As the North Tyneside Business Forum is celebrating 12 years this month, we thought we’d chat to a couple of our members who started up around the same time as us, so we can all celebrate together.
We chatted to WSG Print and the Cobalt Business Exchange to find out how their 12 years of business have been and what challenges they’ve faced.
Mandy – WSG Print
Hi, I’m Mandy from WSG Print and I’m the production manager. I’ve worked for WSG Print for four years but the business itself has been running since 2010. We’re based in North Shields and we are signwriters and manufacturers. We produce windows, signs, graphics and prints in all forms from vehicle livery, shop fronts, neon signs, stickers and labels.
We are a team of five people and we joined the Forum four years ago. When we first set up, we were predominantly vehicle livery specialists because our unit caters for buses, trucks, vans and vehicles. Since then, however, we’ve branched out into full blown metal fabrication, cutting, printing and sign making. We diversified over the years to cater for new trends and products on the market. We’ve had to learn to adapt to what our customers need and have learned loads of new skills along the way.
We have experienced quite a few challenges over the years, just like most businesses, but Covid has probably been the biggest challenge we’ve faced as a business. It hit us hard, with the majority of our work stopping due to restrictions. But we adapted and started creating Covid safety signs which made up 90% of our business for a while. We also had to bring our children into work with us every day as they were all off school at the time. This meant work/life balance was impacted. We had to furlough some of the team to keep the business going, but we also wanted to safeguard their jobs for when they could come back.
We struggled with suppliers being unable to deliver materials and prices went up massively. We did our best to absorb most of the increases but we have had to increase our prices to stay viable.
But thankfully we’re still here and still trading after a tough couple of years and we’re looking forward to things improving again soon.
Working in North Tyneside
North Tyneside is home to WSG Print and every team member. We know so many people in the area and we always feel proud when we have created something amazing for our customers. Most of our customers come from North Tyneside too so it’s great to know we’ve created something that will help North Tyneside look better, as well as supporting other businesses in the area.
What I love most is when we help a start-up business which then returns a short time later having expanded or moved premises and needing more print work done. It’s great knowing we’ve helped them achieve their goals.
We’ve got involved with several of the Business Forum events during the time we’ve been members. As a small business, each of the team wears several hats in terms of networking and marketing. But we often look up what’s happening with the Forum, chat to other members, attend events and help out where we can.
To find out more about WSG Print, visit www.wsgprint.co.uk
Victoria – Cobalt Business Exchange
I’m Victoria and I’m the Business Manager at the Cobalt Business Exchange (CBX). I started this role in October 2009, just before the centre launched in March 2010.
We offer serviced offices for local businesses and we have a gym that’s available for use by both tenants and members of the public – The CBX Gym. We have a team of 15 people at the CBX and they all do an amazing job of running the centre. The gym is run as independent business and has six personal trainers who manage it a self-employed basis.
How has the business changed since 2010?
We started as a small, serviced office provider. The original plan was to have one or two wings of the building as serviced offices to encourage small businesses into the area. We kept the rest of the building aside to offer long-term leases to enable smaller businesses to expand into. It soon became apparent that the demand for the smaller serviced spaces was so high we needed to utilise that space. In doing so this made us the largest serviced office building in the UK.
We added the gym and a café since the original launch and we to continue to welcome new businesses and look for ways to provide additional amenities and services within CBX.
We’ve overcome quite a few challenges over the years, from finding the right team to run the business to configuring the existing building to suit our tenants.
We’ve been really lucky to have a happy and stable team at CBX. The original three members of staff are still with us and the other centre staff have all been with us for over eight years now.
When it comes to the building and grounds, we have to change the configuration constantly to make the most of the space and offer our tenants the best space. Each wing of the building was developed independently and new lessons have been learned at each stage. The most interesting and rewarding challenge of all is learning how best to serve each individual tenant. Each of our tenants businesses has unique requirements and we always try to adjust the space and develop new ways to support them to run their businesses.
Opening the CBX Gym is probably the biggest challenge we’ve faced, but it’s seems to have been a popular move.
Working in North Tyneside
North Tyneside Council have been supportive and have referred clients who were new to the area, looking for office space so that’s been useful. We’ve also got a great partnership with Cobalt Park, the wider area in which CBX is situated. We also joined the North Tyneside Business Forum at the start of Covid because the information they provided was outstanding – it enabled us to keep our tenants safe and the building open as much as possible because we had businesses that were classed as key worker organisations. We always encouraged our tenants to make use of the benefits offered by the Forum too, which enabled them to access additional support and interactions with other businesses.
For more information about the Cobalt Business Exchange, visit https://www.cbx-cobaltpark.co.uk/