The following article is from the IKT magazine published in January 2023 detailing Martin’s recent Lifetime Achievement Award:
Martin O’Connor was born and raised in Valleymount Co. Wicklow in 1955 and is the 3rd< youngest of a family of 13 children.
Both Martin’s parents were entrepreneurs in their own right and together ran a pub, shop and a trucking business. Unfortunately, Martin’s father passed away when he was just 7 years old.
This did not deter Martin’s Mother Julia and she continued to work the shop and pub and see all 13 of her children successfully through school.
Martin clearly inherited his entrepreneurial skills from his parents and he made his first business transaction at the tender age of 8 when Martin and his brother Liam sold the families donkeys for just 5 punts, much to his mother’s dismay.
Martin started working for his older brother Charlie in the saw mills during the weekends and summer holidays at the age of 10. He progressed quickly through the ranks and when he completed his leaving cert at 17 he joined Charlie as a production manager in West Wicklow designs.
Martin met Ann, his wife, partner in life and business in 1974.
Together with Ann’s support, Martin started to move towards opening their own company. He saw a niche in the market supplying solid kitchen doors and components nationwide. In 1979 Timbercraft was officially opened.
The birthplace of Timbercraft originated in Valleymount at the back of the family pub.
Eager for a space to start production, Martin cut down his mother’s apple orchard and built a workshop in its place, on a weekend that his mother was away. On her return, Mrs O’ Connor was less than happy, but recognised the determination in Martin and gave her nod of approval.
All Timbercraft now needed was their first order. Sitting on top of the roof of the pub, connecting a phone line to the new workshop, Martin took his first ever Timbercraft order, a large order to Chris McGown, destined for Sligo.
By 1982 Timbercraft had outgrown the workshop in Valleymount and moved to their new premises in Newbridge Co. Kildare. Together Martin and Ann, after extensive research, involving trips to America, constructed a purposed built 15,000sq.ft manufacturing factory and showrooms. It was officially opened in April 1983 by Minister for Finance, at the time, Mr Alan Dukes.
By 1985, timbercraft was one of the largest door manufacturers in Ireland and by 1987 were exporting to the UK and were exporting to Les Care in America by 1991.
At its peak Timbercraft employed over 100 people from west Wicklow and Newbridge. Timbercraft was one of the first users of CNC and automated technology in Ireland. This progressive way of thinking saw Timbercraft receiving awards from National bodies such as FAS and the IDA for business achievements and success in exporting.
Martin has always been a believer in supporting young people. Through Timbercraft, many young people gained apprenticeships in Cabinet Making, Wood Machining and Wood Finishing. They also got the chance to upskill and train and move on to other things. Many are still working in the industry.
Martin was also a very diverse employer. Betty and Maura Dooley were the first female apprentices in Wood Machining & Cabinet Making in Ireland. They received their graduation certificates from non-other than Bertie Ahern who later went on to become the Taoiseach.
During this period Martin also undertook the challenge of returning to study and in 1987 he received his certificate in Business Development from the Irish Management institute.
Whilst this growth in business was exceptional, it brought its own challenges and Martin decided to pull it back down to more manageable portions.
One of the keys to Martin’s success has been the ability to recognise change. The fast-paced growth in design trends and socio-economic challenges were quickly recognised by Martin and in 2004 Timbercraft started to import the German Kitchen Brand Nobilia.
Martin very quickly recognised the ease and efficiency in importing and quickly introduced Nobilia in the Irish market.
Since 2004, Martin has established over 25 Nobilia retailers in Ireland and provides ongoing support to ensure their businesses are as strong as possible. Martin has first-hand experience from the workshop to the Showroom floor and has implemented processes across the dealership to ensure they have successful businesses while being able to spend time at home with their families.
Martin and Ann themselves, have an ever-expanding family with 5 children and 10.5 grandchildren. Martin and Ann’s sole focus was to provide a comfortable living for their children. Education and life experiences were at the foundation of Martin and Ann’s home, for which I know their children are forever grateful. Martins, 2nd youngest child Aine, has worked with Martin from the young age of 13 and after qualifying as an Architect and working in practice, has now joined Timbercraft in her role of Senior Design Manager and will be an inspiring role in the company’s future.
Martin also recognises the importance of having a good time around him. His long term colleagues, friends & family, Sheila Kinane,(Martins sister), Joe Tutty, Vincent Balfe and Pat Kinsella have been an unwavering support to him over his 43 years in business.
Timbercraft is continuing to invest for the future and has just finished a state-of-the-art renovation of its Newbridge showroom. This is a flagship showroom for Nobilia and together with their Dublin showroom, and Nobilia dealership network, this cements and provides exciting prospects in Timbercrafts future in the Irish kitchen industry.
Martin has an incredible work ethic and is known to be a true gentleman in the kitchen industry. We are delighted to present him with this lifetime achievement award after over 43 years in this industry. Congratulations Martin.IKTAwards-2022_IKTG65