Things could have been very different for Bob Bulbrook had he not chosen to buy a “non-working” vacuum cleaner for just 99p in the mid-2000s.
From such small and unintentional beginnings has come BB Dyson Specialist Ltd of Holbeach, a family-run business selling, servicing and salvaging Dyson-range vacuum cleaners.
Bob, along with wife Karen and sons Craig and Ashley, have defied competition from both high street and online retailers to build up a healthy customer base that extends to Scotland, Wales, France and Italy.
“I used to like going to auctions because I could find old kits to make model boats,” Bob said.
“On one occasion, there was a non-working Dyson vacuum cleaner going for 99p and because I had a PAT (portable appliance testing for electrical appliances) certificate, I was able to repair it.
“Then I put the Dyson out at the front of my house and before I could go back inside, someone driving past beeped me and said ‘I’ll buy it’.
We’d rather not do something on the cheap if it means compromising on our quality of service or the customer losing outBob Bulbrook, Managing Director, BB Dyson Specialist Ltd of Holbeach
“That was 11 years ago and we’ve been selling, servicing and repairing new and second-hand machines ever since.”
From a showroom, factory and office all rolled into one, in Station Street, Holbeach, the family has been able to turn demand for the bagless vacuum cleaner invented by Sir James Dyson in 1983 into a healthy business.
Bob said: “We started out from our home in Whaplode, selling service Dyson machines to passers-by on the A151.
“The next step then was to look for business premises and storage space which we found in Holbeach in 2009.
“We completed the move a year later, giving us a small showroom, workshop and office space from where we can grow even further.”
In 2011, the business achieved Dyson-appointed retailer status which allowed them to sell brand new machines in-store and online.
That led to BB Dyson being named a Local Business Accelerators winner by the Spalding Guardian in 2012.
Bob said: “The Dyson company could see that the independent retailer network was the way to push their products and so we were appointed as a Dyson Premium Retailer to showcase the best of what it does.
“Then in June 2013, we became BB Dyson Specialist Ltd with myself, Karen, Craig and Ashley all at the helm of the company as directors.
“Then we realised that the current premises were too small and another move was needed which was when the unit next door became available.
“At nearly three times the size and on the same site it was ideal for us to create a new showroom, purpose-built offices, a larger warehouse and workshop facilities.”
The Bulbrook family’s business was given a further seal of approval when the site was appointed a Dyson Centre of Excellence, with requirements for them to invest in demonstration machines, follow strict warranty rules and selling to Dyson’s highest standards.
Bob said: “We’d rather not do something on the cheap if it means compromising on our quality of service or the customer losing out.
“So many times have I seen customers who have bought items off the internet to save themselves £5.
“But when it goes wrong, they expect the same service from an internet seller as they do from a local retailer.
“We’ve also had cases where companies cold call customers and offer them services for £30, only to charge them over £120 for parts later on.”
Bob, Karen and their sons are always on the lookout for the next opportunity to expand their business further.
Recently they have started selling upright and cylinder vacuum cleaners made by German company SEBO which was established 40 years ago.
Bob said: “BB Dyson tries to give our customers the right advice so that it’s not just about the vacuum cleaner but the customers’ need as well.”
Vacuum cleaners and greetings cards seem an unlikely mix but BB Dyson Specialist Ltd has cornered the market in bringing them together.
Launched 18 months ago as Karen’s Cards, customers can buy them for a range of occasions at just 79p each.
Karen Bulbrook said: “I thought it would be nice to have something visual in the showroom while customers wait for their vacuum cleaners to be repaired.
“From experience, I’ve always struggled to buy cards so I thought ‘why don’t I sell them?’ and so I started off with a stand in the showroom.
“Then someone said ‘why don’t you get some more stands and sell the cards for 79p so that people know how much they are buying, whether the cards are big or small’.
“Now we have at least 10,000 cards in stock, all for 79p each.”