A fast-growing Dartford company has moved into new and bigger premises and taken on more staff with the help of Locate in Kent.
Crosswater Limited, part of the Bathroom Brands Group, which designs, imports and distributes bathroom fixtures and fittings to the trade, moved from Charles Park, Crossways, to a new purpose built headquarters at Rennie Drive, The Bridge, earlier this year.
Founded in 1998, the company moved to Crossways from Questor Estate, Dartford, in 2007. Its rapid growth saw it expand into two adjoining units two years later, but by 2011, it had run out of space once more.
“We had a look around but found there were very few large premises available,” said Tim Powell, Group Finance Director of Crosswater. “In the end we opted for a design and build project at The Bridge.
“Our new headquarters occupies 132,000 square feet but at 14 metres high it means our cubic capacity has nearly trebled in size, which will help us grow our turnover to £100 million over the next five years.”
Funding the £18 million building project meant the company was looking for financial help to support growth in other areas, such as staffing and exploiting new markets.
Following advice from Locate in Kent, the county’s investment promotion agency, Crossways applied for and received a £217,000 interest free loan from TIGER, the Regional Growth Fund scheme for the Thames Gateway.
“It was an incredibly thorough process which culminated in us presenting to a panel of 12 in what was a real Dragons’ Den moment,” said Tim.
“Our founder David Hance explained how he started the business in 1998 by borrowing £15,000 from his mum and £15,000 from the bank to set up the company, buying premium bathroom products from Italy and selling them to bathroom retail showrooms in North London.
“They loved the story and really bought into to the growth ambitions of the company and approved our funding, which in itself was a great boost for us to be recognised as an investable business by such a panel.”
Since the move to The Bridge, 15 new staff have been taken on, bringing the total employed to 175. If the company continues to grow, that figure could reach 250.
Some of those staff will join via the company’s apprenticeship scheme, with the TIGER loan helping it fund NVQ training for youngsters from the Dartford area, as well as some from across the river in Thurrock.
“So far we have employed every apprentice at the end of their year’s placement,” said Tim. “We have five on the scheme at the moment and we are hoping we can increase the number as we grow.”
The TIGER funding has also gone towards taking on agents in Dubai and Qatar to help develop an export division in the Middle East.
“We’ve started the process, but it will be a long gestation period,” said Tim. “But we anticipate the market in the Middle East could be worth up to £2 million a year to us.”
Crosswater has found other benefits to its work with Locate in Kent.
“They are so commercially focused,” said Tim “A big win for us is that they have linked us into the public sector who we can work with on apprenticeships, and then there are the export trade missions they make us aware of.
“The networking and introductions they provide are invaluable and they were extremely helpful in highlighting options we hadn’t previously considered, such as applying for TIGER funding.”
Paul Wookey, Chief Executive of Locate in Kent, said companies looking to invest in the county needed more than just the right premises.
“It is good news for Dartford and the surrounding area that a successful and fast growing company such as Crosswater has chosen to remain in the town and provide jobs and apprenticeships for local people,” he said.
“TIGER was one of a number of Regional Growth Fund schemes in the county which proved its worth in supporting businesses like Crosswater, helping them find the right staff and train young people.”
To find out how Locate in Kent can help you grow or set up in Kent, visit www.locateinkent.com.