Golden Opportunity

Having built up an exceptionally well regarded and successful gallery and framing business, Jenny & Alan Milverton are putting their business up for sale: M F Frames Ltd operates from premises on St Helen’s Street in Ipswich, Suffolk.

If you are interested in finding out more about the business sale, please contact Jenny or Alan on 01473 225544, or via email

 Jenny & Alan have made the decision finally to hand the baton on, because;

“… a small house in Italy beckons! And we are coming up to retirement age and want to do certain things before we keel over.”

Even if you are not ready to take over a business, you will be inspired to find out how the Milvertons and M F Frames Ltd started.

Where Did It All Begin?

M F Frames LtdStepping out of a production of Ghostbusters one January morning in 1985, looking across the busy road and thinking, “that would be a good site for a gallery and framing shop”: opposite a theatre and right by the traffic lights. With all the confidence of (comparative) youth, Alan had decided that he could do better working for himself than for the absentee owner of the business, where he was then employed.

By June of 1985 the business was open, with Alan and his framing partner standing in their newly painted shop – just waiting for the customers to flock in. Those first couple of years were HARD and the partner, who had a young family to support, left for other employment. Within another year Alan was employing a couple of part timers and the business soon outgrew the available space.

Offices, Galleries & Workshops

A workshop was found nearby and with the division of labour that this entailed I then decided to leave my job in order to man the shop. We soon realised that the logistics of having the workshop off site were not ideal and, when the offices above the shop became vacant, we took them on, creating a gallery space until such time as the lease on the workshop expired. This all coincided nicely with the recession of 1991/2 so the next few years were tough – maintaining effectively three premises and more staff than we could afford.

With natural wastage and finally bringing the workshop and gallery together under one roof we recovered, and have been toddling along quite nicely ever since. Credit crunch, what credit crunch? – Oh! Yes, this one. Fortunately we are of such long standing that we seem to be surviving despite a definite downturn in picture sales and corporate customers. We have become an “Institution” !!

In these twenty five years we have framed almost everything, served as varied a mix of customers as could be desired and seen tastes in pictures and frames go almost full circle.


What have we learnt?

Lesson 1.

Yes, you can start a business from scratch, but by golly it takes a few years of sweat and tears to achieve what you could have had instantly by buying in to an existing business.

Lesson 2.

If you are no good at book keeping then pay somebody who is. After our first couple of years we realised that this was not our strong point, and, as importantly, that the VAT and TAX man are much happier to see well kept and understood accounts. Don’t go for one of the big accountants, there are plenty of one man bands out there and you should find somebody who suits you.

Lesson 3.

Don’t under price in order to get the customer, once you start that then yes, you will make some customers happy, but you won’t make any money. Unfortunately there are people who can’t afford bespoke frame, and that’s that.

Lesson 4.

Invest in yourself. Alan qualified as a Guild Commended Framer in the late 1980’s and it does make a difference, both to his and other people's confidence in him. The Fine Art Trade Guild is there to support the industry, so make the most of them.


The Best Investment

Our Quick Price Picture Framing software. We bought this just over two years ago and it made such a difference to our profitability. Prior to that we used a chart, well designed by a member of staff, which had sizes down one side, prices along the top and variables – well only a picture framer knows how many variables there are in any one job. No matter how good the chart you sometimes cannot be accurate down to the last few pounds, let alone pennies.

With framing software, once you have fed all the information in, then the machine does it for you. Not only that but the customer is much happier to accept a price which they see building up on the screen than the framer, scratching their head, holding the chart at all angles and scribbling down various figures.

Our website. Keeping up to date is important, technology changes, communication changes and you need to be seen as a part of the 21st century. We have had a website for the past 10 years and are just in the process of redesigning it to reflect the changes in even that short time.

Visit M F Frames Ltd: (opens in new window)


The Secret Of Successful Framing?

It really helps if you like framing things. A bit obvious I know but if, after many years, you can still feel passionate about a new moulding that your friendly rep has put under your nose, and immediately start visualising what you would like to put it round – then you’re clearly hooked. Equally, if you can still muster up enthusiasm for the same cross stitch design that you have seen many times before, and help your customer choose what is right for them – then their pleasure when you open the parcel continues to be a worthwhile reward.


Posted on: 23 Feb 2010@15:25:57, updated on: 23 Feb 2010@15:25:57.