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HOKO Design – blasting the cobwebs away from old residential architecture processes

Danny Campbell has big ambitions for his residential architecture firm HOKO Design, which was recently awarded £100,000 by the Scottish Government and UMi Debt Finance Scotland. Not only is the 29 year old Glaswegian aiming to employ a large number of residential architects in a time of industry redundancies, but he’s also got a 12 month growth plan underway that involves flipping common architectural practice on its head.

Danny graduated as an architect but soon realised he didn’t want to go the traditional employment route: “It’s taken as a given that everyone has to do their time in a sort of apprenticeship for architectural firms dealing exclusively with big corporate clients. I really felt like private residential clients, especially those with smaller budgets and requirements, weren’t of interest to the main architecture firms, and were ignored or treated with disdain, so I began to think about ways in which they could be much better supported.”

After time out travelling, in 2016 Danny came back to Glasgow and set up HOKO (a Maori word for ‘converse’ or ‘business’). He then struck on the idea that was to become the core driver in the business plan – bringing together architect and residential client on a tech-based but inclusive design and build platform.

Danny explained: “There’s a huge amount for an architect to do when servicing a private client – site visits, drawings, meeting local authority planners, engineers, utility companies, and so on. What we’ve done is take the bulk of that administrative work away from the architect and let them focus on client liaison and design – so they develop the concept design and send it through to our engine room in Glasgow, which then does the drawings, 3D modelling and meetings – and everything runs smoothly and on time.”

And customers are falling over themselves to use HOKO, so much so that the business will have employed 18 new people by the end of 2020, across three sites in Birmingham, Bristol and the Cotswolds. 2021 brings further growth and expansion, with 10 architects expected to be recruited in January across areas of high demand like Manchester, Leeds, London, Belfast and Liverpool.

This breath taking expansion has been made possible by the £100,000 UMi Debt Finance Scotland loan, which is part of a total £400,000 investment and private equity package secured by the company: “I’d spoken to a number of debt providers over the past couple of years and felt universally battered by the experience. I get that a big loan demands proper due diligence and business forecasting, but I’m not going to hand over my first born to get it! It was only when my accountant introduced me to Patrick and Tony at UMi Debt Finance Scotland that I felt like someone understood what I was trying to achieve. The process was simple, the guys were always on hand to help and the decision was made really quickly.”

The UMi Debt Finance Scotland loan scheme, supported under the Scottish Growth Scheme, is designed to help Scottish businesses innovate, grow and diversify. Tom Brock, UMi Debt Finance Scotland Fund Director, said Danny was a prime example of someone who saw an opportunity in the marketplace and has run with it: “HOKO is all about doing things differently, something we love at UMi Debt Finance Scotland. The company has an ever growing framework of architects who are passionate about design in the home, and they don’t condescend or talk down to their customers. You only need to look at the explosion of orders on their books to see how a simple idea can be transformed into business gold.”

It’s easy to see the appeal of HOKO – the language is very down to earth, the service is clear and pricing is completely transparent. Danny says the pricing element is always discussed early in the process: “What could be worse than showing your client a great design that they love, after months of planning, only to then tell them they can’t afford it?”

HOKO also offers a build service; and virtual reality demos are part of the package too. Danny says clients are really embracing the technology: “Everyone loves a gadget and the virtual reality headsets show you exactly what your extension or renovation will look like.”

So why such a focus on extensions and conversions?

“It feels to me like the industry sees these small private clients as nothing more than an inconvenience, that their hard earned cash isn’t good enough. We don’t operate like that – we want our private clients to know they are being listened to every step of the way, and their needs and wishes respected. Some professional colleagues scoff at this idea, but our entire process and ethos is built around making homeowners happier in their homes. We’re here to say loud and clear that it’s time to embrace a new way of doing things.”

So what’s next? Danny aims for HOKO to be listed on the AJ100 by 2022, which would mean turnover of more than £4 million and more than 30 architects employed.

No one is in any doubt that this innovative businessman will achieve that, and much more.

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