The business has been set up by ex-Timber Trade president and former co-owner of T Brewer and Buildbase timber products manager Keith Fryer, together with Matt Kiely and Tim Gelardi.

Both the latter are data analysts and Mr Kiely also managed a family building supplies business.

“It may be a challenging time to launch a business, but we feel we’ve got a good mix of skills and experience; with my career in the industry and knowledge of the mistakes not to make again, Matt’s time in the building supplies sector and his and Tim’s data skills enabling us to set up a modern, highly efficient business model.”

Fort has a 1.5 acre site on a WWII USAF airfield, where it has refurbished some of the original buildings. It even has the officers’ mess stars and stripes on the office wall.

“In terms of area we serve, our points on the compass are Newbury to the east, Swindon to the west, Marlborough to the south and Wantage to the north,” said Mr Fryer.

“It’s a rural area and we don’t have a lot of competition providing what we offer. We didn’t officially open until January 13, but were already taking orders.”

Fort offers the range of building products and principally construction and landscape timber and wood products. Suppliers, particularly of timber, have been “fantastically supportive”. The same could not be said of banks, however, said Mr Fryer.

“We had a hugely detailed business plan, developed over two years, but without exception at the big banks the computer said no! They just seem to be in hugely defensive mode.”

Mr Kiely and Gelardi’s experience has come into play in rendering the business paperless, with all transactions via phone, tablet and computer.

“We can take a PDF of an estimators’ drawings, automatically quantify the job, personalise with the customer’s labour rates, branding and so on, then send back for them to send out as a quote to their customer,” said Mr Fryer. “It’s a very streamlined, cost effective system, but probably easier and cheaper to implement in a start-up than an existing business.”

Fort is also going its own way on certification. Its timber is all PEFC, FSC or FLEGT-licensed, but all sold as guaranteed legal and sustainable under one label, ‘Fortified’.

“We’ll have an annual independent audit and customers won’t have to get their heads around various certification schemes and chains of custody. It will be simpler and cheaper for us and them,” said Mr Fryer. “We believe it’s the way to go.”