A Sheffield joiner who set up the region’s first networking group for builders says he has been overwhelmed by demand.
Craig Wilkinson, aged 42, who launched The Trades Hub to help the local construction industry battle through the recession and stop out-of-town companies stealing trade, has just launched his sixth group.
The ‘Sheffield Steel’ Trades Hub, whose first meeting was at Bramall Lane on Friday, was attended by 90 people keen to pass on work and share information.
It joins five others - in Chesterfield, Doncaster, Leeds, Bradford and the first, ‘Sheffield Skyscraper’, which is said to have passed £1.2m of work between members since it started in October.
Craig, boss of ReStyle loft and garage conversions based at Bradway, said the response had been phenomenal.
He said: “Builders normally don’t buy into networking groups, but the industry already works on word-of-mouth referrals.
“It’s been tough for a lot of businesses over the last four years and communities and families have suffered.
“The Trades Hub has shown there is work out there and it helps us keep it between ourselves. I’m over the moon with the way it’s working.”
Applicants are vetted before being allowed to join, he added.
“I contact three customers to make sure they are a credible business. It’s my reputation on the line.”
The Trades Hub also aims to help small companies band together under its name to pitch for business from big firms like Kier, Taylor Wimpey and Barratt.
Craig said he got the idea after attending a mainstream networking group - and feeling like a fish out of water.
“It was a room full of suits. I had to talk about myself and I felt very uncomfortable. But I reflected on it and went back and built up my confidence and got business out of it.
“I realised that if you get out there things happen.
“I decided to take my experience and set up The Trades Hub.”
The networking group employs six people full time and Craig is now planning to expand across the country.