Mark Kirton and his wife Elizabeth run Funky Monkey, making vinyl names and decorations for all kinds of boats. Mark tells us why it doesn’t seem like work. What was the idea behind Funky Monkey? When you name a boat, that’s the bit that makes it yours, so it should be fun. Most people were going to the local signwriter, who might not be keen on them ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’ over fonts, and it could be pricey. So we built the programme on the website where people can design their own, and take as long as they like creating the name and decorations. Elizabeth and I started the business in 2005. After a career in printing and exhibitions we wanted to do something more fulfilling. I studied Art and Design at Batley Art College (great fun) and almost every company I’ve worked for has had an element of vinyl signwriting, so it was natural to do that. How does it work? You go to the website, choose the colour, font, any arc, you can put on a drop-shadow, and play around with it. Once you’re happy, you can order online, or call us if you have any questions. We do signs for all sorts of boats, but we’re relaunching our website with a dedicated area for narrowboats. So it will be easier for people to find suitable fonts and there will be roses and castles, diamond stripes and we have frosted portholes with water scenes for bathrooms. We also do stencils, so people can order a stencil and paint it themselves The web designers are waiting on us at the moment – we haven’t had time to do it because it’s the time of year when everyone brings their boats out of the water and we’re working like crazy. Why choose vinyl? Some traditionalists wouldn’t dream of using vinyl, but you can only tell it is vinyl when you get really close. Our website allows you lots of choice and it can be half the price of getting it painted. What’s your best advice for someone having work done? Measure, measure, measure! Don’t guess the size. It is invariably smaller than you think! I was always taught when designing. ‘Less is best’ about 2/3 to ¾ of the available area is about right. Don’t cramp your boat name. Give it room to breathe. What happens if people spell something wrong? I do point it out if it’s obvious, but people do spell things strangely. If it’s a genuine mistake, we’ll just do it again. What’s your favourite part of the work? It doesn’t feel like working to be honest. People on the water tend to be so friendly and relaxed about life. If we do our job properly, then our customers can stay relaxed. People ring us up and say ‘We ordered a boat name from you five years ago. Do you remember?’ and do you know what? Most times we do. We may not remember the customer’s name but we usually remember the people and the boat name! What has been the most interesting job you’ve worked on? It must be doing some of the vinyl for the Italian Americas Cup boat a few years ago. All the carbonfibre and technology going into the sailing boats was phenomenal – Formula One under a shower! Do you go boating? We’re in Lymington, Hampshire and own a 30ft yacht. We’ve sailed dinghies and enjoyed narrowboat holidays on my uncle’s boat. That’s on the Leeds & Liverpool, and we tend to work weekends, so we don’t get up there often. It is nice to be able to sail for an hour after work. Or just cycle down and have a glass of wine sitting on the boat. How has the business changed since you started? With the growth in popularity of the Internet and email, people now expect instant replies, and although we are a technology-driven business, it nice to sometimes not just hit ‘reply’ to an email enquiry, but to pick up the phone and call the customer. Both businesses and customers can get too used to an impersonal way of life. Naming your boat should be very personal event, and by lifting a ‘phone, not only do we get to know the customer and boat better, we can also offer suggestions and advice that perhaps may not have happen through an exchange of emails. I think it’s worth taking a note from the past and remembering that in the end we are just shopkeepers – and good shopkeepers offer good old-fashioned service at a reasonable price and, if you call round, you get a cup of tea and a Hobnob! How can people find out more about Funky Monkey? They should start by going to funkymonkeyboatnames.co.uk, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 01590 671974.