Andrew Kember has a huge waiting list of people clamouring for his Salix cricket bats, but he insists on keeping his operation just the way it is. He explained why to James Fisher.
‘The success of any small business relies on making something to a tremendously high standard,’ says Andrew Kember. ‘After that, everything falls into place.’
He should know, because, in 1990, he set up the Salix Cricket Bat Company that, arguably, produces the finest handmade bats in the country.
Mr Kember is an avid cricket fan, admitting that it was ‘a love of the game’ that first lured him into the trade, but he also comes from a family of craftsmen – his great grandfather was a wheelwright – and had access to workshops and tools from an early age.
‘Crafting bats was a really good way of combining the two interests. It’s such a natural thing,’ he enthuses.
Having trained under the legendary John Newbery, Mr Kember forged his own path after his mentor passed away. ‘At that point, I had to make a decision as to what to do next,’ he says. ‘I didn’t look at the industry and think, “Oh, there’s a space here”.
‘I just wanted to keep making bats and work closer to home. I made some bats and, thankfully, people wanted them.’
Every Salix is created from start to finish by hand and, despite demand consistently outstripping supply, Mr Kember is wary about expanding the business.
‘I’ve seen “handmade” companies move manufacturing overseas and it erodes the brand,’ he says.
‘You have to keep the trust between the company and customer. It’s a craft, with so many processes and so many bits and pieces – people don’t believe it takes so much to achieve the final product. We don’t want to rush anything we do.’
The results speak for themselves. Stroll out to the crease with a Salix in your hand and 11 pairs of eyes will follow you. They all want one, but, like so many others, they’ll just have to wait.