Jesmond leisurewear firm AIM Athleisure is setting up a manufacturing facility, bringing production of clothing back in-house so they can ‘Make it British’, thanks to help from the North East Manufacturing Growth Programme.
The business experienced significant problems with outsourcing of their active lifestyle clothing range, and founder Amy Fettis looked for support to expand production beyond the few sewing machines they already had. Had it not been for this bold move, there would have been pressure to outsource production overseas.
The Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP) links experienced manufacturing business advisers with senior management teams, working together using a holistic approach to business diagnostic and improvement, to identify how to improve performance across all areas of their operations.
Amy knew that if she was to retain the manufacturing of her fashion-oriented gym wear in the UK and scale up her business, she would need further investment in machinery. To achieve this, Amy needed support in planning what equipment would be required, how much it would cost and how to get the most out of it.
The MGP connected Amy with its specialist consultant, Graham Sleep, founder and MD of Improvement Architecture, who helped Amy to build a plan for the development of the business that could be used to engage with investors. Graham has twenty years of experience supporting growing small and medium sized manufacturing businesses to become more competitive, productive and profitable.
Amy said: “Graham got to work immediately, by sitting down with me, understanding the business and the areas that needed focus. We identified areas of weakness, but also outlined the strengths and achievements which have gotten us to where we are now.”
Having established her business just eighteen months ago, Amy had already developed a reputation as a creative design studio and sample house. Her challenge was how to scale up into manufacturing and the MGP came along at exactly the right time.
The MGP pilot programme will run until July 2017 and aims to work with more than 80 businesses to create 160 new manufacturing jobs.
It forms part of the North East LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan to foster growth within key sectors of the economy to create more and better jobs. The programme could be extended if the pilot proves successful.
After participating in the MGP, Amy has secured the investment she needed for AIM Leisurewear and is now on course to grow the business. She’s also considering diversifying her business to make the very best use of her new expertise and facilities.
She said: “Graham gave us encouragement – we know we have created a good business, and as well as planning for the future we can appreciate where we came from.”
Colin Bell, business growth director at the North East LEP said: “The Manufacturing Growth Programme supports the goal set out in our Strategic Economic Plan; to create more and better jobs in key areas of growth for the region. It’s great to see the positive impact that the programme has had on AIM Athleisure and we look forward to hearing from other companies who’d like to pursue growth.”
Simon Allen, senior project manager at BE Group said: “Manufacturing capability lies at the heart of the North East’s future economic prosperity. A ‘Made in Britain’ label gives firms like Amy’s a significant advantage and helps reinforce our region’s reputation for quality and value.”
If you are, or could be, a North East manufacturer and want help to grow, visit www.ne-mgp.co.uk.