Trade Copiers expects turnover to exceed £8m this year, an impressive figure for a business started by one man with a van in 2002.
Stephen Armistead, now the Managing Director, identified an opportunity to source secondhand photocopiers in the UK and sell them abroad.
He said: “I was working in copier sales and spotted a niche for machines to be exported. Other people in the UK were doing the same thing, and I just copied their business model.”
That said, it was hard going in the early days.
Stephen explained: “I was banging my head against a brick wall at first.
“Then I went on a trade mission with UKTI [now the Department for International Trade] to Dubai and found a couple of customers out there who both placed orders within a week.
“Since then it’s fair to say growth of the business has exceeded all expectations.
“We source and collect machines from manufacturers and copier dealers here and sell them to customers in China, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Pakistan and several African countries.
“We can’t sell to the Americas because the voltage there is different but we do well in the Middle East, the Far East and Africa.
“We also have a thriving consumables business supplying inks and toners.”
Trade Copiers is based on the Gilwilly Industrial Estate, Penrith, where it now has 33,000sq ft of floorspace plus 22,000sq ft of additional storage space in Carlisle.
It employs 38 staff and turnover is growing strongly, from £5m in 2016-17 to £6.1m in 2017-18 and a projected £8m plus in 2018-19.
Stephen has worked with the Chamber’s Cumbria Business Growth Hub since its inception in 2012 and before that its predecessor Business Link.
He is full of praise for his Growth Hub adviser, Adrian Luckham.
He said: “He’s our number one choice when we’re working on a new project or expansion. He’s helped us with several grant applications.
“He identifies funding sources – such as the Cumbria Growth Fund – then puts together a package and guides us through the application process.
“Adrian’s help has allowed us to grow the business further and quicker than would otherwise have been the case. He’s been invaluable.”
To find out how Cumbria Business Growth Hub can help your business click here or call 0844 257 84 50.
Trade Copiers received a £180,000 Cumbria Growth Fund grant towards the £915,000 cost of establishing new premises at Gilwilly in 2014.
The Cumbria Growth Fund was set up after Cumbria Chamber of Commerce took part in a national competitive tendering process to secure £4m from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund.
Manufacturing businesses have been able to apply for grants of between £10,000 and £1m to support growth and competitiveness.
Another grant from the programme enabled Trade Copiers to complete a £500,000 expansion earlier this year.
Two extensions house a purpose-built testing area and additional storage space while the purchase of a building next door has enabled the business to relocate its finance department and create space for its growing sales and marketing teams.
Recognition for Trade Copiers’ success came last year when it was named ‘Best Exporter’ in the in-Cumbria Business Awards. It has been shortlisted in the same category yet again this year.
Looking ahead, growth is set to continue. Stephen recently completed a marathon 20,000-mile trade mission in a bid to secure new orders in the United Arab Emirates and South East Asia.
He said: “We’re optimistic about the outlook. The depreciation of sterling [since the EU referendum] has been good for us. It made us more competitive and sales have gone through the roof.”
Suzanne Caldwell, Deputy Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “Trade Copiers’ experience shows the value businesses can get from a co-ordinated mix of business support – in this case the mix of adviser support with fund applications, grant schemes and international trade support.
“A key role of the Growth Hub is to pull together packages of support like this so, as a business, you don’t need to work out which initiatives are best suited to your needs.”
Cumbria Business Growth Hub provides a wealth of assistance to new and existing exporters such as Trade Copiers, whatever their size or sector as well as a great choice of wider business support.
We offer workshops geared to exporters, export masterclasses, online video tutorials plus information on trade shows, introductions, access to export finance and insurance, discounted flights for exporters and access to the Chamber’s export documentation service.
We can also link you into the local business community in your chosen markets through the international Chamber of Commerce network and put you in touch with the Department for International Trade to help begin your export journey or, if you export already, target new markets.
For more information call Catherynn Dunstan on 0844 257 84 50 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
The funding that supports the Growth Hub this comes from a range of sources including Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, the European Regional Development Fund, Allerdale Borough Council (Sellafield Ltd’s Allerdale SIIF, distributed by Allerdale Borough Council), Barrow Borough Council (FEDF Coastal Communities Fund Supply Chain Initiative, the Coastal Communities Fund is funded by the Government with income from the Crown Estates marine assets; it is delivered by the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of UK Government), Carlisle City Council, Eden District Council, South Lakeland District Council and Cumbria LEP.
The Growth Hub is receiving up to £2,528,767 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.
The Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Governmentis the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information click here.© Cumbria Chamber of Commerce