For Skewen based model scene manufacturer, War World Scenics, attention to detail is everything.
Formed eight years ago by friends Martyn Rees and Mark Jutsum, the rapidly-growing company is a leading player in the war games and railway accessories market with its customer base spanning continents.
Initially, neither Martyn – an ex-soldier and Swansea City Council employee - nor former policeman Mark knew anything about war games or modelling but began painting game figures as a hobby.
Says Martyn, “Mark asked if I had heard of the fantasy battle game Warhammer, so we had a go at painting some figures. We were very pleased with our efforts and felt there was a gap in the market for creating bases for the models.”
Not thinking the business would become a full-time enterprise, each invested the princely sum of £40 and began making bases and models from their garages in their spare time.
However, it soon became apparent that they had tapped into a growing market, and the pair opened a shop in Ystalyfera. There they employed a handful of staff to make the products which they sold directly online, and through retailers such as Amazon and eBay.
Before long they outgrew the shop, and made their next move - to premises on Pontardawe Industrial Estate.
Says Martyn, “That’s where NPTCBC’s Business Team came in. We had gone as far as we could because we were not businessmen, they linked us up with a business consultant who helped us review the business, analyse our market data, and so put us on the right track and we have been expanding ever since.
They have also helped us access grants to buy the machinery we needed to expand our product range.
“Since the Business Team has been with us our turn over has continued to double, and our target is £1 million by the end of this year.”
Their next expansion led them to their current unit at Lonlas Village Workshops in Skewen where WWS employs 25 staff.
Says Martyn, “We have French, Spanish, and German translators, a photographer, social media co-ordinator, and our head of design is one of the top modellers in the industry.
“The American market is huge, and we are thinking about going out there to open up a base. We are looking at the Asian market too.”
Its flat-pack post-cut scenery is dispatched to modellers who build the scenes themselves. In addition to creating their own-brand scenery, WWS makes products for other retailers and distributors including model railway track specialists, Peco.
A core part of the business has been the development of the Pro Grass system – an innovative method which creates exceptionally life-like landscapes and flora and fauna from millimetres-high ‘grass’.
Using more than 70 different colours of flock, which is mixed and then layered using WWS’ static micro applicator, virtually any terrain or season can be replicated. WWS is now the largest producer of static grass in the UK, and the company is also developing grass tufts which may be individually applied to give additional landscape features and texture.
“Pro Grass cross-populates for both our war games and railways markets, and when we demonstrate at events we attract crowds of people,” explains Martyn who has created several educational models for Folly Farm, including a 10ft diorama to coincide with the arrival of lions at the Pembrokeshire zoo.
Serving both the railway modelling and war game markets, WWS now has two dedicated, but complementary, websites - www.war-world.co.uk and the more recently launched www.warworldgaming.com
Using specialist equipment such as 3D printers and laser-cutters, the company creates an ever-growing range of scenes and models from medieval and historical events, WWI and WWII scenes, to sci-fi and fantasy games, and a variety of diorama.
Says Martyn, “We are constantly researching and developing new products, and we produce something new nearly every week. Most of the tools and applications we use we’ve designed ourselves.
The company offers apprenticeships, and aims to balance the workplace experiences, “Martyn and I have the scenic knowledge, and we try to recruit people who also have war games knowledge,” says Mark.
There are spin-offs from their scene-building skills too, for example, the flock used to create the landscapes is perfect for racing car dashboards as the material doesn’t reflect light.
Adds Martyn, “There are so many other markets we could get into, and with NPTCBC’s Business Team’s help we have been able to continue growing our business. We have the ideas and they have guided us.”
Cllr Annette Wingrave said: “I am so pleased that the Business development team has been able to work with, what was initially a small business to grow and expand its products. It is great to see a local company doing so well and developing their business for customers across the World. We wish you all the success for the future.”