Competition Lawyer to Setting Up a Designer Kitchen Business – Sofia Bune

Interview with lawyer career changer, Sofia Bune.

Can you briefly summarise your career as a lawyer.

I am Swedish so studied in Sweden and also did a Master in European Law in Belgium. I started my career with Lovells in Brussels doing competition law. I was there for three years and then moved to London first joining K-Legal (which was KPMG’s legal arm) for about 1.5 years, then a couple of years with DLA and then 5 years with Baker&McKenzie. I did competition law throughout my career

What are you now doing to earn a living?

In 2006 I started Sola Kitchens. We specialise in the design, supply and installation of luxury bespoke Scandinavian kitchens. I started from the kitchen table, moving to the garden shed and in 2010 I opened my first retail shop in Fulham. 2 years ago I opened my second showroom in Hampstead. I now have 11 employees and 7 installation teams that I use on a contract basis. We turn over about £2.2m for the moment

What made you decide to change from practising as a lawyer?

When moving to London I bought a flat in Marylebone which needed renovation. I was looking for kitchens in the whole of London but being Swedish I didn’t find anything that I really liked. I am used to really good quality, solid wood, bespoke kitchens and couldn’t find anything I liked so I ended up buying a kitchen from Sweden. When the kitchen was being installed some of my friends saw it and asked if I could help them getting kitchens from Sweden as well. So that was how the idea started. At that stage (this was 2002) I wasn’t ready to give up my legal career and I was also looking at other business ideas because starting a kitchen business without any experience is not the easiest. I always came back to the kitchens because I like to cook, I like design and I enjoy the challenge of project managing large and complicated kitchen projects. So in 2006 I finally took the plunge and started the business. I was very lucky because at Bakers they allowed me to work part time (3 days a week) to start setting the business up. I did that for 2 years before finally starting working full time with the business in 2008

What was the most difficult part of your career change?

To start a career in a business I knew nothing about, and which is very complicated, and also extremely competitive. Also to have to learn a lot of skills that is required to run a business, everything from financing to marketing, sales skills etc

How has your life changed now that you’ve changed career?

I absolutely love what I am doing now! I work as hard as I did as a solicitor however I really enjoy it and I like Mondays!

What do you miss and what don’t you miss about being a lawyer?

The salary! Starting a business is costly and it takes time before you can start taking out a salary. And when starting up I missed my colleagues and having a team around me.

What advice would you give to any lawyers who are contemplating a career change?

Do your market research really well and don’t fall into the trap of being over optimistic – it will always take longer and cost more than you plan for. Make sure you have enough capital so that you can stay floating for longer than planned. Also get help! I got the help of a business coach a couple of years after starting and my biggest mistake was not to engage her earlier. I got so much help in structuring and planning and helping to get my nose over the water so I could focus on growing the business instead of being bogged down by all day to day tasks. So get help, early!

About Matt Oliver

Matt is the founder of Law Career Plus. He spent the first 10 years of his career as a commercial lawyer. Since then, Matt has over 10 years experience as a qualified career consultant and executive coach. His passion is supporting lawyers with their career development and career changes. He does this through his writing and his one to one coaching. Find out more about Matt and get in touch with him here >>>