A company which moved to Tunbridge Wells from London almost two years ago is making a big push to outsource more work to west Kent firms to capitalise on local talent.
Inkerman, a leading British gifts and trophies company which has supplied the awards for The Grand National for the past eight years, wants to take advantage of the talent in the area.
The Eridge business, which plans to set up an apprenticeship scheme, was founded by Kiki Grigson and Louise Eadie in Notting Hill 20 years ago.
Mrs Grigson, who grew up in nearby Frant, said: “When we moved, we took all our commercial and support business with us which is almost exclusively based in Tunbridge Wells. This includes who we use for IT, printing, web and development.
“But we also want to use more local companies to help develop our products and are looking for glassblowers, silversmiths and leather smiths.”
The drive to use local craftsmen is not purely about helping the local economy, Mrs Grigson added, as there are sound commercial reasons behind sourcing local suppliers.
She explained: “We work on very tight turnarounds and this ensures lead times are kept to a minimum. Small businesses are also better at producing short runs of highly customised products and we are able to talk to them face to face about what we want, which is very important.
“The craftsmen around here are ideally equipped to produce bespoke. We do not want to buy mass-produced products and end up sitting on thousands of units of stock which can be purchased in any high street shop.
“We can ensure we maintain the quality of the product and being closer allows more scope for joint projects with suppliers.”
“There is also the added benefit of ensuring we have a low carbon footprint.”
The firm, which also provides gifts, has a turnover of over £1m, which is forecast to hit £1.5 million next year.
It has not been an uninterrupted rise, as the 2008 financial crash hit the company hard, said Mrs Grigson, adding: “Many of the city companies who were big clients cut budgets on things like corporate gifts.”
“The culture changed. In the 1990s and early 2000s people in the city were still taking long lunches and would visit us in Notting Hill. But that stopped.
“Businesses moved from corporate gifts to putting a lot of money into sponsorship, but we took advantage of that and now provide trophies for sporting events like the Twenty20 cricket and Ascot.
“Eridge offers an ideal location as it is still close enough to the city to be in contact with our regular clients but is also based in an affluent area so we are developing a new client base.”
WHY IS THE COMPANY NAMED INKERMAN?
Kiki Grigson and Louise Eadie were determined to ensure the company was a reflection of Britain, believing this reassured clients about the quality of its products. So the pair researched the name Inkerman which was the name of the street Mrs Eadie was living on when in London. They discovered Inkerman was a battle fought by the British during the Crimean war in 1854. Although they were severely outnumbered, the troops held their ground and the battle became known as ‘The Soldier’s Battle’. Reflecting on this, the pair believed the name represented the best of British spirit and tenacity.