Daniela Works offers bespoke machine packaging and reverse engineering services for heritage engineering tasks. Founded upon two decades of engineering experience – both in the UK and the Czech Republic – the Shildon-based company has gone from strength to strength over the last 12 months.
We sat down with company founder, Daniela Filova, to find out more about how Daniela Works started, the important role that TEDCO and the Start Up Loans Company (SULCo.) have played in its success to date, and what the future looks like for this exciting bespoke engineering business.
Hi, Daniela. You’re highly skilled when it comes to bespoke engineering. Can you tell us a bit about your career background and skillset?
Originally, I came from the Czech Republic, where I worked mainly with patents, intellectual property advisors and trademarks. I’ve always had a close affiliation for technical things. I set up my own side business there making replacement parts for heritage vehicles.
I established up my own backyard aluminium foundry and built my first steam engine there, too. I advertised my work online and was told about the opportunity to build the P2 locomotive in Darlington. For the first time in my life, I took someone else’s advice and applied.
Back home I lived in a town just east of Prague called Hradec Kralove, which is around the size of Darlington. I guess I don’t like change! I never had a formal technical education, so I started studying at Teesside University, where I’m still studying part time.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
I’ve always liked the idea of running my own business – I think I liked the idea of knowing what I’m doing and when! I saw a gap in the market for bespoke heritage engineering and repairs when visiting railways with my former boss, and it was actually a friend who told me it was time to set up my own company.
I think the older you get, the more comfortable you become with how things are. So, I wanted to push myself and try something different by setting up on my own.
I started the business around 18 months ago but it didn’t really get going until February 2022 when I got my premises. Now I offer a turnkey solution for customers, and create and repair machine parts to their exact specifications.
Are there many competitors offering the same turnkey service as you?
Not at all. Very few companies specialise in heritage steam locomotives. Some offer it as part of wider maintenance services, but there aren’t many dedicated machine shops for heritage engineering. I wanted to fill that gap and provide that service to those that need it.
Eventually I would like to diversify into other areas of engineering to spread the business risk and gain a little more stability. But heritage railways will always be the core of my business, I think.
How did you come across TEDCO and the Start Up Loans Company?
Because I wasn’t born in the UK, I had no idea about the different ways to start your own business, and the support available. I wanted to find a way to learn without simply starting a business and failing.
I found TEDCO through Google and got in contact with [TEDCO Business Advisor] Mark Johnston. He proved to be a great advisor, and I’m really grateful for all his help. He helped me go through the process of applying for the start-up loan. The funding was extremely helpful, but there’s actually just more than the money involved. There are many perks and PR benefits associated with the scheme, and the provision of long-term support has been so helpful along the way.
How was your experience of applying for the loan?
In my line of work you need large, costly machinery. And that requires capital. My first goal was to import the machines I had in the Czech Republic. But that alone required a lot of money, because they were large, heavy items travelling a thousand miles and crossing borders.
Then I needed to find premises, which also required significant investment. I had some savings, and I asked friends, but I needed further funding. That’s when TEDCO suggested the start-up loan.
Mark helped me with every stage of the application, and I was successful. I’d originally applied for £16-17,000, but TEDCO rightly suggested I applied for more in order to account for small additional costs. The final figure ended up being £18,000, and this is what allowed me to start my business smoothly.
Your business seems to be going from strength to strength. Are you planning to take on any more staff?
Ideally, I’d like to grow my premises and take on an apprentice. I don’t believe in growing for growing’s sake, but I am starting to find it a challenge to meet delivery times when working on my own. That’ a big part of why larger companies don’t like taking on bespoke heritage jobs, because they require so much more time and resources.
I’m currently working with TEDCO to find the best way to hire an apprentice. I’d like to find someone who is motivated and willing to learn, and who is looking for an opportunity to grow that involves working on a variety of different tasks and machines. Ideally, this will happen alongside finding larger premises.
And where do you see your business in 5 years’ time?
Everything in business is a process. You solve one issue, grow a little more, then find new issues to solve, but I’m enjoying the journey as much as the destination. Five years ago, I had no idea I’d be coming to England, and now I feel very at home up North.
I want my business to grow, but not for the sake of growing. My approach is slow and steady; organic and sustainable. Every time you build up your company a bit more, you get higher, you see further, and you learn more about the direction you’re taking.
That’s a fantastic way of looking at it. Thanks, Daniela.
Contact Daniela Works today by clicking here.