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2021 – Our 10th Anniversary Year

January 19th, 2021

2021 – Our 10th Anniversary Year

2021 – Our 10th Anniversary Year

2021 is our 10th year of trading as a limited company. We established the company formally in September 2011, immediately after Oliver Ludlow graduated from Cardiff University and decided to turn a hobby of trading in bassoons during his student years into a career.

We will be holding some celebrations later in the year, but for now it is worth just reflecting on those years.

Why did we start the business?

Oliver had always had a passion for bassoons and bassoon playing and came to realise that, although that passion was shared by many others, the choice and levels of customer service available to bassoonists was not as good as it could have been. We felt bassoonists in the UK deserved better.

We focused on three aspects particularly.

  • Offering a service to everyone wherever they are in the UK. This meant foregoing a bricks-and-mortar approach serving a local market, to concentrate on serving a UK-wide market at a distance. This meant designing the website and our Try Before You Buy service so that it was very easy for customers to try bassoons in their own homes. And to prepare them meticulously, describe them carefully and provide detailed pictures so that they didn’t often come back!
  • Having a strategy of depth rather than width. That is, focusing just on bassoons rather than being woodwind generalists as everyone else was, so that we could really become experts and thus be able to select and offer the best bassoons in each category, prepare them to the highest standards, and give our customers the best advice and support possible.
  • Having a constant focus on customer service, with the aim of always having happy and satisfied customers. This meant, among many other things, answering emails promptly and comprehensively, and resolving any issues quickly and to our customers’ satisfaction.

From the start, we designed the business around these three principles and they have remained our guides throughout.

The one thing we have added during the last 10 years is a repair service. We started slowly with repairs, as we were aware of the levels of skill needed to repair and overhaul instruments as complex as the bassoon. We initially sub-contracted repairs of our own bassoons to third party repairers, then brought it in-house and then, once we had built up a high level of expertise, we started offering a repair service to our customers. We now have a repair and renovation service to rival any in the world, but it has taken us a long time to get there. 

What have we learnt during the last 10 years?

One of the first things we learnt was how long it takes to gain the confidence of teachers and professionals, who are naturally suspicious of a new kid on the block. It was a good few years before we achieved success with everyone. Our first public outing among the bassoon cognoscenti was to the British Double Reed Society convention in Cardiff in 2012, and we certainly felt that everyone there was checking us out! But thankfully we are now fully accepted as part of the bassoon landscape.

Another is that the bassoon market changes constantly, with some groups becoming less prominent (state school pupils, for example, owing to cutbacks in state-funded music teaching), and others (older people with the time, money and ambition to pursue their dream of playing the bassoon either for the first time or better than ever, for example) becoming more prominent. The need to respond to changes like these is critical.

A further thing we have learnt is that this isn’t an easy market to be in – many, many traditional bricks-and-mortar woodwind retailers have disappeared in the last 10 years, and more are likely to follow in the coming year. You really do need to keep focused on meeting customers’ needs effectively to survive while juggling all the other aspects of the business and innovating constantly.

We will never make our fortunes from this market, but it is an immensely satisfying business to be in if you have a passion for bassoons or even music playing generally. We talk, play and take apart and repair bassoons all day long, and what could be better than that?

Well, actually, just one thing is better than that…knowing we are giving joy to the recipients of our lovingly-prepared bassoons, and knowing that they treasure their bassoons and will do so for many years to come.

Article Author: Martin Ludlow, Director at Double Reed Ltd.