08.04.2015

P1050129It was a fond childhood memory and a desire to follow her heart that sparked Sue Rigby’s dreams of running her own company.

And some valuable financial advice and strong words of encouragement from her SREG mentor helped keep her vision on track and going from strength to strength.

Sue Rigby runs the Yorkshire Swing Seat Company from her home in the Dales selling handmade, luxury garden swing seats.

Drawing inspiration from her past for the initial idea, the business has grown steadily over the past five years.

“A great aunt of mine had a swing seat in her garden,” said Sue. “I remember sitting there and just losing myself. When it was time to go everyone would shout at me to get in the car, but I just wanted to stay there forever.

“That memory stayed with me, and when I came to  a crossroads and was wondering what to do next and as I’d always wanted to set up my own business, the family said ‘go and do what you want to do’, so I decided to create the company.”

The brand has grown in popularity since it was launched five years ago, and Sue has been invited to exhibit at the Harrogate Flower Show and the Royal Horticultural Society Hampton Court Palace Flower Show amongst others.

Quality has always been of huge importance to Sue, and having grown up in Halifax and having lived in the Dales for the last 30 years, she wanted to remain loyal to her Yorkshire roots.

She said: “The one proviso I had was that everything had to be made in Yorkshire. I use materials and suppliers based in Yorkshire, and they have to be of the highest quality.

“The frame is built in Keighley and the cushions are handmade there as well, the upholstery is done in Otley and the toggles for the awnings are turned by the Gayle Mill Trust in Wensleydale. I could have easily found some at B&Q or somewhere similar and cheaper, but it is all about the quality and keeping everything Yorkshire.

“The only thing we import is Sunbrella Plus fabric which is lightweight and reliably weatherproof. It is made in France and is the best quality available  giving customers confidence in the longevity of the seats. I want quality workmanship across the board as I want the seats to last.”

Sue designed the swing seats with the help of her son in law. She said: “I knew what I wanted in my head, and he helped me with how it would fit together.

“We have made a few alterations after conversations with customers and suppliers to improve them. I think it’s important to listen to people, especially when they have good ideas that can improve what you do. But overall the designs have pretty much stayed the same.”

On setting up the company, Sue started slowly because she was keen to ensure the quality of the seats was exactly as she wanted. She later had invaluable help from her SREG mentor. She said: “I knew exactly what I wanted and I knew I had to go in the highways and byways to find the right suppliers to do the jobs I needed.

“SREG have been brilliant for me. My mentor [Steve Richardson from Wildacre Chemicals] came to see me and he really helped me get moving.

“I didn’t always have the confidence to do some of the things I wanted or needed to do, and he was very supportive with that. It helps that he has a good sense of humour!”

“Probably the biggest help was focusing on the financial side of things, especially the cash flow. He got me into the habit of looking at my bank statement every Monday, and that’s something I’ve stuck to.”

She added: “Steve was also there for the first show we did and is  always  very supportive.

“I then paddled along on my own for a while, but I came to a stage where I needed to expand but I got cold feet, so up he came again.

“I have recommended SREG to three or four people; it’s been a huge benefit to the company, and would help anyone wanting to start their own business.”

 

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