A successful family firm has urged others to look into grant support after reaping the benefits of new machinery and energy efficient equipment.
ERW Joinery started up as a small business in Grangetown in 1979 before it grew into supplying both trades and homes with windows and doors, and manufacturing and installing wood windows and doors for domestic clients across the region.
The bespoke firm moved to Skippers Lane in 1988 – and now employs 33 staff with a hard-fought reputation to envy in the North East.
Lawrence and Julie Wall took the business over in 1990 and, while they have now stepped back from the day-to-day running of the business, the firm has remained in the family with children Stuart, Phillip and Helen taking the reins. The three form the Senior Leadership Team along with Phil Tye, who is the new Operations Director.
Adapting through the challenges of the 1980s and 1990s, the business increased the area it served and grew to cover the North East and Yorkshire.
Now, the business is benefitting from a raft of advice and support, as well as grant funding accesses through Tees Valley Business, launched in January 2020 by the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority as an easy-to-access one-stop shop for business support.
The Tees Valley Business Growth Fund receives funding from the England European Regional Development Fund. This Growth Fund gave a £50,000 boost to ERW – and allowed the firm to invest in new manufacturing technology and machinery to reduce down time and increase productivity.
Lawrence said: “The investment in the latest manufacturing technology was critical, and continues to be so, to maintain and grow our share of the market. If we had not invested, our opportunities would decline.”
The company also saw a five-figure grant application approved for the SME Energy Efficiency Scheme in 2021/22 – also part-funded by the ERDF.
Lawrence explained why this had been important given rising energy bills.
He added: “Being able to invest in energy efficient equipment was, we felt, vital to maintain control of our costs, and this was before the current situation even transpired.
“It is now even more important – and we are continuing to examine all aspects of our operation to identify other potential opportunities to reduce energy usage, for both commercial and environmental reasons.”
The Middlesbrough firm has recently toasted the success of Joiner Jamie Dixon who was recently awarded the Rising Star by the British Woodworking Federation after starting as a 16-year-old apprentice in 2015.
Lawrence said seeing youngsters come into the business and grow was easily the best thing about running the firm.
He added: “We have also worked on hundreds of fantastic projects – renovating and restoring amazing homes and buildings like Wilton Castle and The Theatre Royal, in Newcastle. Seeing the projects go from architect’s drawings to finished projects is enormously satisfying.”
The company has also accessed other support including Skills for Growth, which is part-funded by the European Social Fund, as well as Made Smarter and Business Compass grants – with the latter helping ERW invest in their brand, marketing and their website.
Lawrence said the grants had been vital to the firm’s success – and urged others to consider applying.
He added: “I feel that the biggest challenge firms have is first of being aware of what assistance is available, and then having the full and relevant management information available in their business to be able to put together an application.
“While it appears daunting to some, we realised very early on that having a complete understanding of your business, and financial position, is absolutely critical.
“Being able to provide the information required, and being able to demonstrate that we understand our business was easy, because it is the only way you can grow a business.”
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “ERW Joinery is yet another example of a brilliant family business nurturing the next generation through a skilled trade. I’m delighted they’ve been given boosts through Tees Valley Business to go from strength to strength.
“When I became mayor, I wanted a business support service that was easy for our region’s firms to use so they could get the funding and support then need without having to jump through endless hoops.
“This is another example of Tees Valley Business providing a one-stop shop to allow firms across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool to get the backing they need while focusing on what they do best – running their amazing businesses.”
To find out more about grants available, go to the Tees Valley Business website.