James Biggin is the MD of Steel City Marketing, he talked to BQ about his business, his plans for the future, and why he recommends attending MADE 16...
Tell us a little bit about your company
We are a Branded Merchandise supplier with a UK wide client base. We have been established since 1980 and it has been a family run business for the entire 36 years. Our clients use promotional items to give their marketing activity a boost. They might be looking to raise the profile of their brand, or stay in their client’s minds as much as possible and principally when those clients are making buying decisions.
Branded items can be very effective at achieving ROI on marketing spend and can help to increase sales and win new business.
What is your role?
I am managing director and business owner of Steel City. I have progressed through the business since 2002, starting out in sales, becoming a director before finally becoming owner and managing director. as an MD of an SME you must wear many hats to ensure the business runs as smooth as possible and you have to put in a place a good team that can help with the overall strategy and vision.
What was the inspiration behind starting up?
My Father, and a business originally set up the business back in 1980, but from an early age I spent time in the company. If my Dad had to work on a Saturday, I used to have the morning in the show room, looking at all the items that were on display - It was like an Aladdin’s cave. I guess that is where I got the bug and doing what we do feels like second nature.
I am passionate about helping brands gain the exposure they need and making sure their brand and contact details are in front of the right people at the right time.
Did you receive any support in setting up the business?
I have received a good level of support in recent years. The bank has been supportive of my recent investment in a property for the business. I am also a big fan of being mentored and trying to help other businesses where I can. I have used Business Sheffield and also other businesses that are like minded.
How has MADE inspired you?
MADE is a fantastic event to bring together existing and aspiring entrepreneurs at whatever part of the journey they find themselves on. It is great to have the chance to meet peers and also listen to some inspiring talks by business people who are happy to share their experiences.
What have you done in business since Made 2015?
Since MADE 2015 I have bought and moved the business into a new office. It is a fantastic space that is perfect for Steel City and my team. The values and culture of the business were strong before, but it has transformed us again as a business. We are sharing ideas daily; communication is brilliant and we have the confidence in ourselves and as a business in what we do.
Clients get an amazing feel when they visit and we also know that we have become a business where candidates who are applying for a role do so with a desire to be part of what has been created.
The office itself has a New York loft style feel. We have parquet type flooring mixed with Astroturf meandering through the desks. Glass partition walls, bare exposed brick, concrete slab ceiling and steel beams make for somewhere creative and inspiring to be based.
What are some of your biggest achievements since Made 2015?
Being able to purchase a city centre building, with car parking for the team and additional space to expand into if required is a massive achievement. This is where the business fits perfectly. It has felt like “home” since the day we all moved in.
We also had the sad passing of a dearly loved colleague, which hit the team hard. Managing that situation both professionally and personally was tough. Keeping on top of the work that person did in the business was tricky.
Why do you think other people should attend MADE?
People should attend MADE if they are looking for inspiration to push their business forward. There is a fantastic vibe and buzz and lots of people at various parts of their journey to mix with, learn from and share with. The talks are great, engaging and valuable.
What were the benefits of attending MADE for you?
It was good to meet up with Sheffield business people that I know and hold in high regard. I was pleased with the talks I attended and you do leave with a boost to confidence levels, something that can only help when back at the “coal face”.
What are your plans for the future?
We are currently looking at recruiting one more member to the team in a sales role. I am also interested in planning what we can use the additional space I have now as part of the building. We have 4 double garages that are perfect for conversion.
We are also adding in events to part of our marketing and this along with our general marketing has been extremely well received, so we will keep moving that area on as we look to attract new businesses that decide we are the company they want to work with.
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