From PNE to Designer Furniture: Putting Preston on The Map • Preston Guild City
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Preston Guild City

Arial shot of man building furniture

 by Mike Laking Co-Owner of Urban UK

Hello, my name is Mike Laking and I am the Co-Owner of Urban Icon, an online retail store that specialises in designer home and garden furniture. We have launched Urban Icon to run alongside our commercial furniture business MSL Interiors Ltd.

Although we have regional offices in London and Manchester, Preston is forever my home.

MSL Interiors came into being in 2003 and since then we’ve gone on to build an eclectic portfolio of exclusive office furniture from exclusively European manufacturers. We found that many of our manufacturers had a far more extensive portfolio of products than we were able to showcase via MSL Interiors. Hence Urban Icon was born as an e-commerce platform to feature exclusive and design oriented products suited to the domestic market.

Our industry experience now spans over 10 years and as the business has developed our geographic reach is quite literally global. Although the vast majority of project work is UK based we have recently completed projects for the French Embassy in Washington DC, a veterinary practice in California together with any number of projects in Spain, France and the Middle East.

My heart has always resided in Lancashire. I was after all, born and bred in Preston. When (much!) younger I played for the mighty PNE apprentice team and had trials over with Blackburn Rovers too. Alas a career in football was never to be and I briefly worked as a policeman with Lancashire Constabulary located in Bamber Bridge, prior to being lured to do a degree in Industrial Studies at Sheffield Hallam University.

After completing my degree I headed down to London for fame and fortune both of which eluded me! I worked as a programmer analyst for Rank Xerox, then moved into the FMCG environment selling cheese and margarine for Kraft Foods, and then into the Capital Equipment market, selling material handling equipment. I then took this wealth of experience to the University of Sheffield, where I completed a Masters Degree in Business Administration (MBA).

I returned to Preston in 2002 where I then set up MSL Interiors with my business partner Jonathan Spence. Over the last 10 years the business has gone from strength to strength and there are only more exciting things to come, especially with the launch of Urban Icon. We even chose a Preston-based digital marketing agency, Bespoke Internet, to build the website!

Preston will always be my home and it’s given me a prime location for our national and international activities. With the motorway network on the doorstep, the major economic centres of Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester are easily accessible and courtesy of the West Coast Line, regular business trips into London can be made with a couple of hours.

With both Liverpool and Manchester airports close by, the world is a much smaller place and they make visiting our European partners a relatively straightforward prospect. Where we will be in another decade who knows but one thing is for sure, we won’t be too far away from this great northern city.