Update: We Expanded Into Drinkware And Grew Revenue To $20K/Month

Published: March 8th, 2023
Dominic Irons
Founder, Ferrotype Ltd
Ferrotype Ltd
from London, England, United Kingdom
started February 2019
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Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

Hi. I am Dominic, co-founder of Ferrotype. We work with B2B clients of all sizes offering branded promotional goods. Our core product and background is in stationery (notebooks and pens) but we have gradually expanded to include other gift ideas including a significant amount of drinkware (water bottles, coffee cups, etc).

We are also working hard to shift the focus of the range towards more sustainable options although we are heavily reliant on manufacturers producing the right product as well as there being sufficient demand from our clients.

We launched back in 2019 when we performed a very quick turnaround to launch our business in a matter of weeks. There was an opportunity to keep working with a key B2B supplier after a previous B2C retail business had closed.

With an order book already in place it was too good an opportunity to turn down, but it did mean coming up with a company from scratch almost overnight - name, logo, website, and registering the legal and financial requirements.

The business has now bounced back after a difficult pandemic for 18 months, and we are now trading at a higher level than pre-pandemic. Revenue is approximately £20k a month now.


Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?

The biggest change we have made is to expand our business into drinkware, where we have seen up 25% of sales now in drinkware.

We are still the same small team and we aim to keep overheads low by not expanding the team. The pandemic knocked our business hard since we were so reliant on our products being part of a physical process - gifts or handouts for meetings and conferences which no longer took place. Business started to return by mid-2021 and has been strong since then.

The biggest change we have made is to expand our business into drinkware, where we have seen up 25% of sales now in drinkware. The other growth area is, as mentioned, sustainability. This is a tricky area since so much of what our competition offers is just greenwash. It is not just about what materials are used but where the product is made and its value to the end user.

We believe strongly in offering gifts that people will want and use and that this should form part of the sustainability choice. Is a disposable bamboo pen made in China more or less sustainable than a premium metal pen made in Germany?

We still stick with the tried and trusted PPC marketing supported by email marketing and just a lot of basic personal relationships with key customers.

What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?

Our biggest challenge would be resolving Brexit issues here in the UK. Luckily we don’t have a lot of imports and export to the EU but even at our low level, it has proved quite the headache.

What was the most simple and seamless process for handling the movement of goods is now, even for us, a real headache and we still have an ongoing unresolved tax case that no one can seem to give a clear answer on. I can’t imagine what it must be like for some companies!

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

Just that we should stick to doing what we know works. We did undertake a marketing campaign with a company that was a costly mistake. In hindsight, it was something we could have seen coming but with business picking up again we felt we needed a new source of leads.

You can have all the passion and the greatest idea, but if people don’t find you it amounts to nothing.

We do need a new source of leads, but we will be more careful about how we choose outside help to find it in the future. Empty promises of leads that were irrelevant to our business were never going to work. We will follow our gut instinct next time.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

Our plans are focused on the increasing demand for sustainability. This is a difficult issue for a small business such as ours to tackle since we are caught between what products manufacturers choose to make and what demand customers have. Although there is a correlation between those two, it doesn’t always work perfectly and it certainly doesn’t fit with our wishes to move faster.

Luckily there is a real change here, and we have seen the sales change from our core notebook supplier. The shift has been from maybe 5% to over 30% of sales being on ‘green’ notebooks, and within that the shift last year was towards a fully-recycled notebook which took over half the ‘eco’ notebook sales.

It is early days but we are working on ways to work with this shift in both demand and supply whilst avoiding the greenwash pitfall.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

I am not an expert in the field of launching a new business, and as stated this one came about more by luck than planning. However, if I was to start a new business tomorrow I would focus on:

  1. Passion - be truly passionate about what you choose to do. If you don’t love it it will be even harder for your customers to love it. Passion won’t make you money but it will help drive you onward toward making a success of it. It will rub off on staff and customers alike.
  2. Trends - have a gut feeling backed up by research and data on what will be in demand 5 years from now.
  3. Finance - have a really good handle on the finance or have someone who can do it for you that you trust.
  4. Marketing - you can have all the passion and the greatest idea, but if people don’t find you it amounts to nothing. Have a clear idea of how you will get yourself in front of potential customers, whether through old-school advertising or up-to-date trends for social media, or more. And have more than one means of getting yourself out there as there is a big risk in relying on one method. Who wants to be at the mercy of one company when they can change the rules overnight!?

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!