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!