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.
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,
“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
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).
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
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”.