Dominic Green lives in a nice house in a nice part of Trumpington, he had a good job on TV until the pandemic, and recently started his own high-end lampshade business.
It sounds promising, but there is another side to the story. Dominic hasn’t had the heat this year. He received universal credit, used food banks, and his doctor put him on antidepressants. His television work has dried up, and the lampshade business has yet to generate significant income. And accessing the commercial support offered by the government proved to be an ordeal that almost shattered him. It took Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) months to process his claim, leaving him on the brink of disaster.
Dominic is surely one of the other unnamed formerly OK residents of Cambridge who were bowled over by the pandemic in what was already the UK’s most uneven city.
âI was born in London and moved to Cambridge when I was eight,â says Dominic, 57, who attended Impington Village College. âI traveled, I toured South East Asia and I lived in Hong Kong for a while. I went to Japan for seven years. I loved the culture, the history. I did aikido intensely for six years and became second dan. I played with two former Kodo members [a performing arts ensemble]. I went on tour with them in Hawaii and for concerts in southern Japan. All of these amazing things have happened.
âI also started a school to teach English and ran a small travel business. “
Upon his return to the UK, Dominic, who was fluent in Japanese and had a Japanese wife, became an interpreter and began working for Thomas Cook. He decides to take up photography. Very soon a friend asked for his help in getting a Japanese TV producer to travel to England and “before I knew it I had to assemble a full TV crew, set up all the interviews and the route, and drive.”
In 2001 he started his own business, Bigfoot Productions, in 2001 became a parent and started up.
âBigfoot works exclusively for Japanese clients. It could involve commercials, music videos, documentaries, news,â¦ I was in full swing until February 2020. â
Once the pandemic began, customers from Japan stopped visiting.
âWhen Rishi Sunak announced the first grant programs, I thought, ‘Thank goodness for that.’ “
But that’s when the real hardships started. An immediate problem was that the grants are given to the people, not the business. Suffice to say that Bigfoot has so far only received half of the grant and, to add insult to injury, “they are fining us for late filing which is entirely due to them, to their disjointed systems. – not to mention their incompetence “. Dominic adds that “they desperately stick to their guns because they don’t have the manpower to revise [the case] correctly”.
The human cost has been horrendous. His wife traveled to Japan in September last year “to spend time with her sick father, and also because of financial hardship.” She hasn’t come back yet.
âI only survive thanks to the generosity of friends and by selling personal effects,â says Dominic. âAnd the Universal Credit. We are over six months behind on our mortgage, my wife cannot afford to fly to be together again. I can barely eat and pay the bills without a mortgage and my mental and physical health has deteriorated dramatically because of that alone. It absolutely ruined my sense of social well-being and worth. It made me very lonely in poverty and fear for a long time.
Again, Dominic is referring to the bigger picture – how many people, living in seemingly good conditions, are actually going through the worst times here in Cambridge?
âIt’s a real car accident over there,â says Dominic. “People don’t talk about it sitting in the pub, maybe because there’s a little shame too – you’re broken, you’ve lost all hope, why would you want to go out? It takes you away. I am on antidepressants, and there is also a huge personal cost in terms of friendships and relationships. It’s an absolute horror show and you must be wondering if HMRC has done this to other people as well? It’s supposed to offer support, it’s very weird. The government scholarship depends on people like me getting out of it and paying taxes. It is economic folly not to help people when they are trying to pick up the pieces and keep going.
But Dominic never stopped trying to pick up the pieces and move on, and started a new business. Shades by Dominic Green produces beautifully designed premium lampshades in a home workshop. So how did this happen?
âI had started making lampshades before the confinement,â he says. âI wanted one and couldn’t find one that I liked: I looked for it and thought, ‘I’m going to get the materials I want and sell some of them.’ I wanted to use beautiful material. Then I thought it might be a business.
But there were obstacles.
âI chose Designers Guild flocked fabric – it costs Â£ 100 a yard – but you can’t glue it. No one else does anything with beautiful fabrics. The glues are not strong enough. Then I had a bulb moment and started looking for something that could clip around the edges and hold the fabric in place. And that I could color.
He opted for a border that involved an acrylic airbrush process – “it is not economical to spray it on, but gives a nice finish”.
The next challenge was to find a way to mount a light diffuser in the shade.
âUsually this is done with spokes, but I thought there had to be a better way. My idea was that I wanted to see a bit of the inside of the shade with the diffuser in place, to keep it away from the edge. So I thought, ‘Magnets’. Why not?”
The magnets, bought off the shelf, certainly contribute to the overall quality of the product. He is looking to create a point of sale with Liberty London.
âWhat I want it to be is not a factory, it’s a bespoke service for interior designers that matches what they want in terms of the design of a room,â Dominic adds. . âI am targeting the middle and upper end of the market. “
Six have been sold to date.
âThey are totally unique. There is only one company in the UK that makes something similar, using methods they have always used. For 2022, I can do five a week: if I sell three a week, I can survive on that.
HMRC has confirmed that five Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant applications have been submitted.
A spokesperson said: âAs he missed the (extended) deadline to submit a 2019-2020 income tax return, he was not eligible for the fourth and fifth grants as eligibility depended on filing. a declaration no later than March 2, 2021. However, after filing his declaration and accepting his challenge, he was able to claim the fourth and fifth scholarships.
His wife’s claim for compensation “now belongs to the arbitrator”.
Under normal circumstances, a product that disrupts the status quo – with two new solutions to challenge traditional ways – would be a game-changer.
You can imagine that in Cambridge someone would hear about Dominic Green’s Shades and think, âThis is a good investment. Indeed, for Â£ 50,000, Dominic could secure his 2022 schedule. But there is still time: who knows what might appear?