A Barnsley company hand-making wedding albums that look like fine art books is turning a new page in its success story.
Folio Albums was launched just three years ago but the huge appeal of its products with professional photographers around the world has put it on course to sell 4,000 albums by December, twice the number it sold last year.
Directors Stewart and Julie Randall have increased their team from three to 11 since August 2012.
Recently the business moved to new premises at Hoyland’s Shortwood Business Park, which is three times the size of its previous base at the Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre, in Wilthorpe.
The expansion together with the introduction of new streamlined production processes means the company can increase its output and improve quality as it strives for more international orders.
Experts from business support organisation Enterprising Barnsley have been working with Stewart and Julie to aid the firm’s growth.
The Enterprising Barnsley programme is delivered by Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council and aims to help Barnsley businesses develop and expand, creating new jobs.
“It feels amazing for us to be where we are. Through our own vision and hard work, together with the support we’ve had, we’ve achieved so much in a very short space of time.
“Over the last year we’ve grown turnover by 85 per cent.
“We know of no other company in this country that comes anywhere close to what we have in terms of a beautifully-made product, together with a brand and customer service that people love.
“We feel we’re well placed to continue our expansion.”
The former warehouse Folio Albums has moved into has been refurbished to create a laboratory-like environment in which the climate is kept stable – important in the process of making books.
Also, the flow of production has been made more efficient using ‘lean’ manufacturing techniques which have resulted in improvements to the products already noted by customers.
The company’s move has been assisted by a grant from the Business Growth Programme managed by Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, which was secured with help from Enterprising Barnsley.
Enterprising Barnsley coaches have also provided Folio Albums with support in financial management, business strategy and health and safety; and have been working with them to build links with photographers in Hong Kong.
“We know our strengths and weaknesses and we can therefore identify areas where we need support through the programme. The expertise and assistance we’ve been able to access has been extremely helpful as we continue to grow.”
Stewart got his first camera aged 13 and he and Julie ran a wedding photography business before launching Folio Albums because they felt traditional albums printed on photographic paper were uninspiring.
The company’s square albums are made with fine art paper and open flat with an almost invisible crease.
They are covered in leather, silk, cotton and canvas in a choice of colours and sizes and are presented in a box and bag with options to upgrade to designer versions. The company prides itself on its environmentally-friendly ethics.
Exacting attention to detail is paid at every stage of production from printing through to binding, covering and packaging.
Folio Albums has customers across Europe and as far afield as Australia, the United States, Qatar, and Brazil. The company has launched its own design software so albums can be created either ‘freestyle’ or by using one of 250 templates.
Although weddings account for the vast majority of business, the firm makes albums capturing other special occasions. It has also begun making other products such as matching DVD covers.
Enterprising Barnsley is supported financially by the European Union.
The project has attracted £2,259,511 investment into Barnsley from the European Regional Development Fund as part of Europe’s support for the region’s economic development, through the Yorkshire and Humber ERDF Programme.