Traframe – Start-up construction closing the gap
Starting up in January 2021, Eastbourne timber-based manufacturing company Traframe has seen explosive growth and interest in high-spec timber frames, as well as creating posi-joists and roof trusses to support quality housing development.
Locate East Sussex has been helping Traframe expand its business in East Sussex with expert advice and gain access to the East Sussex Invest Programme to develop its business. We popped down to visit the company in its unit on White Knight Business Park and check out its new equipment.
With Adam’s and Locate East Sussex's help, I can fulfil my ambition and motivation to develop and grow my business.Shaun NichollsOwnerTraframe
Like every building, you have to start with a foundation. For Shaun Nicolls, that is his experience within the housing sector that led to him launching Traframe. ‘I have worked on many different sites across East Sussex,’ Shaun told us, ‘and my experience with carpentry and property development has taught me what it takes to make something that you can be proud of.’ Training and learning over the last ten years, he has worked on many projects, from simple extensions to major housing developments. ‘Being able to know when to ask the right questions has helped me and every project immensely, saving time, money and effort.’
Starting as a self-employed construction carpenter, he found an affinity in timber, both in his enjoyment in using wood, and its position as the future of sustainable construction.
‘What I love about working here is that I can still do what I love, and that’s being hands-on and handling the materials. I want to continually create something interesting.’
Filling the gap
With all his knowledge and experience, Shaun found a gap in the market in the most unlikely way. ‘I created Traframe because I saw the opportunity,’ Shaun said, ‘I was in the process of renovating my home and creating an extension. I realised when talking to my father-in-law John Miller (director of Plant Movements), there was a strong demand for bespoke timber frame construction. The difference between quality and profitability wasn’t that far and just felt like a natural launch for a business.’
Seeing the unmet need in the market for high-spec, quality timber frames, Shaun set out to establish a manufacturing centre for timber engineering products in Eastbourne. Working together, Shaun, with the support from John, invested in and secured machinery, offering the services to local developers and private clients, with a focus on customer service. ‘If you are going through all the effort of creating your own home, why should it be done behind closed doors? At Traframe, we put the client at the front and centre of what we do’.
Called ‘House Kits’, Traframe can match timber frame requirement designs to make the structural elements of someone’s future home a reality. Traframe goes through a careful process of translating submitted designs through to manufacturing and delivery, keeping its customers involved every step of the way.
‘We want to get to the point that clients can come in and see us as a one-stop-shop, and if they have any questions, we either have the answers or can get the answers they need.’
Traframe sought another opportunity that came up and could not be ignored in creating posi-joists and roof trusses, a resource sorely needed locally.
Creating Space in East Sussex
‘Before us,’ Shaun said, ‘many of our products were not being manufactured in East Sussex, and demand for posi-joists and roof trusses has been overwhelming’. With many modern builds seeing the versatility and usefulness, posi-joists and roof trusses are a part of a moment to allow houses to easily integrate pipework and other services into the fabric of the build.
Many builders rely on national chains or other third parties to get a hold of these vital pieces, particularly as a part of a larger wholesale process. As a designer manufacturer, Traframe gives freedom and agility back to developers on a local level, working with the company to not only match the specifications but refine and improve them. ‘It is quite nice to design and find new ways for our materials to work.’
As the company started to supply and enquiries started to build, the Traframe team had to start thinking of the long-term future, ‘There is such a demand (for what we do), but we wanted to scale it responsibly. From feedback from our customers, they want to have a single source to ensure consistency, quality, and reliability, and being local helps too.
Contacting Locate East Sussex, Traframe was able to rely on the expert advice of Adam Berger, helping it secure access to funding from the East Sussex Invest programme. The ESI funding helped the company purchase new press equipment to manufacture roof trusses for the residential and commercial buildings, creating new roles within the new start-up business.
‘With Adam’s help, I can fulfil my ambition and motivation to develop and grow my business. I am motivated to keep going and see how far we can grow Traframe, and not be afraid to make some mistakes. We are now seeing the explosion of interest in our products, and we want to take it further into the future and take more staff on as we don’t see demand going away any time soon’.
Photos: Tradectory Media and Locate East Sussex.