Suffolk electrician who swapped careers after wife's illness marks milestone

Robert Kennedy and Tracey Cullen-Kennedy have celebrated 20 years in the furniture business.

Robert Kennedy and Tracey Cullen-Kennedy have celebrated 20 years in the furniture business. - Credit: Warren Page/Pagepix

A former Suffolk electrician who swapped careers to sell furniture when his wife was unwell has celebrated 20 years in business.

Robert Cullen-Kennedy, originally from Sudbury, made the leap in search of a better work-life balance when Tracey, his wife, was diagnosed with a series of health issues.

The 49-year-old father-of-two had previously travelled all over the UK as a self-employed electrician but wanted to work closer to home. 

Now the couple have clocked up 20 years in business and are toasting the tenth anniversary of opening their second Kennedy’s Furniture and Beds store at Clacton Shopping Village.

“We have no regrets, it’s been a much better way of life,” Robert said.

“We live locally and most of the deliveries are local. It’s meant the difference between leaving at dawn and getting home after dark to having breakfast as a family and getting home when it’s light.  It’s definitely more stable in terms of family life.

“The time has flown. It’s an achievement just to keep going in business in this industry, especially with the ups and downs of Covid.

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“After opening up our second store we extended our product ranges moving deeper into the bed market. It helped us not just to survive but flourish. It seems that many independents couldn’t compete with the chains and just disappeared.’’

The couple, celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary last year, and have two children, a son aged 23 and a daughter of 14.

Tracey, 51, currently takes a behind-the-scenes administrative role, while Robert takes care of the shop floor.

She said: “We originally opened our store as I was diagnosed with different conditions in my 20s which impacted on me physically.

“We now have a much better work-life balance which is made easier with the help and support of friends and family including two wonderful employees who have both become great friends and have been very loyal and valued members of staff for many years.”

Robert said: “You have to think big. A lot of people think we’re part of a chain and ask where our other stores are in the country and we have to explain that it’s not like that, we are an independent family business.

“The reality is we are just standing up there against the big companies, which is our aim, and so far it has worked out well.”