New Coleraine business to carve out exports

Coleraine-based husband and wife team Paul and Alison Laverty are being helped by Invest Northern Ireland to develop a business idea that will help young children master reading and writing skills.

Wooden Letters Ltd, the small company formed by the couple, has started production of decorated wooden letters, numbers and alphabet wall charts for sale in Northern Ireland and abroad.

With Invest NI’s support the couple is investing over £200,000 to develop market opportunities for its products that have been pinpointed, particularly in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. Orders for the colourful letters and numbers have already been placed by retailers both here and in Great Britain. In addition to Mr and Mrs Laverty, the company is expected to provide two new jobs at least over the next three years.

Announcing Invest NI’s backing for the new start-up company in Coleraine, Des Gartland, Invest NI’s North West Regional Office Manager, said: “This is an entrepreneurial small business which is now establishing itself as a manufacturer of gift and craft items following test marketing over a period of six months.  

“Market research has indicated that the existing products and bespoke service being offered are new to the markets they have identified. In addition, the company’s objective of achieving external sales of around 70 per cent of turnover is in line with Invest NI’s commitment to providing practical support towards the development of businesses focused on markets outside Northern Ireland”.

“As well as the education sector, this ambitious company is aiming to develop sales in other growth areas, such as giftware and crafts, and to use its market knowledge to strengthen its portfolio by diversifying into other sectors. Our support is geared to help the company in key functions such as production and marketing,” he added.

Mr Laverty, who has managerial experience in the retail industry, said Invest NI’s assistance will help the company implement its growth plans faster.

“While we are investing in new machinery to enable us to step up production we are planning a challenging sales drive over the next two years in markets outside Northern Ireland. “We’ve been extremely encouraged by the enthusiastic response from some local retailers and especially by the level of interest that we’ve received by means of our website.

“We’ve also had a number of approaches from potential business partners in England. It’s now clear to us that there is a significant market opportunity for the unique products that we are now making in Coleraine and our intention is to exploit these market gaps as quickly as practicable,” he added.

The company will manufacture and supply wooden letters and numbers around 20 cms in height in a wide range of font types and styles. Letters and numbers can be printed in various patterns and colours.

Invest NI, which has offered the company financial assistance of £24,000, has also assisted the company with the development of a new website as part of its marketing activities.