Portglenone company, Kindercraft Products, a manufacturer of free-standing furniture for primary and nursery schools, is carving out a strong business base in the Republic of Ireland with Invest Northern Ireland’s assistance.
The company, which employs eight people, has already designed and manufactured furniture for schools in Dublin, Cork and Clare. Last year, the Republic provided 30 per cent of the company’s orderbook.
Kindercraft is also a leading supplier of bespoke furniture for classrooms, offices, canteens and foyers to schools run by Northern Ireland’s education boards and other bodies. It has supplied several local schools with a complete package of furniture designed in consultation with staff to meet their specific requirements.
The company, formed in 1998 by Stephen McErlean, a joiner with a wealth of experience in the production of fitted kitchens and bedrooms, has received advice and financial assistance from Invest NI’s North West Local Office (NWLO) in Londonderry.
This has included practical assistance towards the development of the furniture through the Design Development Programme, which teamed the company up with Paradigm, a Belfast-based design consultancy.
Mr McErlean says: “Invest NI’s support has been very important to us over the past three years. The Design Development Programme has been excellent and has given us a huge amount of very practical support for the development of our product range and flexible production systems that enable us to offer clients bespoke furniture quickly and cost-effectively.
“Our business is based on delivering a responsive and customer focused service. This involves us working closely with staff in the design and manufacture of furniture that meets the particular needs of an individual classroom or a complete school. We recognise that attractive and colourful furniture can make school a much more interesting place for young children in particular,” he adds.
Kevin Helferty, Invest NI’s NWLO manager, says: “Kindercraft is differentiating itself and achieving success in a competitive marketplace by investing in innovation in terms of its design expertise and the services that it provides to customers.
“It’s an entrepreneurial and ambitious company that is demonstrating a will to win both here and in the Republic of Ireland. Mr McErlean spotted a market opportunity and has invested time and resources to exploit by developing a nimble and responsive business,” he adds.
The company has also received assistance from Invest NI towards its marketing and IT activities.