Photos: SKÖNA Design
Alex Forostyanko came to Canada from Ukraine in 1999, to build a better life for himself.
He started working almost immediately, got married and after a couple of years started his own company.
He worked in the woodworking industry because that’s what he knew, and after a couple of years learning and experiencing the Canadian way, Forostyanko says he felt comfortable enough to set out on his own.
“I knew I could do the work so I used my savings to get started and open my own shop,” he says.
“In the beginning, I took on whatever kind of projects I could get, from reception desks to cabinetry, just to be working and build the business. I started out on my own and then as we grew I added staff. Now we have more than 30 employees, a production shop and a separate showroom and things are going great.
“We take great pride in sourcing the best technology and materials to deliver high-quality, in-house manufacturing and workmanship,” Forostyanko says.
Their state-of-the-art facility allows them to fabricate all of their cabinets with the greatest precision, on time and on budget. At SKÖNA Design nothing is outsourced; their team assembles all cabinets at the shop and their teams of expert installers deliver and install the final products on time and on budget.There were challenges
And while he is in a good place now, Forostyanko says at one time he was almost forced to close the company. We had been working steadily and built our brand, he says, starting out from a small 2,000 sq. ft. shop and expanding as we continued to grow, but a few years into it I almost had to close up shop because we had a big client who, even though we had been working with them for years, suddenly decided they didn’t want to pay me.
“It was a lot of money on the line and really quite scary – I almost had a heart attack - and while we did get paid eventually, this experience made me change the way we operate.
“We changed the types of clients we will work with and we are asking to be paid up front now,” Forostyanko says.
“We charge the full amount up front and if someone doesn’t want to do that I tell them not to work with us since they obviously don’t feel comfortable.
“It’s like when you buy a car,” Forostyanko says.
“You don’t ask what kind of brakes they install or whether it is built properly with good components. You trust the brand and you buy their car and we look at it the same way.
“You know we have all kinds of reviews, five-star ratings and facilities so clearly we stand behind our products. Your $35,000 kitchen is not something where we will take your money and run. We have too much invested to play games.
And really, if you think about it, the real problem is that we know nothing about the person coming to us to buy a kitchen. We can’t check them out or their ability to pay us. But they can find out about us and about our commitment and our showroom alone is a half-million dollar investment, so they can see that we are here to stay and deliver them their kitchen as per our agreement.
“Like I said, if you buy an Audi, you don’t ask if it’s built correctly. You know and trust the brand and it’s the same thing with us.”
“Our strategy is that if you come to us, we’ll take you through our showroom to plan your project and if it’s in your budget and the kind of work you want us to do we are asking for a deposit. Then we’ll come to your home or office or whatever it is and measure and do the design with you.
“Once we agree on everything, we tell you the firm price and that’s what we agree on. If there are changes, the price will be adjusted accordingly.
At that point we’ll take a 50 per cent deposit and then five days before we deliver the cabinets we’ll ask for the rest.”
Forostyanko says they explain all the rules up front and that approach has served them well.
“Of course we guarantee our work and we stand behind our products. So for example, a few months after we install the job we send a technician back to your house and check everything and adjust anything that may need adjusting,” he says.
“We know that a cabinet is perfect when we install it, but we install empty cabinets and we know that once you load everything up, the drawer might not slide as easily as when it was empty and we check all those things for free and make them perfect again. That’s just part of our service and I don’t know of another company that does that. But for us, it’s part of the service we provide to our customers.
“It’s the little things that make all the difference for our reputation.
As far as price is concerned, Forostyanko again uses cars as an example. If you ask how much a car is in Canada, the answer is of course that that depends on what kind of car you want to buy. It’s the same with a kitchen. Focus on quality construction
“When we build a cabinet it’s a top-quality product,” Forostyanko says.
“We use thicker, heavier gauge material, lots of screws to make it as strong as possible, and only the best hardware and finishes. So you are looking at a very strong product that is well designed and well built, something that will last you a long time.”
He says it doesn’t make sense trying to save a few bucks on hardware or materials if you then end up with a $30,000 kitchen that doesn’t last or work properly because your doors and drawers don’t open smoothly.
“If a customer wants to save money, we tell them to reduce the design, but never try and save on material or hardware, it’s just not worth it.
“And the same holds true for our finishes. We only use the best finishes, finishes that are durable and won’t yellow over time.
“So if you are looking for a cheap price, we are not the place for you. But if you are looking for great design and top quality construction and finishes, that’s what we do and that’s what we are good at. We don’t cut corners - that’s not something we want to do.”
“If we build you a kitchen, you will get sick of looking at it long before it ever wears out or comes apart. That kind of quality is what we stand for and what we’ve built our reputation on,” Forostyanko says.
Another way they ensure a top-quality product is to only use the best machines in their shop.
“We don’t use cheap machines, only top quality because in the end that’s what makes our products and productivity better, because we can produce higher quality and we don’t have our equipment break down all the time.What’s in a name
Forostyanko says he took the company name SKÖNA, from Swedish, it means beautiful and comfortable and he feels it is a great fit for their products, which focus on clean design and European style cabinetry. “That’s what we do because I always liked those designs.
“If you were to come to me and ask me to build you a traditional kitchen, I would probably send you elsewhere because that’s not our specialty.”
SKÖNA Design will not only build you a beautiful quality kitchen, but they also offer project management.
“We will work with you to figure out the design you want and then build and install your new kitchen. We work with several contractors who are reputable and who we have worked with for a long time, so if you need some remodeling done we can recommend trusted contractors and we help you manage the project for you from start to finish,” he says.
“If you prefer, you can of course hire your own contractors as well and we’ll work with them. We also offer several lines of quality German and Italian appliances and we can also connect you with countertop specialists.
“So, in other words, we can provide you with everything you need to get your dream kitchen on time and on budget.
Forostyanko says they take great pride in everything they do because they know the kitchen is the heart of the home.
“It’s not like a bar in the basement and you go there once or twice a month. The kitchen is something you live with and use every single day, it’s the most important room in the home.
“We are committed to quality crafted in Canada,” Forostyanko says, “and our long-term partnerships with European and world-wide suppliers, are
based on the understanding of our award-winning designs, quality expectations and commitment to sourcing the
best materials, in order to provide our customers with exceptional products.