Growing confidence and increased sales abroad have led specialist Barnsley manufacturer, Experia, to buy its own premises, invest in infrastructure and create jobs.
Experia, one of the top three suppliers of multi-sensory equipment in the UK, has bought the Grimethorpe premises it previously rented from Barnsley Council and taken on extra space to allow room for growth.
Purchase of the 25,000 sq ft of workshop and office space at Acorn Business Park this month follows a £70,000 investment in new IT systems, design software and machinery in the previous 12 months. Experia also created five new jobs last year bringing its workforce to 19.
Gareth Jones, managing director of Experia, said: “Our strategy over the last year has been to consolidate our business and secure our own premises so that we are in a strong position to develop new products and further extend our customer base.
Gareth Jones, Managing Director of Experia in Grimethorpe, with a selection of multi-sensory equipment produced by the company. Picture: Enterprising Barnsley
“We have gained thousands of UK customers since we established the company in 2006 and on top of that our overseas sales leapt up by 70 per cent two years ago. Exports are currently worth £400,000 a year to us and we want to see this figure double in the next twelve months. We now have the talent and infrastructure in place to achieve that – and the room to grow.”
Gareth says the UK multi-sensory industry is a world leader partly because it has developed so strongly through the NHS and education system since the1970s.
Experia exports to more than 300 customers based in countries as far afield as Denmark, Dubai, Canada, Cyprus, New Zealand, Mexico and Qatar. It regularly attends international trade conferences, most recently one in the USA, with one in Germany in the diary for September.
The company designs, manufactures and installs a wide range of multi-sensory products from bubble tubes, projectors and pieces of fibre optic equipment to complete, bespoke Sensory Rooms, which can be customised to meet individual requirements. Designed for children and adults with a range of complex conditions, sensory issues, behavioural problems or dementia, the company’s customers include day care centres, hospices, visitor attractions, private individuals and even dental surgeries wanting to create a therapeutic, soothing environment.
Gareth said: “We are constantly innovating, listening to customers and developing products at Experia. Through this commitment to service, we are determined to grow our healthy share of the UK market and our exports. We forecast an increase in turnover of 30 per cent over the next 12 months and plan to increase our workforce to 33 within in the next five years.”
The purchase of Experia’s premises has been part-funded by a grant from the Regional Growth Fund, managed by Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, and secured with the help of Enterprising Barnsley business coaches. Enterprising Barnsley is a business support programme, delivered by Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council.
The property acquisition has also been supported by funding provided by The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) via a Funding for Lending loan.
And, Enterprising Barnsley business coaches have helped develop sales, marketing and IT strategies too.
Top of Experia’s list of priorities now is to create a new paint shop on site to bring the job of spraying and finishing its products in-house.
Experia takes products from concept, through design and production to completion at its Barnsley manufacturing base and employs people in areas such as research and development, CAD design, joinery and electronics, packaging and promotion.
Two years ago, Experia pioneered the use of state-of-the-art wireless technology in the multi-sensory industry and developed an app which enables all of its products to be remotely controlled by users whatever their abilities. Adults and children can use the app, which may incorporate responsive movement sensors, to adjust the lights, sounds, shapes, wind effects, aroma and other features of their sensory experience.
Gareth said: “Experia moved to Barnsley from West Yorkshire in 2011 and the company has expanded rapidly since then. Enterprising Barnsley have always been a great support and at the end of the phone line with practical advice and possible business contacts when we need them. The support from RBS has been fantastic too. We’ve felt very much part of a business support network here.”
Enterprising Barnsley business development manager Shaun Higginbottom said: “Experia is industry leader and a company we are very proud to have in the Barnsley borough. Its growing global reach and international reputation is testament to its commitment to innovation, quality and customer care.”
Andy Tyas, relationship director at RBS added: “I am delighted to support Experia with the next stage of the firm’s development. Their continued growth and success is impressive and it’s great to see a global business keeping its base in Barnsley and contributing to the growth of the local economy.”
Enterprising Barnsley is supported financially by the European Union and has attracted £2,259,511 investment from the European Regional Development Fund as part of Europe’s support for the region’s economic development, through the Yorkshire and Humber ERDF Programme.