People Feature: It All Began In a Hatchback!

Uform chairman Eamon Donnelly reflects on how he was tempted at an early age into a career selling kitchens and before long had set up his own business with his father and brothers.

My dad was building a house back in 1982 and the guy who fitted the kitchen, asked him if he would sell kitchens for him. At 47, he said he was too old and he pointed at me and said: “That young fellow there would be happy to do it.”

Well, I accepted the proposition, but advised him that I had no car. The kitchen man didn’t see this as an obstacle and said he’d sort some wheels for me. Six weeks later, I was trained and raring to go in a repaired, retro, Talbot Sunbeam, quite the car at the time.

The deal was simple, the car was mine for £1,000 and I could pay it back when I could afford it. Six months later I was the proud outright owner.

I met my wife around the same time, so Fridays and Saturday nights were spent at the local disco with regular pit stops en route to present kitchen plans to potential customers.

I never missed an opportunity to close a sale, and each successful one resulted in a sizeable 10% commission. I got a great buzz from meeting new people, learning what problems they wanted to solve and in essence helping them create their perfect kitchen. Many friendships were established at the time and these have continued and strengthened since the early days.

This exposure to business at such a young age instilled in me a desire to start a business of my own and take things to the next level. So I set up Oakwood Door Designs, now known as Uform, in 1993 along with my brothers and my late father, Eddie. Eighteen-hour shifts were the norm back then, as we worked hard to get things off the ground. We had a very dedicated team of workers behind us. It was a ritual back then to indulge in a late-night Chinese for those workers on shifts until 11pm.

In the winter months, fan heaters kept us all warm, McKenna’s bread kept our bellies full and we occasionally enjoyed the odd traditional Irish breakfast soda.

Working around the clock was a regular thing for the first 10 years in business, and the employees made this possible, with many still strongly part of the Uform team to this very day.

There is no great secret to our success in the kitchen industry. Put simply, the foundations of Uform were built on a winning combination of respect, hard work, great people and great food. Long may it continue.

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