Manningtree Lighting entrepreneur shines a light on his journey from ebay trader to manufacturer
PUBLISHED: 17:25 25 June 2018 | UPDATED: 17:25 25 June 2018
You could say it was a lightbulb moment for the electrician Dan Pugh and his mum Jeni Bowen when they decided to transform their business from buying and selling industrial-style light fittings on ebay to manufacturing their own range of lighting products.
But making the tricky jump from online sole trader to manufacturer was only possible thanks to a helping hand from the European Union.
Mr Pugh of Lawford, Manningtree first spotted a growing craze for industrial-style lighting on Ebay two years ago. “Most of the ones on Ebay seemed to be made in someone’s shed,” explained Mr Pugh, who is himself an electrician by trade. “I thought it would be good to make them properly ourselves.”
The Pughs began their business in office space next to where a replica of the Mayflower ship was being built in Harwich, hence the business was named Mayflower Lighting when the Pughs set up their limited company in March 2017.
The mother-son duo moved their operation to the basement of Mr Pugh’s house, then to a workshop in Dovercourt before expanding out to a 2,400 foot warehouse in Lawford in December 2017 - complete with workshop, photographic studio and office space.
“The workshop is set up for welding and fabricating so we can offer a completely new product range of industrial style furniture, shelving and lit up signage, as well as light fittings,” explained 35 year-old Mr Pugh. Their expansion was only possible thanks to a £14,000 grant from the EU regional development fund - but the application processes was nothing short of gruelling.
Mr Pugh explained: “We had to produce lots of paper work to satisfy their criteria, which involved several months of hard work. We had to do a business plan, a contingency plan, a competitor analysis, management accounts, so many lists, and spreadsheet after spreadsheet! It came as a big surprise. My mum’s done two degrees and a masters and said it was more difficult and more work than all that studying had been.”
Mr Pugh admits that he had considered applying to the EU for a larger amount, but above £15K, the process takes “even longer” as it has to be approved by two panels of experts instead of one.
Despite the laborious procedure, Mr Pugh, who doesn’t have any business qualifications himself, admits all that preparation gave him a clearer direction on where the business should go next.
“The funding has enabled us to take our business to the next level. We were given free access to a network of business support advisers, and we could also re-apply for further funding from them.”
Because the Pughs already had a good sales record with Paypal, they were also able to apply for £15,000 of funding from them. “The interest was reasonable and you only pay back an agreed percentage from your sales though Paypal,” he explained.
Mayflower lighting has sold about over £250,000 of light fittings in the last 18 months at an average of £50 each, and went over the VAT threshold at Christmas time. They now sell their products to most major countries across the world - but the aim is not worldwide domination. “Its quite complicated setting up shipping terms for individual countries, so that has put us off broadening it too far afield,” Mr Pugh admitted.