Niche housebuilder Nigel Styles talks to Elise Mason about what it's like to give up a secure job and face the challenges and rewards of striking out your own
What made you decide to leave your job as a land director and set up housebuilder South East Living?
There were two reasons. Setting up my own company had been something that I'd always wanted to do. And at that particular time, roughly three years ago, I felt there was a gap in the market for high specification houses with contemporary design.

Did you find it difficult setting up your own company?
Yes. The first year was particularly difficult as the company was new to the industry and there wasn't a lot of money coming in. That's the same for most new companies. And of course it took a lot of hard work.

What were your first steps to setting up the business?
After coming up with the initial concept, I looked around for a site to develop. After I'd secured funding for the business I was ready to start straight away on a 20-unit project. I now employ four people full time and use a variety of consultants. Most of our units sell for about £250,000 and we turned over £5m this year.

Did your background as a land director give you good training for going alone?
It gave me a good understanding of the industry and I knew what setting up on my own would entail. But it wasn't until I started my own company that I gained good experience of the actual building side of the industry.

What do you like most about having your own business?
The end result after all the hard work, and the satisfaction of building a good quality home that will hopefully sell well.

What's the down side of being the boss?
Not much really. I suppose I could say it's all the company issues, VAT and accounts.

What are your developments at Beckenham and Paddock Wood like?
The apartments in Beckenham are contemporary and have a town house feel. Paddock Wood is completely different and the homes are more Victorian. We have a wide range of styles and like to try to be different on every site.

Where would you like your company to be in five years' time?
One of my aims would be to try and bring the city living style out of London to places further away, such as Kent. I'd also like us to be building four or five sites a year and for the company to have gained a good reputation for itself.

Personal details

Employment history
Started out as a land buyer, later becoming a land director at Prowting Homes. Before starting his own company, he worked as a land director at Crest Nicholson Residential
Two daughters