A versatile recruitment and training programme enabled a fledgling North Wales clothing enterprise to hire its first two staff and start growing its markets nationwide.
Within a few months of launching in 2013, Sarah and Steve Kay have moved their embroidery and screen printing operation out of the shed at their home and into a unit on an industrial estate – and that’s not the only sign of progress for their fledgling business.
They’ve also made valuable new contracts and pushed further into the sportswear market, which is expected to become a major source of income for the growing enterprise, located at Penley near Wrexham.
The idea for ‘Sarah’s Embroidery’ first surfaced when Sarah was working as manager of a leisure centre and saw a gap in the market for corporate clothing.
She initially took advantage of a voluntary redundancy package in order to have children. Then the timing of her decision to return to work coincided with a change in her husband Steve’s work circumstances, so they were both able to get fully involved in the new venture and an ambitious plan began to take shape.
To get the enterprise up and running they received support in the form of a £6,000 Welsh Government rural development grant and then accessed a government initiative specifically designed to help embryonic businesses recruit the staff they need.
This programme enabled them to take the step of recruiting and training their first two members of staff whose pay – up to National Minimum Wage level - was underwritten by the Welsh Government for the first six months of their employment.
Steve explained how they’d invested the grant in equipment and marketing activity, including the development of a bilingual website. “The help has been invaluable in getting us off the ground,” he said.
After about six months they moved the business from their home to a unit on an industrial estate, where it began to grow. They added screen printing to their services and started supplying to a wide range of customers including factories, sports teams, dance troupes and other organisations looking to personalise their clothing.
The help from Jobs Growth Wales has been invaluable in getting us off the ground
They have won contracts for four primary schools in their area and are also involved with The Crusaders rugby league club based in Wrexham. Screen printing for hoodies, t-shirts and jogging bottoms are another speciality with which they hope to build up future business.
Their two employees, Andy Holme and Matty Jasek, work in the production side of the operation, with Matty also spending some of his time on web development. Both joined under the Welsh Government’s Jobs Growth Wales scheme designed to help unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds back into work and to boost new businesses not yet able to afford to take on staff.
Both have shaped up well and Steve and Sarah aim to make their jobs permanent as soon as they can.
Future plans for the business will see a concentration on the sportswear sector which they see as offering significant potential for growth and they’re now planning to serve customers right across the UK.