South Tyneside craft and cake decorating manufacturers and designers, Katy Sue Designs, is going from strength to strength with ambitions to grow USA sales.
Over the past year, the South Shields company has tripled its revenue and increased its workforce by almost a third.
Katy Sue Designs originally launched in 1994 when its co-founder and managing director Sue Balfour and her mother Doreen Thompson began creating miniature porcelain dolls for collectors on their kitchen table.
Over a quarter of a century later, the company’s products are sold in 50 countries, within the world-wide craft market which is worth over £45bn.
In January, the company showcased its range of innovative products at Creativation in Arizona, one of the world’s premier trade shows. This was made possible after they received financial support from South Tyneside Council, under its Invest South Tyneside Export Growth Programme.
Eighteen months ago Sue Balfour brought on board three new digital investors, Neil Stephenson as Chairman and Shareholder along with well-known local digital entrepreneurs Gary Hunter and Sam Morton, to develop its sales channels and increase US product sales.
Neil Stephenson said: “Digital channels are a key global sales channel for the craft market. Coming on board to advise the company how best to utilise digital marketing has been incredibly exciting; the business has grown exponentially and I can only see it continuing.
“Thanks to this growth we’ve been able to bring high quality digital jobs to the borough and have hired four new people in the past 12-months, a 25% increase in our workforce. We currently have a team of 18 people, 16 of which live and work in South Tyneside, and we’re continually looking for highly skilled digital and commercial talent.”
While the company is growing quickly, it is still strongly rooted in South Shields where it designs, manufactures, markets and distributes all of its paper craft and cake decorating products.
Sue Balfour said: “South Tyneside has always been a fantastic place to set-up and run a business thanks to the ongoing support of South Tyneside Council and the business community as a whole. The borough has a high calibre of businesses of all sizes in a variety of sectors.
“I’ve always been able to ring a bigger business in the borough to ask for help and reach out to the council for advice. It was actually the council who introduced me to Neil and they have enabled us to invest further in growing our US sales thanks to their Export Growth Programme grant.”
Katy Sue Designs’ growth follows on from its product showcase at New York Cake Show and America’s Cake Show, in Orlando last year. The company’s products were also featured on The Great British Bake Off, thanks to contestant Kim Joy, and on Kirstie Allsopp’s Handmade Christmas on Channel 4.
Sue added: “I love being creative. My passion is designing and creating products someone can use to make something new and exciting. I love my job as I get to work with creative people and channel my own creativity everyday – helping to inspire the imagination of other crafters and provide them with tools they need.
“Thanks to my passion for creativity I’m always working on what’s next and developing new products. I feel this creative drive together with my determination is the secret to my success. However, I wouldn’t be where I am today without being lucky enough to work with such artistic and imaginative people. Their talent and skills have helped shape the business and I’m excited for the future.”
Cllr John Anglin, Lead Member for Regeneration and Economy, said: “To see a company diversify to keep up with market demands is fantastic. I’m so pleased that we have been able to support Katy Sue Designs to further explore overseas markets through our Export Growth Programme. The company is thriving and I wish them all the success with their current and future plans.”
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