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Crafting the perfect business through three generations

13 October 2023

When Walter Ashford started crafting small wooden stools in the 1930s, little did he know that over 80 years later, his business would become a world-leading manufacturer.

In 1934 Walter Ashford converted his family’s laundry into a makeshift workshop and began making and selling wooden fireside stools with woven seagrass seats. That evolved into selling kit-set furniture by mail order. 

More than 80 years later, Ashford Handicrafts Ltd has become a world-leading manufacturer of spinning wheels, weaving looms and textile equipment. Alongside manufacturing, the company sells over 1000 different products in 40+ countries.  

With a loyal team of 45 employees, it’s produced over 900,000 wheels and looms – and that number is growing quickly.  

Today, co-owners CEO James Ashford and CFO David Lister run the company.  

“My father Richard took over the business in 1988, and here I am, a third-generation Ashford taking it over as well."

- James Ashford, CEO, Ashford Handicrafts

“Our ambition is to be the best textile equipment manufacturer in the world. We’re already world leaders in manufacturing spinning wheels and weaving looms. Over the years, we’ve expanded into multiple new markets, and I think Walter would be incredibly proud of where the business is today.” 

A lifetime investment in your business management software

Over the past few years, Ashford Handicrafts has seen rapid growth. The pandemic contributed to a sharp increase in retail sales, and the manufacturing team continues to get bigger to match the demand.    

The complex process of manufacturing and distributing products overseas in multiple currencies was further compounded when the company’s American distributor retired. 

“Suddenly, we had to onboard a large number of retailers. We had a lot more work to do, and we needed to develop our processes to support those customers,” James says.  

“As a manufacturing business, it’s critical to know where you're going,” David says. “That’s hard to do when your system doesn’t allow access to timely financial information.” 

David spent several years searching for a system that would support the complexity and speed of the company’s growth. James, who comes from a software development background, was also a strong advocate for investing in technology that would help it scale more efficiently.  

“Our entire company uses MYOB Advanced Business – it’s been a great choice. It gives us a single source of truth so we can make decisions in real-time, and it can scale with us as we grow.”  

- James Ashford, CEO, Ashford Handicrafts

Both James and David agree that MYOB Advanced Business is the best fit for Ashford Handicrafts today, tomorrow – and in the future.  

“When choosing an ERP system, you need to make sure that your choice will last a lifetime. You don't want to be switching ERP systems every few years,” James says. 

Real-time reporting equals fast decision-making 

One of David’s biggest pain points before MYOB Advanced Business was getting real-time sales information. That made it hard to effectively track business performance and it took too long to pull even the simplest reports.  

That’s all changed with MYOB Advanced Business. 

“Since implementing MYOB Advanced Business, we’ve been able to grow significantly – without increasing the administrative overhead,” David explains.  

“We can access information from anywhere in the world, and we’ve reduced the time it takes to close off the month from ten to five days.” 

- David Lister, CFO, Ashford Handicrafts

David has customised a dashboard with key performance indicators such as sales by currency and kilograms shipped per day. This lets him see how the business is doing at a glance.

Each month, the system automatically pulls Profit and Loss (P&L) and general management reporting, which used to take days without a single source of truth. 

“MYOB Advanced Business has allowed our accounting and admin functions to streamline processes and free up time for more value-add tasks,” David explains.

Made for growing manufacturers 

Another big advantage of MYOB Advanced Business is its built-in functionality for manufacturing.   

Using work centres and automated timers, the company can accurately estimate when products will run low. It can also connect raw materials to their bill of materials and calculate accurate job costings. The flow-on effect is better allocation of resources in the factory.  

“MYOB Advanced Business can manage complex manufacturing processes and has a comprehensive financial management component for multi-currency selling.”   

- David Lister, CFO, Ashford Handicrafts

“It’s a very user-friendly system that we’ve tailored to suit us – and that’s helped drive efficiencies across the business.” 

MYOB’s open API means the company has integrated MYOB Advanced Business with all its other systems – like the B2B and B2C partner portals and eCommerce store.  

That automatic flow of data – stock levels, pricing – has become a critical part of delivering a great customer experience.  

“We can deliver information to our customers, our freight forwarders, and our team in production to get everything on board as quickly as possible,” James explains.  

“It’s a big time-saver for our administrative team – having a single source of truth means we don’t have to replicate data across multiple systems.”  

New opportunities for growth 

With the world constantly changing, James says it’s critical for any business, especially a manufacturer, to know where it’s headed. The only way to get that visibility is to use tools like MYOB Advanced Business.  

“Our ambition is to continue to grow and expand, add new marketplaces and develop new products. MYOB Advanced Business will help us on that journey.”

- James Ashford, CEO, Ashford Handicrafts

David adds that when the system went live, the company had 100% confidence in the data and that there wouldn’t be any issues moving forward.  

“I couldn’t recommend MYOB Advanced Business more highly,” James says. “It’s very flexible and made to grow with your business. It’s exactly the system we need to achieve our ambitions.” 

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