Andrew Locke Plumbing, Heating and Tiling Ltd

A company has survived one of the worst slumps ever faced by the construction sector – by tapping into new markets.

Andrew Locke Plumbing, Heating and Tiling, based at Skelmanthorpe, was formed in 1985 by Andrew after he was made redundant at the age of 22 with £1,000 borrowed from his mother.

Twenty one years later, the family-run firm was turning over £1.4m, having grown steadily over the years on the back of recommendations, word-of-mouth, hard work and long hours.

The company operates throughout Yorkshire and beyond on domestic and commercial projects ranging from small maintenance jobs to large contracts.

After the 2008 credit crunch hit the building trade badly, Andrew Locke opened a bathroom showroom – Bathrooms by Design – to provide a new stream of work and keep the company going.

Mr Locke said: “We have survived the longest slump in the building industry for many years. We are now moving forward with new contracts, especially new housing projects.

“We have recently employed a new apprentice and an estimator. Because we retained our large domestic market customers over the years and developed a gas service notification system with more than 1,000 appliances listed, the company has grown this year.”

Andrew Locke has also branched out into the energy-efficient biomass boiler market – as well as getting involved in a community project to help fund a new library and resources centre in Denby Dale. New products have been introduced to the bathroom showroom.

Mr Locke said: “The company has been built from scratch with a lot of sacrifices. We have survived three recessions in the building trade and we have retained and grown our domestic sector to more than 3,000 customers over the years.”

He added: “I often think the building trade does not get the recognition it deserves – with all the bad publicity it is given on television programmes. We have worked hard to retain our contacts.

“I believe that a thriving building industry means a thriving country.”

Looking head, Mr Locke said the company would be promoting the energy-efficient systems now available and expanding its gas service notification system. “We are undertaking more biomass boiler installations,” he added.

Expion Search and Selection

A recuitment company counting some of the country’s top businesses among its clients is also helping smaller firms find the right people for the job.

Expion Search & Selection, based at Lindley’s Heritage Exchange, was formed in 2010 by aspiring graduates who were committed to growing the business in Yorkshire to support local business and create jobs in manufacturing, innovation, engineering and food supply.

Director Richard Clegg said: “Expion believes that in order to deliver a cutting edge service to client companies, it is vital to provide a truly outstanding candidate experience. Exceptionally talented people are a precious commodity. They have a right to expect respect for their wants and needs just as much as the recruiting company.”

Mr Clegg said Expion had doubled in size in the past four years. At the start of 2014, it opened a second office at Silverstone race track in Northamptonshire to meet increased demand in the south of England and the Midlands. A third office, back in Yorkshire, is also coming to fruition.

Expion is preferred partner to blue chip companies including Nestle, Arla, GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson as well as serving Yorkshire SMEs.

Mr Clegg said: “Expion is very proud to be ranked consistently in the top five in terms of candidate feedback in the Jobsline Recruit Rank Awards, which allows candidates to anonymously feedback on the customer service received during the recruitment process. Our placing is very important to the business and contributed to business improvement plans.”

Mr Clegg said the company was investing in skills and leadership for performance to help maintain its position as a niche, expert market leader in its field, adding: “At the sharp end, the business is outperfoming its peers in essential key measurables on service delivery. This includes ‘right first time’ matching of candidates, retention of key skills and search projects.”

The company, which has 21 employees, plans to add another four staff in Huddersfield by the end of 2014 as well as opening a Leeds office with three people. Among other developments, it aims to roll out its interview coaching and support programme for senior candidates, embrace the growing trend for flexible working and provide a suggestion box for employee feedback.

Mr Clegg said: “Recruitment is an industry where risks can come from all angles. We train our staff how to manage risk – risk to us and our revenue streams as well as risk to our clients. Awareness of risk and bringing solutions alive have been testament to our success.”


Allison Whitmarsh of Proper Maid, Lindley
Allison Whitmarsh of Proper Maid, Lindley

Cakes company ProperMaid has been providing a treat for the tastebuds with its unusual confections since being founded by former school dinner lady Allison Whitmarsh in 2008.

Now the company, which created cakes with combinations such as courgette and lime, beetroot and chocolate and liquorice has continued to outperform its business goals in the current year – adding a satellite unit to its existing manufacturing and administration base at Heritage Exchange, Lindley, to increase storage space and enable the firm to meet larger distribution orders.

The company, which employs 36 people and was boosted in 2012 by an investment by Dragon’s Den entrepreneur Deborah Meaden, has also restructured its management team with the appointment of a financial controller, a production planner and a business sales manager.

Along with Allison being named Business Woman of the Year 2014 at the Network Star Awards, the company has teamed up with Ocado to create its Christmas dinner cake and developed a rhubarb and custard cake to mark the Tour de France Grand Depart – with a contribution from each sales going to the Marie Curie cancer charity.

Allison said: “We have continued to innovate with our distinctive and unique cake flavours, including our Pimms cake, which we launched this summer. We continue to attract new high profile contracts and are planning later this year to start an additional production shift to further increase our capacity.”

The company remains proud of its local roots – providing internships and work experience opportunities for Huddersfield students and sourcing ingredients from local suppliers wherever possible.

ProperMaid supplies customers including cafes and restaurants, Batley’s Cash and Carry, the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield, Leeds City Museum, Yorkshire Sculpture Park at Bretton, York racecourse and Harewood House, near Leeds.

Allison said the coming 12 months would present ProperMaid with several huge challenges and opportunities. “Our primary production goal during the next 12 months will be an expansion of bespoke product lines.”

She said: “Having recruited a newly-layered management structure covering sales, business development, finance and production planning, the business now has the foundations, capacity and order book to operate on a multiple shift system which will create a number of additional production roles for local people.

“Having already won a Gold Taste Award for our gluten-free Victoria Vanilla, we will further develop product and marketing in our gluten-free range for which we are gaining a growing “taste without compromise” reputation.

And she said the company, which started with Allison baking from her home kitchen with just one customer, was seeking a production and distribution partner in New York as a potential launchpad to enter the potentially lucrative US market.