A FORMER Hermitage Academy pupil aims to make his architecture firm one of the largest in the UK.

Danny Campbell, who celebrated his 31st birthday earlier this month, has already shown he has the necessary abilities as innovator and entrepreneur - for example his current bid to sell branded blue bricks at £25,000 each.

The handmade Danish Kolumba brick was at one time believed to be the world’s most expensive brick used in construction, costing around £4.50.

He has produced 20 of the Hoko bricks, available through a crowdfunding campaign at hokodesign.com/crowdfunding.

“With our crowdfunding campaign, Hoko will become the home architecture firm owned by homeowners,” he tells me. “We are building something special - and those who own a Hoko brick are right at the heart of it and everything it will become.

“£25,000 may seem a huge amount for one brick, but it is so much more than that. It’s a chance to own part of home architecture’s history and its future.”

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He is also using www.crowdcube.com/hoko to attract investors to his firm, Hoko Design, which turned over £1.1m over the last 12 month rolling period. Several millions worth of work is in progress, and this is growing month on month.

The previous 12 months it was £380k and the year before that £90k, which shows how fast it is growing.

All this is thanks to a Hermitage Academy teacher who praised his technical drawing.

Danny was born in Sunderland in November 1990, when his father was studying medicine in Newcastle.

The family moved to Garelochhead in 1995 when he was four, and he went to the village primary school. In 2002 they moved to Rhu where he lived until he left home at 17.

“I was quite a disruptive pupil at the Academy, and I’m sure my teachers will vouch for this,” he admits.

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“I was OK at school in terms of grades, but definitely not a high achiever by any means.

“When you are young you always get asked ‘what are you going to be’, and saying you don’t know always seemed to garner disappointment.

“So I was looking for a one word answer, like most youngsters, which was respectable and exciting.

“In my first graphic communication lesson in first year the teacher, Mr Cameron, made a point of saying how good I was at technical drawing, using a drawing board.

“He gave me a standard grade paper to try, and I managed it reasonably well. That was the first and probably only time I was singled out for doing good work in class, and it shocked me.

“I went home and asked my mother which jobs used graphic communication and she immediately started jumping up and down and telling everyone I was going to be an architect - my fate was sealed.”

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When he left school he studied architecture at Glasgow School of Art and Leicester, graduating Bachelor of Architecture in 2012. A spell working as a labourer in Canada followed.

When he returned to Scotland he tore up the architect’s rule book and thought deeply about how to do things differently, and it all came together when he set up Hoko in 2016.

He decided to use a new business model and launched it on April 1, 2019, the day he moved into their first office and the day his first employee, now the technical director, started.

It was also the day his second son, Douglas, was born.

Danny says: “We are committed to doing things our own way. We’re going against the grain and we’re proud about that.

“There is huge creative potential in destroying preconceived ideas about architects and this has seen Hoko grow into a national company, changing lives and homes across the UK.

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“Hoko Design is an architecture practice providing services to residential homeowners for extensions, renovations and new builds.

“We have reinvented the typical architecture practice model to focus on the client journey, and by doing so have seen a tenfold increase in productivity – reaching 50 clients in the first six months – and some fantastic designs.

“I set it up because I felt there was an opportunity to provide families, the elderly and individuals with a level of service they currently couldn’t receive in an industry which is still shrouded in mystery.

“We’re surely one of the fastest growing companies in Scotland, certainly we are in the start-up scene, and in terms of architecture we’ve definitely got the potential to become one of the largest UK firms.

“We’ve got international ambitions as well. On the biggest home renovation online platform in the world we’re ranked seventh out of 14,000 architects in the UK.”

I asked him if he had had any setbacks to overcome, and he replied: “Absolutely loads! The setbacks are endless and unrelenting.

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“What I have developed however is a really strong culture at Hoko and a management team which not only supports me and the business but constantly surpasses my expectations.

“There seems to be this attitude in business that people are the biggest problem to overcome, or that you need to screw people over to get to the top. I totally disagree with this.

“I aim to help as many people as possible find fulfillment, purpose and balance at work, and by doing this I’ve been helped so many times back in return.

“There in an economy of scale in growing a quality team – we’re now employing 34 staff across the UK. Over time the challenges have become bigger, I’ve built up resilience to these setbacks, and embrace them.

“I want to look back at this time in my life and reflect on the chaos, and that I enjoyed being at the centre of something that is changing the world.”

After coming through a slight and entirely predictable downturn because of the pandemic, Danny believes now is the perfect time to grow Hoko further, with lockdown helping to drive unprecedented demand in the housing and home improvement market.

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With more prospective buyers and a shortage of houses on the market, he is confident his business can capitalise on those who turn their focus instead to upgrading their current property.

Despite having offices in Glasgow, London, Birmingham, Bristol, Brighton and Inverness, his life is certainly not all work and no play.

“I have played rugby all my life, first for Helensburgh from 5 to 18. I loved it, it’s a great rugby club,” he said. “I also played semi pro in England and overseas in Canada.

“I still play in the Scottish National Two league for Glasgow High Kelvinside. In a very busy family, personal and business life it’s the one time I fully express pure carefree joy.”

He and his wife have made their home in Kirkintilloch, and they have three sons aged 4, 2 and six weeks.

Looking to the future, he said: “How homeowners experience architecture and the whole home remodelling journey is broken, in my opinion. It’s my life’s work to fix it.

“Once we conclude our crowdfund we will be expanding across the whole of the UK to service every homeowner, and beyond this we have international ambitions.”

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If you have a story from Helensburgh and Lomond's past or present you think might be suitable for a future Eye on Millig column, email the details to eyemillig@btinternet.com.