An expanding electric loft ladder company in Warwickshire is set to go up in the world Down Under after receiving funding from a new scheme.
TechStep was started in Southam by Michael Beard three years ago after he spent five years developing the innovative LOFTOMATTIC electric loft ladder which is now launching in Australia.
Business has been growing year-on-year through online sales of the remote-controlled compact loft ladder on TechStep’s website. The ladder can be DIY fitted however over 60 per cent of customers request it to be professionally installed to create more space in their home for storage, home office or children’s den.
After investing £400,000 in the business which currently employs three people as well as sub-contracted installers, Michael, who is a qualified chartered engineer and chartered industrial designer, contacted the Coventry and Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust (CWRT) as part of his expansion plans.
He was successful in applying for £42,542 from the Duplex Investment Fund, which is a combined grant and loan, and is an initiative between the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP), Warwickshire County Council, Coventry City Council and CWRT and is now set to add two more staff to the workforce.
The project is being funded by £3.9 million of grants from the Government’s Local Growth Fund and the CWLEP. Coventry City Council and Warwickshire County Council are each investing a further £2 million in the scheme which is managed by CWRT.
Michael said: “I had spent 35 years designing DIY equipment and smart home appliances for companies such as Stanley, Wilkinson, B&Q and ScrewFix and identified a niche in the market for a brand new product to give push button access to everyone’s lofts.
“It took several designs before the world patented LOFTOMATTIC electric loft ladder was fully developed since it required careful engineering development and pilot market testing.
“One of the benefits of my professional experience was that I got to know Chinese manufacturers and at the third attempt, now have a joint venture company enabling global distribution to all export markets.
“I started selling LOFTOMATTICS on my website two-and-a-half years ago with sales naturally expanding month on month currently with no advertising.
“The Duplex funding enabled me not only to realise my business goals earlier but to receive great advice from CWRT about business growth and to purchase new tooling, creating the new electric loft ladders which we are selling and now exporting.
“When Covid-19 entered the world, fortunately I had stock that has got me through but sales have fallen dramatically because you need to enter people’s homes to install the LOFTOMATTIC.
“A combination of CWRT and the Government’s Bounce Back Loan Scheme has put me in a reasonably healthy trading condition and between now and January, I will be employing two new people because I am expanding in the UK, and launching the ladder in Australia and South Korea.
“A three-year license is being signed with Werner – which is the world’s US based and largest ladder manufacturer – to sell the LOFTOMATTIC electric loft ladder in Australia and will lead to launching it in America in 2021.”
Leah Blocksidge, head of programmes at CWRT, said: “We have been working with Michael for many years and have supported his business from its start-up days. TechStep is now 10 years old and thrives year-on-year.
“With help from the Duplex Investment Fund, they were able to finance the tooling to create their new, innovative, electric loft ladder. Not only has this opened up more opportunities for TechStep, it has also helped grow the company as they take on more employees. I cannot wait to see what Michael has in store for us all next and how CWRT can continue to support him.”
Warwickshire County Council leader Cllr Izzi Seccombe said: “Tech Step is a perfect example of a business with the high level of skills and innovation of which we are fortunate to have so much in our region.
“I am delighted that support from the Duplex Fund, through the Coventry and Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust, has enabled them to grow their business and take it to the next level.”