On last week’s Business Bunker, as we sweltered in our studio in sunny Dymchurch, our guests Steve & Anny Lowe provided an inspiring story of a great Kent business starting up.
They met working for a textile company. Anny was in Bangladesh, Steve in the UK,
Steve as sales manager travelled out after four months of emailing on work business. Anny watched him trawling through the offices in Bangladesh saying to each lady worker, ”Are you Anny?” until finally they met.
“We never saw each others’ faces before, just emails,” said Anny. “You’re much younger than you seem on email, he told me!”
The couple have been together 10 years now and have 2 children,
Steve travelled around the world previously and had good connections,
The pair started Elsatex in Strood as a business five years ago, supplying the full range of budget hotel needs along with hospital bed sheets. They bought a small factory that was struggling in Bangladesh, importing 30% of their product from there.
Last year was a pinnacle moment. “We actually gave back the factory to our workers,” says Steve. “So all of our workers get the benefit and a share of all the profits.”
The workers come from very humble beginnings.
“It was great to know we saved the factory from liquidation, and that we’re making a difference to those workers.”
The company is now looking at competing with Turkish producers, traditionally a leader in textiles quality, and importing Egyptian cotton and then making the materials in the factory in Bangladesh. They’re making higher percale cotton count and better quality towels.
“You’ll see most of our textiles in town centre shops in the UK,” said Steve.
The company won the Medway Business award last November and was joint Kent winner of the HSBC Global Connections & KEIBA SME Business of the Year award.
“This company epitomizes the ability of a small business to compete globally,” said Paul Andrews, my co-presenter. “A small operation with a relatively small number of staff probably 30 years ago would have found it almost impossible without a huge amount of money to back it. Nowadays with hard work it’s easier. It’s about collaboration , it’s about partnerships and it’s about empowering the people that work for you.”
Do you know an inspiring story? Tweet me @julesserkin ; listen to my radio shows live Tuesdays 11-12 @SCOFFQUAFF &1pm @businessbunker on www.channelradio.co.uk