Manufacturing Growth Programme delivers boost for Suffolk blacksmith Richard Fishenden
PUBLISHED: 09:53 06 December 2017 | UPDATED: 09:53 06 December 2017
A blacksmith in Suffolk is establishing a national reputation with products that are now being sold on the high street and used to furnish some of the UK’s most elegant buildings.
Richard Fishenden has seen demand for his iron craft range, including curtain poles, kitchen racks, door handles and bracketry, grow by 20% over the last 18 months as consumers look to tap into the “traditional feel” of his creations.
Made By The Forge, the business he has run with his wife Juliet since 2006, now employs five people and has recently teamed up with British designers Anthony Dickens and Chris Eckersley to develop designer lighting and furniture.
The firm, based at Elmsett, near Hadleigh, has tapped into support from the Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP) to help it lay the foundations for its long-term growth and to identify a number of new roles that will make it more efficient.
“Our passion for quality is our inspiration to produce useful products that will last a lifetime, but also add real character to the home,” said Richard, who is a qualified farrier and blacksmith. “You can even see the individual hammer marks made by our blacksmiths, making every item unique.
“We moved into an old country cottage that meant we had plenty of home décor projects to undertake so we decided to put my skills to the test and produce a range of traditional wrought ironwork. Word quickly spread and we started to supply other people and, now, over a decade on, our products are on sale in Heals in London and through our website.”
Made By The Forge secured more than £280,000 of sales last year and is expecting to increase this figure further in 2018 after receiving expert advice from the Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP).
MGP growth manager Daren Booth worked with Richard and Juliet on providing a business review that focused on current challenges and opportunities, before identifying priority actions that will drive short, medium and long-term growth.
This work has provided a foundation for sustainability and employment creation, resulting in the allocation of two new job roles – one blacksmith to further support production and an administrative assistant to drive client acquisition, general paperwork and customer service.
“When you are such a small team sometimes you can get so absorbed in the day-to-day business that you forget about what is next and how best to capitalise on the unique skills you have,” added Juliet.
“Working with MGP changed that. Through some great planning sessions we were able to free ourselves up to look at how we should grow and this has already resulted in a collaboration with well-known designer Chris Eckersley to launch a combination chair as well as a cookery stand.
“Having someone from outside looking in has made us realise we should be leveraging the ‘exclusive’ status of Richard and the forge more if we are going to increase sales both at home and abroad.”
Daren Booth said: “Richard and Juliet complement each other’s skills and this has created a very successful brand with lots of opportunity to grow.
“Our role was to provide a clear strategy that gave them more time to focus on what they do best, as well as addressing a number of challenges, including attracting new staff and finding new routes to market.
“We are delighted to see the support is already making a difference and are looking forward to the launch of further new products in 2018 and a new focus on working with more architects and specifiers.”
The Manufacturing Growth Programme, which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and delivered by Economic Growth Solutions (EGS), aims to fill the void left by the Manufacturing Advice Service (MAS) by providing access to specialist assistance to help manufacturers to grow and improve.
This is being achieved through an 18-strong network of experienced manufacturing growth managers, access to industry specialists and the opportunity to apply for an average grant of £1400 and rising to a maximum £3,500.
Support can be used for leadership and management, research and development, lean manufacturing, productivity and capacity, quality systems and supply chain development.
For further information, visit www.manufacturinggrowthprogramme.co.uk or follow @mfggrowthp on twitter.