘born’ in Leeds in October 2013 and, fast forward to the present day, the Trades Hub now has hundreds of members across the whole of Yorkshire. But there’s even more to come from this fiercely passionate and now award-winning entrepreneur.
“We also hold full day masterclasses coaching workshops every month for contractors who want to take their business to the next level,” Craig elaborates. “These currently take place in Yorkshire but they’re attracting attendees from as far afield as Glasgow and Southampton. So, over the next 12 months, the masterclasses will be going national, so that people are no longer bound by geography. By this time next year, we’ll also have monthly events in London, the Midlands, the North East and Scotland. We could be looking at hundreds of millions of pounds generated as a result.”
It seems it is Craig’s inspiring vision that led to him attracting such significant support for the Yorkshire Choice Awards. Presented to him by broadcaster Christa Ackroyd at a glittering ceremony at The Centenary Pavillion, Leeds, the trophy now sits proudly in his Sheffield office.
“I can’t describe the feeling to have won,” he comments. “I was gobsmacked. I am proud and honoured to have been recognised in this way.”
525 people attended the Yorkshire Choice Awards ceremony to celebrate the local achievements of 300 outstanding nominees from the world of business, charity and sport. The event was in aid of Martin House Children’s Hospice, supporting children with life-limiting illnesses. The chosen charity for the 2017 Awards will be the Danny Jones Defibrillator Fund.
Restyle Lofts grew to become a 20-strong business, which Craig sold last year.