Taking the reins of the family business, Utopia Computers managing director Craig Hume tells Rob Horgan about building PCs at home with dad, the challenges of Brexit and his utopian vision for the future of techology.
How did Utopia Computers first set up?
The business has been running for over 20 years now. My dad set it up in the early ‘90s, when the internet was starting to become popular. He had a love for technology, and after running a number of businesses he decided to turn his hand to selling computers.
After returning home to Glasgow from Canada, he first set up a restaurant, then he had a car garage and he even ran a pub. I grew up watching him set up and run many businesses over the years, but his real passion was always technology, so when the time came, setting up Utopia was a perfect match for him. I loved watching him work at something he loved and I see my role as making sure everyone at Utopia loves what they do to this day.
What challenges are there working with family?
I have been involved from the very beginning. My dad used to build computers in the house and when I was a teenager I used to tag along with him, go to events and help him out wherever I could.
When I left university I decided to join the family business full-time. As anyone who has been involved in a family business will know, it can be difficult at times. It was certainly an interesting time when we were working together. Now my dad is enjoying his retirement, I’m putting my own stamp on the company and taking it in the direction that I believe is best for the business to grow.
Looking back I feel very lucky to have got to spend those years working and learning from him. Not everyone gets to share so many achievements and fun times with their Dad.
Where do you see the business growing?
While we are no longer a family business, our culture has grown to include the full team in our Utopia family. By ensuring we give the best opportunities to our team, Utopia gets the best out of everyone.
As for growing we were just at a planning meeting for moving to a new multi-million pound Innovation Hub, Halo. After an amazing stroke of luck, this world leading facility is being built on our doorstep and will house some of Scotland’s leading tech firms. The fact that we have been approached to be included is a massive testament to the hard work that my team have put in over the years and the transformation that the business has seen over the last six or seven years. We currently have 10 members of staff, but plans are already in place to increase that number over the next two years as we grow in the new space.
Originally we started by building our own brand systems in an attempt to create the cheapest, but now we build the very best, fastest, PCs in the world. That allows us to attract a different kind of client that has subsequently made a big impact on our growth over the last 12 months and will continue to do so moving forward.
We are working with some big names now throughout the UK and Europe, such as the University of Cambridge, University of Florence as well as several AAA-title game and film studios. We see education and leading-edge entertainment as a serious growth area for our business.
What products do you find generate the most interest?
Our Sonox series of workstations are without a doubt our number one seller. We are extremely proud of this range and the results speak for themselves. We have plans to develop new, more innovative systems over the coming years and we have found ourselves a very niche pool, where we can thrive due to our fanatical attention to detail and performance. GPU rendering is definitely where we are seeing the biggest growth.
Who do you mainly sell to?
Being on the internet allows us to do business all over the world. We currently have customers in 13 different countries across Europe and, while we are keen to grow our export sales, there is still so much for us to do here in the UK, so we don’t need to rush to focus too much on international growth just yet.
Saying that, political changes will bring about a challenging time for us in Scotland, and everybody else who operates across the continent. The landscape between Brexit and another possible Scottish referendum is something we are closely monitoring. When the Brexit results came in last year, a lot of companies put the brakes on. However, we continued to carry on and decided to keep pushing forwards. With challenges come opportunities, and as a business we must capitalise on them.
Year established: 1994
Number of stores: 1
Number of staff: 10
Address: 29-31 High Glencairn St, Kilmarnock, KA1 4AE
Telephone: 01563 574 280