Ruth Lee Ltd

Picture of Paul McDonnell

Thanks to its export focused approach and extensive export order book, the firm is on track to reach record-breaking sales of £3 million.

Start your export journey today

Ruth Lee Ltd
Ruth Lee Ltd

Thanks to its export focused approach and extensive export order book, the firm is on track to reach record-breaking sales of £3 million.

Ruth Lee Ltd is an award-winning family run business based in Corwen, Denbighshire which specialises in creating realistic training dummies and aids used by safety experts across the world in simulated rescue scenarios. The company has 25 employees working across the business in a range of roles, from design and production to marketing and sales.

Founded by Ruth and Ron Lee, a husband and wife duo who worked as a seamstress and blacksmith respectively, the business originally focused on offering a general repairs service.

However, a chance visit from a fireman looking to have a home-made training dummy fixed inspired Ruth to put her skills to the test by designing and creating a more resilient model. The Fire Service was so impressed by the new and improved dummy that they placed an order for 10 more. It was then that Ruth Lee training manikins was born.

Domestic orders were key to the firm’s initial success, with the company accruing an impressive roster of customers across the UK including fire and rescue services, the Ministry of Defence, police services, the RNLI and care homes. But a meeting with Japanese delegates at a trade show sparked international interest and was the catalyst in Ruth Lee exploring international trade deals.

Aware there was huge potential in exporting, Ruth Lee appointed a Board of business experts and a managing director to drive the business forward and capitalise on exporting opportunities.

The firm received significant support from Welsh Government, accessed through Business Wales, during this transitional period including funding advice, help with market research, and assistance securing invites to attend international trade trips and conferences which enabled staff to meet potential distributors – many of whom are now considered among Ruth Lee’s largest customers.

Following the MD’s appointment and a strategic focus on exports, the firm has experienced exponential growth, with exports now making up around 70% of the firm’s sales. The company has substantial customer bases across Europe, North America, Asia and Australia, and has just announced trade deals with companies in South America, the Middle East and China - markets that had previously been hard to break into for the firm.

Over the years, Ruth Lee’s manufacturing processes have been updated, with staff being upskilled to use an automated cutting table, replacing the manual process of template cutting. The company also acquired additional premises to cater for the growing number of orders and the increasing staff numbers.

During the past two years alone, the North Wales company has experienced a 65% growth in turnover, an achievement it attributes to its increased ‘professionalisation’ and greater focus on exports.

Paul McDonnell, managing director at Ruth Lee said:

“While our UK trade has always been the backbone of the business, we recognise that exporting provides a huge growth opportunity and we needed to adapt our structure to maximise opportunities within the almost limitless international markets. We hired specialist marketing and business development professionals with international experience and additional office staff to support the growing team. Every decision we’ve made has been to take the business to the next level and elevate our export success.”

On making the decision to explore international trade options and advice for those considering an exporting route, McDonnell commented: “Establishing good relationships with regional distributors is essential. They become the face of your brand in a foreign country so ensuring they understand the products completely and feel genuinely passionate about them is vital. Attending trade events is a great way of establishing relationships with potential distributors and customers alike and there are regular Welsh Government Trade Missions that are well worth attending.”

 

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