K2 Fabrication

(l-r) Dominic King, John Wilkinson (both K2) and James Smith (MGP)

How Facebook helped us go global in our first week

Within an hour of putting its first post on social media, a start-up engineering company from North Yorkshire has been bombarded with orders from around the world.

Topcliffe-based K2 Design & Fabrication Ltd, which fabricates specialist car parts, set up a Facebook page and secured 80 orders from as far afield as Australia and Singapore within 60 minutes of its initial post.

The company, founded by friends Duncan Oakes and Dominic King in January, continues to be swamped with enquiries and is already taking £25,000 per month in orders after it received specialist advice from a marketing expert funded by the Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP).

“We launched K2 in November 2016 but we didn't officially go live until January 2017,” Duncan said. “Dominic had been working for a local Land Rover specialist but wasn't getting the opportunity to use his fabrication skills to the extent he wanted.

“He was looking for new opportunities and we spoke about potentially setting something up. A week later, we formed the business.”

Alongside K2, Duncan is also a director of a recycled material commodity trading business in Harrogate, but being the son of an engineer and having a keen interest in Land Rovers and all things mechanical, he was keen to get involved with Dominic and establish K2.  

The business has since gone from strength-to-strength and the pair have now taken on an extra member of staff to cope with demand and are looking at employing another person because of the strength of its future order book.

“Within weeks of starting we quickly realised we were going to have to recruit so John joined,” Duncan said. “There is no doubt that social media has been an amazing way of getting recognised and we use this extensively to generate interest in our business.”

From its 2,000 sq ft workshop, K2 Design & Fabrication Ltd fabricates roll cages, bumpers, footplates, tubular side rails, engine shields and guards for cars such as Land Rover Defenders. Its move into social media means that it has tapped into specialist vehicle enthusiast communities online around the world.

Duncan said that the company worked with Manufacturing Growth Manager James Smith and Linden Kitson from Leeds-based Swalk LLP, who advised the firm to get online ASAP and showed it how to use Facebook to generate orders.

“To say we have got off to a flying start is an understatement,” said Duncan.

“Within weeks of starting up, we have gone from worrying about how we can get orders to worrying about how quickly we can fabricate parts and ship them all over the world.

“We knew we needed help marketing the business and turned to the MGP, which provided us with an action plan and a grant to cover some of the costs of working with Linden and great advice to propel our business forward.

“We’re already putting Topcliffe on the map around the world as the place to order high-quality specialist vehicle parts. One customer in Australia was so happy that they even made a promotional video for us, which is being posted on all sorts of car forums.

“We now have to knuckle down and get through the workload. This is a challenge in itself as we have to establish all the working systems and then work on the areas we want to grow. I know that as a generalist we will always have work to do but we want to narrow our area of focus so we can become a specialist in our given field.

“We initially set out to focus on preparation mainly of Land Rovers as the market is huge, however race car preparation is starting to become a big part of what we do too. We are a new company and really only just getting going but the future looks promising. More staff will be key, but we want to be careful to establish ourselves appropriately before we start adding to costs and off course risk.”

MGP Manufacturing Growth Manager James Smith said that K2 Design & Fabrication Ltd’s instant success has been phenomenal.

“This is one of the first successes for the new Manufacturing Growth Programme, which was only officially launched in October, with the aim of supporting hundreds of firms in Yorkshire,” he said.

“K2 Design & Fabrication’s growth highlights that British manufacturing is the best in the world. It’s important that UK businesses, particularly SMEs, are given the support they need to thrive and continue to be the backbone of a strong and prosperous economy.”

The MGP, which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and delivered by Economic Growth Solutions (EGS), is promising to fill the void left by the Manufacturing Advice Service (MAS) by providing access to specialist assistance to help manufacturers grow and improve.

This is being achieved through a 18-strong network of experienced manufacturing growth managers, access to industry specialists and the opportunity to apply for grants typically starting at £1,400 and raising to a maximum £3,500.

Support can be used for leadership and management, R&D, lean manufacturing, productivity and capacity, quality systems, supply chain development and more.