Interview with Ash Chawla – Founder of Duke of Design – Behind the Biz

It’s the start of a fresh new week and that means it’s time for another exciting Behind the Biz interview. This is my weekly series where I chat to inspiring founders about their business journey. I then share their story with you to inspire and introduce you to a new business.

In today’s interview I’m chatting with Ash Chawla, the founder of Duke of Design.

Duke of Design was a decade in the making but formed in 2016. Founded by Ash Chawla, it has rapidly grown into a unique interior design and build company specialising in luxury residential property for private clients throughout the UK and abroad. In the past decade he has designed and delivered multiple projects in 5 different countries.

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Please tell us about Duke of Design.

Our focus is on creating bespoke, considered interiors that encapsulate our clients needs and dreams. We place particular importance on the practicality and comfort of the spaces we design, ensuring that they not only look beautiful but are also liveable and inviting.

Our company ethos is to take a holistic approach to any project. There are many different items to think about during any project. We take it upon ourselves to educate our clients share our perspective. The most important being value addition to the property. Any work done on a property has an effect on its potential value. So why not build something which creates value?

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How did you decide upon the name of your business?

I was looking for a name that said exactly who were were and what we do. The one thing I didn’t want was to have my name as he company name. That being said, I was not actively looking for a name and waited for the right name to just ‘hit me’. I remember watching a television channel where they were announcing all the Dukes and Duchess of England. It just struck me that the dukedom of design had not yet been claimed. On that day, I decided to claim it.

What did you do before starting Duke of Design?

My University professors once said something in class, that stuck with me forever. He said , “in my experience there is nothing more to learn in a job after 1 year. If you have worked in 1 job for 5 years, that only counts as 1 years job experience.”

His words in hindsight justified all my vagabond ways. After Graduating in 2010 from University of bath, I advanced on a journey which took me through 8 cities, 5 countries and 8 different jobs. In fact, one of the reasons I got into Architecture was so I could work on different projects every year.

In London I worked extensively on restoration and renovation of grade listed buildings. In Dubai and Qatar I worked on mega development projects like shopping malls, Cinema’s, football stadiums, city planning, etc. In India and Nepal, I was on the design team for a Hilton Hotel, Science centres, luxury houses and universities. Working on such a wide range of projects and with people from around the globe has given me a unique perspective.

Did you always plan to be self-employed?

To be honest, I always planned to never have a plan. I just wanted to see where my life took me. Around two years ago, I decided to leave my job in London. I informed my clients of my decision to leave my job. To which they insisted that they would only work with me. And that’s how it just started.

What has been the highlight of your business journey to date?

It’s the people around Duke of Design. My clients and staff, many who have become good friends. We all share the same vision from the properties we work in.

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Do you only take on luxury projects?

We don’t take on only luxury project but even with our low budget projects we aim to make it luxurious with our design. Luxury is not limited to just using expensive products. Luxury is defined as ‘a state of great comfort and elegance’. A well designed space on a smaller budget can also be elegant and stunning. What we try and explain to our clients is not to cut corners and accept shabby workmanship.

What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced?

Our biggest challenge has been in expansion. We have had to regretfully turn down projects due to lack of staff. We have a very tough vetting procedure for our contractors. In addition to the technical qualifications, we only accept people who strive for perfection, prioritise customer service and are hard working.

We do not accept projects if we are doubtful of our ability to deliver it in time and budget. That has slowed our expansion plans.

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What role does social media play for your business and do you have a favourite social platform?

I am not as active as I would like to be. Primarily because my main source of clients is word of mouth and recommendations. My favourite platform is Pinterest. It is a great website for showcasing work, connecting with clients and making mood boards.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Based on feedback I have received, the two most important aspect is hard work and exceptional customer service. Customers want to know you will work hard to deliver their project. I cannot stress enough the importance of customer service. Treat your clients well and they will do the same.

Customer service is the highest priority for us. We have worked overnights, through weekends and flown overseas (at our cost) to meet our clients. I can assure you that our clients have really appreciated our efforts.

Where do you hope to take your business in 2018?

We believe in a business found on relationships and hope to build many more in the coming years. We like to think that’s why our clients employ us again and recommend us. We aim to continue on our organic growth trajectory.

Explore projects by Duke of Design on their website. 

I want to say a massive thank you to Ash for taking the time to be involved with Behind the Biz. I loved hearing about his business journey and I hope it left you feeling just as inspired and motivated as I do.

I totally agree with Ash when it comes to customer service. It doesn’t matter what line of work you’re in, it’s important to always go above and beyond for your customers. That’s the way to get repeat work and achieve new customers through word of mouth.

I wish Ash the best of luck with the future of Duke of Design.

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