Made in Britain: Neon Creations

What does your company do? What products services does it provide?
We design and manufacture custom made neon signs, neon lights and neon art pieces. We also hire out neon signs for clients to use at events, or in film and TV productions.

Where did the idea for your business come from?
Tony, my husband and also Company Director, had worked within neon sign companies for around 15 years or so, and wanted the opportunity to be more creative with the projects he worked on. His previous role was producing a lot of multiple signage of the same item, but he felt here was more potential. My background was in marketing. We decided in 2005 to set up our own company to enable Tony to use his skill more, with my skills supporting the running of the company.

When did you start up, and what support were you given?
We registered as a Limited Company in July 2005, and began trading officially in November of that year.

Initially we had some local business support from Bolton Business Support Unit. They offered networking events, and general advice in the early days of setting up the business. Then, in 2009, we accessed support from Business Link. They provided us with an action plan for Business Improvement which helped us to focus our efforts. Business Link also made us aware of the Innovation Voucher Scheme, and we became involved with this in 2010.

We used the vouchers to conduct some research in the Manchester area to establish a route to market for some of our new products, and for our neon signs for hire. We have also recently taken advantage of the Employment Allowance, so it’s fair to say we’ve really made the most of the government support available for small businesses in the UK. It’s for this reason we’re now supporting the Business is GREAT Britain campaign. The website, www.greatbusiness.co.uk, should be the first port of call for any start-up or small business looking for any kind of support to grow. There’s so much out there and it can make such a difference.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?
It is difficult to pinpoint any one particular achievement. We are always excited when big brand names, for example Sony, the BBC, Calvin Klein and Paul Smith, commission us for work, but equally we are proud of the repeat business that we get from local bar and restaurant chains – we must be doing something right if they keep coming back to us.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?
We went through quite a difficult period in the summer of 2010 shortly after the height of the recession. During this period we kept ourselves going, and have only gone from strength to strength since then.

How would you say you differentiate yourself from the competition?
A lot of the competition is heavily involved in what we term as trade work, so making neon signage for other sign companies that don’t make their own neon in-house. Whilst we occasionally get involved in this type of activity, we specialise more in the one-off commissions, and generally internal neon signs and lights. We also pride ourselves on our attention to detail, and every member of the team is passionate about neon!

What has been the best decision you have made to-date?
To start Neon Creations! We absolutely love doing what we do. Also our decision to set our standards high, and pay close attention to every detail from quotation to delivery, means that we have very happy customers and a lot of word of mouth recommendations, as well as repeat business.

Where do you see the business in 12 months’ time?
We just want to keep building on the success we have had already. Our ultimate aim is to see a neon creation in every high street! We are also exploring the possibility of offering short workshops on making neon signs, and selling our own pieces of neon art, as opposed to being commissioned by a client for a custom made piece.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Believe in your ability to do what you are passionate about, and to trust your instincts. During the early days you need to be prepared to put in 200 per cent effort, and don’t give up. Don’t take anything for granted, and remember that when it’s your own business it is never a nine to five job!

What do you find most satisfying about running a business?
We get a real sense of achievement when we see our work on the high street, in adverts, or on television. It has all originated from our hard work and determination. As a small close knit team, everybody gets to feel that they have played their part, and everybody gets to see the end result. It is also rewarding to have the flexibility to fit family life in around work too.

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