Charles Edwards developed a passion for antiques while at university, starting his own dealership in 1965. Sixteen years ago, he seized the opportunity to move into the reproduction lighting market, recreating and electrifying antique lamps which now light up modern homes and offices across the world.
When he expanded his business, which is based on the King's Road, London, Mr Edwards decided to join the Forum. Unable to find enough antique lanterns, Mr Edwards decided he could reproduce them. He painstakingly copies originals and tailors the replicas to customers' specifications. His team of electricians electrify the lamps depending on the country to which they are being shipped.
Over 50% of his orders are from the USA, with around 35% coming from the UK, and the rest from elsewhere in the world.
"... on the whole, we seem to be holding our own quite well, and the Forum has played an important part in that."
- Forum member Charles Edwards, Charles Edwards Antiques
"I have 21 employees, including six electricians, so the Forum's Employment Guide
is extremely useful," said Mr Edwards.
"I also use the helpline, and the advisers are both knowledgeable and concise they always seem to be able to find an answer to any question I have.
"As a business grows, things can change so quickly. It's enormously helpful that you can just pick up the phone and get information from the Forum."
In addition to the many products and services offered by the Forum, including legal expenses insurance, and discounted credit and debit card payments, Mr Edwards believes that the Forum's lobbying gives the owners of small businesses a voice in Westminster and Brussels. He regularly contributes to Referendum
, our quarterly newsletter and survey of members, and closely follows the Forum's campaigns in the media.
"I joined the Forum in the first place because I liked the idea that there was an organisation prepared to stand up for the welfare of small businesses like mine. Referendum asks the questions that are important and it is such a worthwhile exercise," he said.
"The Forum also fights for small firms in the business news. It is quoted as an opinion worth listening to in newspapers, and on radio and television."
The spiralling problem of late payment means that, for many smaller businesses, maintaining a healthy cash flow, has become more important than ever.
Mr Edwards added: "A friend once told me that he had found the secret of business: managing cash flow. About 20 years later, I suddenly discovered what he meant. I would say to anyone starting up their own business that the first thing to watch for is their cash flow. Once that is sorted, you become more at ease and can get on with what you want to do."
Currently, Charles Edwards Antiques has a portfolio of 360 products, which can come in 32 different finishes. They include replicas of 1930s desk lights, gothic lamps from the 1830s, hanging lanterns and other lamps specifically requested by customers. One of Mr Edwards' best-selling products is a replica of an 1830s hall light, measuring six feet in height.
"We like the fact that we offer a bespoke service. It is also more of a challenge people sometimes change their minds quite suddenly, which can make things interesting," said Mr Edwards. "I would be stupid to be complacent and think that nobody could do what we're doing, but on the whole we seem to be holding our own quite well, and the Forum has played an important part in that."