A rapidly expanding kitchen gadget business has been recognised as one of the UK’s most successful growing companies having begun life in a County Durham garage to become a £13m turnover globally-trading operation.
Andrew James was formed in 2005 by cousins Andrew Tomlinson and James Buckle after the pair saw the potential in a table top grill which was being used at a dinner party, which was available in Europe but not in the UK.
They sourced the gadget – a raclette – to sell to UK customers, and have gradually expanded the gadget range to the point where they now sell 450 niche kitchen and home products, through their own website, Amazon and eBay, to customers in the UK and all over the world, including Singapore, India, the Seychelles, Hong Kong, Spain, Germany and France.
After twice moving to larger premises and regularly doubling sales the £13m turnover firm, based in Bowburn, County Durham, now employs over 80 staff having grown headcount by 46% in the last year alone and, with further growth predicted, are poised to move into a new 130,000 sq ft distribution centre in East Durham. The firm has also recently launched a new website, opening up further sales opportunities.
With overseas sales rising, revenues are predicted to rise by another 7.7% to £16m in the current financial year, and the directors believe more staff will be taken on in the coming years to help meet client demands.
The company’s growth has now been recognised after beating competition from across the North of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to win the regional final of the HSBC Global Connections competition, which rewards business growth, innovation and investment in staff development.
From over 1,600 national entrants, they were narrowed down to the final six from the North & Scotland region, and after a Dragons’ Den style pitch, were crowned regional winners at a high-profile awards night in Manchester, with judges describing the company as “a fantastic story of success and future potential”. The firm now goes head-to-head with other regional winners at a grand final in September.
Co-founder Andrew Tomlinson said: “I remember sitting in a pub, having just placed our first order for 3,000 raclette grills, and our friends thought we were crazy.
“We ended up storing the raclettes in our garages, attics and front rooms.
“After some pressure from our wives, we moved the business into our first unit, which we soon outgrew.
“We are now investing heavily in training and qualifications for our staff and are always looking for new technology to make our distribution and communications more effective.
“We always seek to give our employees a voice, and listen to good ideas from within the company.
“We also recently launched a new website, which has opened up another sales channel for us.
“This is definitely an exciting time to be involved with Andrew James.”