Sophie Owen is a young designer at Qudaus Living, who is studying kitchen design at Bucks New University and has recently been shortlisted for three prestigious KBB industry design awards. She tells us how she came to kitchen design and what she loves about her degree and her job.
UPDATE: Following the news that there will be no new enrolments for the academic year 2022/23, Bucks New University has confirmed that it will fulfil its commitments to current students, so Sophie will be able to complete her course.
My early ambition was to be a wedding dress designer but when it came to starting work, I was offered the opportunity to join Belinda (my aunt), at Qudaus as a trainee kitchen designer. Working as part of a small family team was appealing and I was given the opportunity to begin studying via an apprenticeship in Business Administration.
I loved working in the showroom from the outset. Meeting people and interacting with clients and being part of a process that I could start with initial design ideas and see completed in customers’ homes is extremely satisfying.
My studies are supplemented with hands-on training from Belinda and the team, as well as dedicated training courses from manufacturers and suppliers on appliances and furniture.
I soon realised that there was a lot to learn so jumped at the chance to join the Foundation Degree course in kitchen design at Bucks New University. I am just coming to the end of my first year. I love this course, and it is great that the teaching is related to the work that I do in the showroom. I have learnt so much and enjoy delving into the topics I use at work in more depth.
It's sometimes challenging to manage the studies with a full-time job, but I'm committed and believe it will be worth it. All of the lectures are online in the evenings – generally we have one a week, which lasts a couple of hours, and I do the coursework and other study required in my own time. In addition there are three residential weekends a year. These are long weekends, and whilst we had to do some online during Covid, these are now take place at the University. I am lucky that Qudaus Living provide expenses to cover the costs of travelling and feeding myself whilst away, as well as giving me any of the days that would be working days, to attend, without losing any holidays.
The residential are my favourite part of the course. I love the social aspect of being with fellow students and meeting lots of interesting people from the industry. We have a number of core lecturers and others that come in to present on their specialist topics.
I am lucky to have such a supportive team, there is always someone to talk to and help out. I am also grateful that Qudaus Living has committed to fund 50% of my course fee, every year. For this current year the other 50% was met by the KBSA and Fisher & Paykel. I'm hopeful that we will find other companies to fund the next year of my course.
I would recommend this kind of part-time study whilst working – it's a good way to gain a recognisable qualification whilst building up skills and experience. It has also helped me find areas that I am passionate about. We covered accessible kitchens this year, which is something I would love to specialise in and will have the opportunity as Qudaus Living are extending their range of accessible products, which will allow me to develop my expertise and contribute to the growth of this part of the business.
I'm interested in continuing my studies at Bucks University and hope to continue my studies with the BA (Hons) Kitchen Design top-up course. There is so much opportunity for progression here at Qudaus – one day I'd like to manage the showroom and even have my own showroom. In the meantime, I love my work and hope to win one of the awards I am shortlisted for!