Nestled in the scenic town of Monmouth, Milking Solutions has charted an extraordinary journey, transitioning from an importer serving the UK to a renowned global manufacturer and exporter of milking machine parts. Today, their product line extends to milking equipment for cows, sheep, goats, and camels. Here, Managing Director Kevin Graham shares the compelling journey that transformed a small Welsh business into a global leader in their chosen niche market. 


Kevin Graham and the Milking Solutions team

[Kevin Graham and the Milking Solutions team] 


Tell us about Milking Solutions Ltd.
At Milking Solutions, we are committed to more than just manufacturing milking machine parts; we're about maintaining the longevity of these machines. Founded in 2003, our initial focus was importing and distributing a particular European brand of milking machine. However, a shift in our main supplier's distribution policies led us to reinvent ourselves as manufacturers and global distributors. We employ 15 people and transact in multiple languages, including English, French, Italian and German, catering to around 40 countries worldwide. Our annual sales exceed £2 million. 

What challenges have you faced during this transformation?
Our journey has been fraught with challenges. Initially, our main supplier was acquired by an American company, leading to the termination of our import contract. This was a particularly low point for us as it meant losing our primary market and supplier. The obstacles and risks we faced from the outset were manifold. Fortunately, we were well established by the time we had to navigate the complexities of Brexit and the uncertainties wrought by the Covid pandemic. Rather than be deterred by these challenges, we seized them as catalysts for innovation and pivoting our business model.

How have you adapted to these challenges?
When we faced the setback of a terminated import contract, we didn't see it as a closed door but an open window to new opportunities. We knew numerous companies globally were in a similar situation - suddenly without a direct supplier for essential spare parts. We saw a gap in the market and took it upon ourselves to fill it. 

We strategically crafted an ambitious business plan to transition from a UK importer and distributor to a global manufacturer and exporter. This plan focused on developing a comprehensive product catalogue in multiple languages and winning a solid customer base. Initial funding was crucial for our plan, and we secured this through Finance Wales, NatWest Bank, the small business loan guarantee scheme, an employee investor, and Lloyds Bank invoice discounting. Our Monmouth warehouse provided the necessary loan security. 
Our strategy was ambitious but calculated. We needed the demand from a global market to justify manufacturing volumes, so export was a critical part of the plan from the start. We needed high-profit margins to clear loans and make room for product development. Opting for subcontracted manufacturing proved efficient and cost-effective, utilising acquired rights and original tooling for manufacturing spare parts. 

Standard business wisdom dictates building a strong domestic market before attempting exports. While this is sound advice, it did not fit our model. Due to the sales volume needs and significant financial commitments, we knew we had to act fast. Our strategy aimed to rebuild our presence in the UK market while simultaneously establishing a robust export market. 

It's essential to believe in yourself when embarking on such a challenge. It's been a long road involving a lot of hard work, but the outcome has been nothing short of extraordinary. Today, we enjoy the security of over 100 suppliers and customers in multiple countries worldwide, and business is booming. Employee loyalty has been crucial in this journey; we ensured this by offering stakes in the company for a commitment to stay on board for at least two years. Now, we have a loyal team of determined, highly skilled and experienced professionals. It is they who have built this small but mighty player on the global stage, and we couldn't be prouder. 

What is your proudest moment in business?
Our proudest moment was finally realising that our vision and strategic shift from importing to manufacturing and exporting was going to work. When we saw the light at the end of the tunnel appearing - and then getting brighter before we ran out of money - it was such a relief and joy. From then on, we just kept doing the job right, and success came. 

A key part of our business ethos is contributing to the circular economy. By providing spare parts that extend the life of existing milking machines, some as old as 50 years, we're reducing waste and helping our customers be more sustainable. Our new milking equipment is 100% rebuildable, with a commitment to provide spare parts long into the future.  

How has support from Business Wales helped your business?
The multi-dimensional support from Business Wales and Finance Wales has been invaluable to our journey. The Accelerated Growth Programme helped us in financial planning and honing our marketing strategies and management skills, which was vital for us as we underwent a swift process of pivoting our business model. Finance Wales provided the financial backing we needed for new product development.  

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs? 

Dream and believe in yourself. 
Niche is good, and aim to be the best. 
Identify what you don't know and get advice and support. 
Don't just work hard; work smartly at the right thing. 
Find out and focus on what truly matters for your business to succeed. 
You must be good at what you do, plus develop the skills required to run a business. They are two different things. 
If you keep on doing it right, success will come, but be patient. 
Don't rely on one supplier or market; diversification is key to resilience. 

Learn more about Milking Solutions

Further information on the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme 



The Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme is a pan-Wales programme part funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.

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