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“The Skate People” – The Mover magazine, June 2018

Evo Supplies furniture skate moving dollies removals Mover Magazine

We were delighted to welcome David Jordan, Deputy Editor of The Mover magazine, to our factory and warehouse in West Mersea a few weeks ago.

Here’s what he wrote after spending a morning with the Evo team:

Deputy Editor David Jordan takes a trip to Mersea Island in Essex to visit Evo Supplies, one of Britain’s leading manufacturers of furniture skates.

When I phoned Evo Supplies’ Managing Director Juliet Dunn to arrange a time for our meeting, I was a little surprised when she said, “I’ll just check the tide tables to make sure you can get across.” The company is based on Mersea Island (it’s pronounced Mersey by the way, if like me you didn’t know) and you have to cross a causeway to reach it by road. Around full moon it can be up to a metre deep in water for up to two hours, so you need to check first.

The Romans, based at the nearby garrison town of Camulodunum (Colchester), used to holiday here and developed a taste for Mersea’s oysters, even exporting them the thousand-odd miles back to Rome, in barrels filled with seawater. Oysters and other seafood delights are still enjoyed on Mersea today, by locals and tourists alike. Visit the Company Shed fishmongers/restaurant on the waterfront if you ever come here.

Having safely dodged the Blackwater tide, I arrived at Evo Supplies’ factory on a small industrial estate in West Mersea and was greeted at the door by a beaming Juliet. Over tea and chocolate biscuits she told me their story.

Juliet and her husband Greg started Evo Supplies in 2013. “It happened almost by accident,” explained Juliet. “We were renting warehouse space near here for

The skate business is competitive and Evo’s skates are not necessarily the cheapest on the market, so I asked Juliet how they have managed to grow the business.

“The personalisation of the skates is one reason, but quality is what really sets us apart,” said Juliet. “Not just of the skates themselves but the customer service that comes with them. We sell thousands of skates a year, but if anyone has a problem with one of our products, which is rare, we replace it without question or quibble. We had a few customers go elsewhere in the early years because of price, but nearly all have come back because they believe our quality and personal service is worth paying a little bit extra for.

“Since taking on the leadership of Evo full-time in 2016, I’ve been focusing on raising both our game and our profile. The annual Movers & Storers Show gives us a fantastic opportunity to showcase not just our products but our ethos to removals industry professionals, and we’re really looking forward to this year’s show in Manchester. We’re constantly adding new products to our range and improving our production processes, we’ll make pretty much any bespoke item to our customers’ specifications, and we can offer really competitive discounts on bulk orders.”

About 50% of Evo’s business is with the removals industry, with furniture retailers, Interestingly, since the Brexit vote Juliet has noticed an increase in companies specifically interested in buying British-made products.

Notwithstanding the above, at the end of 2017 Evo introduced an imported economy range, ‘Hello Dollies’. “Not every customer needs or can afford a dolly that can carry a tonne and withstand years of heavy-duty professional use, so we designed an economy range and visited China to find a manufacturer to make them exclusively for us,” said Juliet. “We’re delighted with the quality of the new products, and the sub-brand allows us to compete in the budget-priced market. However, our home-grown Evo dollies will always be at the core of our business and we are very proud to be one of the few British manufacturers producing high-quality skates for the professional removals industry.”

Juliet and Greg are keen sailors and often take part in races on the Blackwater in their boat Black Diamond. The Evo factory, offices and products are equally ship-shape and a credit to them and the enthusiastic people who work there.

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Bernard Jenkin MP visits Evo Supplies

Bernard Jenkin MP visits Evo Supplies furniture skate moving dolly Juliet Dunn

We were pleased to welcome our local MP, Bernard Jenkin MP, to the Evo Supplies workshops last week.

Some of the local and national issues discussed included:

As chair of the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee, Bernard is closely involved in conducting an inquiry into the collapse of Carillion.

Bernard’s office contacted Evo following our appearance in this year’s Parliamentary Review.

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) examines constitutional issues and the quality and standards of administration within the Civil Service. It also scrutinises the reports of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

It is a committee of Members of Parliament, appointed by the House of Commons and drawn from the three largest political parties. It works principally by undertaking inquiries. It chooses its own subjects of inquiry and seeks evidence from a wide range of groups and individuals with relevant interests and experience. The committee produces reports setting out its findings and making recommendations to the government.

Bernard Jenkin

Bernard Jenkin has been the MP for Harwich and North Essex since the 2010 general election. He was first elected to represent Colchester North in the 1992 general election. He went on to represent North Essex before the current Harwich and North Essex constituency was created.

The Small Business Commissioner – tackling late payments

The office of the Small Business Commissioner (SBC) was launched in December 2017. Its aim is to ensure fair payment practices for Britain’s 5.7 million small businesses. The Small Business Commissioner supports businesses in resolving their payment disputes with larger businesses and bring about culture change.

The Parliamentary Review

The Parliamentary Review is a prestigious annual publication, combining political commentary from leading journalists, with sector specific insight from Secretaries of State, Ministers and MPs. It offers an indispensable guide to industry best practice, which demonstrates how sector leaders have responded to challenges in the political and economic environment. The Review has several editions, each focusing on an individual policy area with the strategic aim of raising standards by highlighting best practice.

It is sent to over 500,000 leading business executives, policy makers and other relevant individuals. The Review’s release is marked by an annual gala in the Palace of Westminster.

In 2017, Evo Supplies were proud to be selected as a “Best Practice Representative” in the Manufacturing edition of The Parliamentary Review. You can read our Parliamentary Review story here and here.

 

 

 

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Evo’s story – as featured in The Parliamentary Review 2016/17

Parliamentary Review

Here’s the full text of our feature as ‘best practice representatives’ in this year’s Parliamentary Review (manufacturing edition).

 

Evo Supplies Ltd is one of the UKs leading manufacturers of furniture skates (also known as dollies). The company was founded in 2013, when Juliet and Greg Dunn purchased an existing removal supplies business on Mersea Island in Essex. Managing Director Juliet Dunn explains Evos mission, culture and plans for the future.

In November 2013 Greg and I – an animal feed trader and a legal editor respectively – found ourselves the slightly nervous owners of a small furniture skate manufacturing business. We both had previous experience in running businesses, but neither of us had a manufacturing background. Over the past four years, we’ve had to acquire some entirely new skillsets, and the learning curve has been close to vertical at times.

Skates or dollies

We branded ourselves ‘The Skate People’ and started developing new products to fill gaps in the market, working with our customers to produce skates to the specifications they needed. We’re principally a business-to-business seller, but there’s also a market in skates for domestic and garden use.

Over the past 18 months we’ve taken on new people and now have a very strong team. It’s a constant learning process for all of us, but team spirit prevails. Our commitment to timely delivery and excellent customer service does occasionally mean that my office colleagues and I can be found on the factory floor, pitching in to finish and pack skates ready for loading out. This hands-on approach has helped me to gain real insight into exactly what I’m asking my production guys to do, and how our productivity expectations and targets can be improved.

High-spec and hand finished

In a market dominated by cheap imported dollies, we’ve differentiated Evo by focusing on three core concepts:

  1. Making high-spec, hand-finished products that satisfy our customers’ own high quality demands: hard-wearing castors; sustainable timber; and the ethos of ‘buying British’. Our emphasis on premium quality has recently attracted two workplace equipment suppliers, who feature Evo-made products in their online catalogues.
  2. Promoting the attractive branding advantages for corporate customers of Evo ‘personalised’ skates. Some of the big names in commercial relocation and domestic removals have large fleets of Evo skates, bearing their company logo, to present a professional image on site and reinforce their brand.
  3. Making bespoke-size skates. We’ve made giant skates for shifting PA equipment, skates for trundling sacks of logs and skates for freezers. Requests can be bizarre, but we’ll oblige whenever possible; and from an R&D perspective, some of these one-off jobs have resulted in permanent additions to our range, including the aluminium Filing Cabinet Skate and the 1-tonne capacity ‘Mighty Mover’.

Responding to challenges

Evo is part of the supply chain for domestic removals and commercial relocation companies, so the nervousness resulting from, first, the Brexit vote and now the outcome of the June General Election, inevitably impacts on us. Protracted political and financial nervousness will benefit neither the manufacturing sector in which we operate, nor the service industries we supply, and we believe it’s crucial that the next Government genuinely supports SMEs.

Evo has recently joined the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the EEF – the Manufacturers’ Organisation.  I strongly commend both organisations, not only for their loud and persistent lobbying of Government on issues directly affecting SMEs, but also for the wealth of information, advice, services and practical help they offer business owners. I wish we’d joined years ago: membership brings both reassurance and inspiration.

The free HR, legal and crisis management services available to FSB members are amazing value. And a recent visit from an EEF manufacturing consultant gave the whole team here an unrivalled opportunity to seek advice and guidance on productivity and efficiency in our operation – again, a service entirely free to members.

This year we have invested heavily in the Xero cloud accounting system, which has revolutionised life in the Evo office.  It also offers a vast array of management accounting and marketing tools, which we’re only just starting to explore, but the possibilities are exciting.

Financing the business for growth is a challenge. We’ve been seeking funding to allow us to take Evo to the next level and to realise our development aspirations, but the process is so frustrating it’s almost enough to dampen the entrepreneurial spirit. But Greg and I are not the kind of people to be easily deterred. Through thinkbusinessfinance.com we recently secured a loan from IWOCA,(?) which was a life-saver in delivering working capital precisely when we needed it. The loan funded the design and building of our new website and a trip to China to explore the economic viability of sourcing two of our raw materials – rubber and castors – direct from the manufacturers.

 

It was encouraging to see an awareness in both Conservative and Labour manifestos of the crushing effects on small business of late payment. Both parties pledged that companies tendering for government contracts must pay their own suppliers on time. As the FSB asserts: ‘When our small businesses succeed, so does the UK economy.’

So what are Evos plans for the future?

  • extending our product range and broadening our customer base;
  • building even stronger relationships with our existing customers;
  • achieving a better balance between the ideals of ‘just in time’ ordering and lean manufacturing, while also holding sufficient stock to service urgent orders, meet the delivery promises of our wholesalers, and offer the fast response demanded of outlets like eBay;
  • following our EEF consultant’s recommendations to optimise production methods and increase productivity;
  • significantly reducing costs by buying raw materials (those that are already Chinese-made) direct from China ;
  • making our excellent customer service super-excellent!

 

Find out more about the Parliamentary Review here …

Read about Evo’s evening in Westminster here …