People, Places, Business

Success Story - Identilase Ltd

Success Story - Identilase Ltd

Kevin Thomas started trading on a small scale in September 2007 supplying engraved signs, trophies, tankards etc. through his website. The name Identilase is a play on 'identify', representing the personalisation of the products and ‘lase’ from the laser engraving process.

Identilase

Three years later, he took voluntary redundancy so that he could concentrate on turning his part-time hobby into a full-time business venture. Initially operating from a workshop at his home in Glynneath, Kevin also took a stall at Neath Market to provide a shop window for his products. 

To support a full-time business, Kevin needed to rapidly expand the range of products that he sold. He took on a part-time employee for the market stall, releasing him to concentrate on product design and production. Using Welsh slate, Kevin started to manufacture a wide range of high quality products for the home including coasters, chess boards, clocks, cake stands, etc.

Identilase

“The slate is sourced from the Llechwedd slate caverns in Blaenau Ffestiniog in North Wales and has been extracted and cut using traditional methods for over 300 years. I was keen to recognise the authenticity and origins of the slate used, so every slate product is sold with a natural manila board tag  noting ‘Welsh Slate, Hand Made in Wales, 500 million years in the making’”.  

Identilase

Combining the skills of the craftsman with modern laser technology for engraving, Kevin can produce pictures on slate or granite that will become the family heirlooms of the future. Innovation is a key to keeping the business ahead and Kevin aims to develop and introduce new products regularly.

In addition to his base in Neath and selling through his website (http://www.identilase.com/), Kevin attended markets at Abergavenny and Monmouth, as well as the National Eisteddfod and Royal Welsh Show. The next stage in the development of the business was to get his products into retail outlets and early local successes included House of Fraser (Cardiff and Cwmbran), Caerphilly Castle, the National Trust (Beddgelert) and The Sheep Shop (Swansea).

Identilase

Attendance at two trade exhibitions in 2011, added a further 20 retail customers across Wales. Looking to expand on this success and to raise awareness of his products throughout the UK, Kevin received a loan from the Business Services Team enabling him to attend a further two trade exhibitions in Exeter and at the NEC in Birmingham. As well as raising Identilase’s profile, attendance at such events provides Kevin with a source of ideas for new products.  

“Having tested the water at two trade shows in 2011, we knew that the right events would be a valuable source of retail customers for us. However, these are quite expensive to attend and without the support of Neath Port Talbot Council, this door wouldn’t have been open to us at this time. Attending these two shows has given our business a tremendous boost in raising our profile across the UK”.   

A further 19 gift and homeware outlets were signed up at the exhibitions from as far afield as Grasmere, Worcester, Royal Wootton Bassett and Ivybridge in Devon. A further 5 have subsequently been gained and sales to date have been around £13,000.

Kevin also attended the first i-Open series of marketing workshops for retailers based in Neath Town Centre.

“I had put a lot of effort into marketing the business and in particular getting my website right. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the day to day running of a business,  and although I knew there were a lot of other things I could and should be doing, to promote the business I wasn’t  actually doing them. The course provided an excellent overview of how to market a business and the tools that can be used. Learning from others experiences was also useful. The i-Open workshops helped me to develop an action plan and prioritise my marketing activities. This has been invaluable as the business really starts to grow”. 

Being responsive to customer requirements is crucial and following requests; Kevin has introduced slate plant markers, key fobs and fridge magnets as new products to his range and added new designs to the current cheese board offering.

Looking ahead, Kevin has decided to attend the two trade shows held in February and August each year at the NEC. Based on his experience, he believes that these will provide the best platform for his products, and, with a larger product range to promote he will be booking a larger stand at these. The next major development for the business will be to open its own shop premises and planning for this is in its early stages.

“Being made redundant and deciding to turn what was a hobby into a full-time business, taking on a market stall and employing staff, all in the space of a couple of months was a daunting prospect. However, the Council’s Business Services team has always been willing to listen to my plans for developing the business and to provide advice and guidance. The support that I have received directly and through other providers I have been referred to has been invaluable.

I’ve no doubt that my business would have developed in the way that it has, but without the support I have received this would have been a much slower process”.