Starting a building business in the middle of the worst recession to hit the trade for 50 years may seem strange.

But twins Craig and Ian Baldwin, 32, who grew up in Cowley, started their online company last year and already have a serious success on their hands — with an annual turnover of nearly £1m and three employees.

Craig said: “We started Building Supplies Online because my father, Graham, was retiring as a carpenter. We all thought that starting a business like this would make a good retirement job for him.

“We began on a financial shoestring, but it just mushroomed. Now we have more than 250,000 products on our website.”

He added: “Being twins helps. We are similar in personality but quite different in approach to business — which I think makes us complement each other.

“For instance Ian is far more grounded and risk averse than I am.

“We have had no major falling out because we each know what the other will think. As for minor bickering — we’ve been doing that all our lives anyway.”

Craig was a construction consultant before starting the venture early last year while Ian was an independent financial adviser.

Ian said: “We always have a good discussion. Although we are quite different, hopefully we come to the right decision in the end and trust each other.”

The company is based in Bloxham after Ian moved there when he got married to Wendy five years ago.

Craig said: ”His house seemed a good place at which to get started.

“Now we have moved the headquarters to offices at Bloxham Mill — and I have also moved to Bloxham, as have my parents, Graham and Tina.”

Both gave up their jobs when the new venture prospered, though Craig still goes up to London one day a week to work as a consultant.

Craig said: “My father still keeps a wary eye on us but is not formally involved with the business these days.”

He said: “We have a lot of female customers.

“Many of them tell me that they sometimes feel a little intimidated about entering the very male-dominated world of builders’ merchants and so prefer to buy online.”

Last week the company launched what Craig says is the first DIY iPhone app — which enables customers to order and pay for goods through their iPhones.

He said: “Competitors have apps, it’s true, but you can’t buy goods with them. On ours, you can. And it is free to download.”