JO DOWNS CASE STUDY
Jo Downs is one of the world’s most prominent fused glass artists, and her handcrafted work is inspired by the beautiful Cornish coast. For over twenty years she has used her talent, technical expertise and remarkable creative energy to build a highly successful design-led trade and retail business. In her commitment to remain a professional maker and creative lead however, she almost lost the business by ‘taking her eye off the managerial ball’.
∇ The Business
Jo approached Francis Clark Business Recovery at a time when the company’s creditors were unmanageable. The significant creditor pressure was largely a result of considerable expansion costs in recent years that were not met with proportionate increased turnover.
Lucinda Coleman, Business Recovery Director at Francis Clark, together with the company’s existing accountant, formulated a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) proposal to put to the company’s creditors. A CVA is a contract between the company and its creditors offering something other than payment in the normal terms of business. In this case the offer was payment of 37% over 5 years, at the end of which the surplus debt is written off. The alternative (probably ceasing to trade) would have led to a much lower (if any) return. The creditors accepted the CVA proposal and the 5 years are now complete.
The CVA has ensured the survival of the company and Jo has remained in control throughout and can now continue to grow her business without the burden of its historic creditors. A significant part of the survival process was also due, in no small part, to Jo’s tenacity to save a lifetime’s work and her commitment to repaying creditors rather than to create a phoenix business.
∇ Jo’s Story
Jo made huge personal sacrifices to turn her business around and is adamant that her focus on design and creativity will no longer divert her from business prerequisites. New systems and procedures and a new decision-making protocol have been introduced. All expenditure is scrutinised carefully and costs are driven down. From the beginning of the CVA, Jo halved the monthly overheads bill and has returned the business to profitability. The emphasis now is on consolidation and containing growth, although Jo won’t rule out opening further retail outlets should the right opportunity come along – but there’s no rush.
Lucinda Coleman said: “Jo is a truly creative talent but also a remarkable person. Her story demonstrates that there is genuine hope for many businesses that get into difficulty and that the trick is to get professional advice as soon as warning bells start to chime.”
Jo’s story is all the more remarkable as her personal and business difficulties coincided with a major challenge to her creative process, when the German source of the coloured glass she was using dried up and she had to completely rethink her designs. Not surprisingly, for someone who clearly combines creativity with determination, Jo used this setback to ignite her imagination and came up with new, cutting edge designs.