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Company set up in front room hits £8m annual turnover

Signwaves, Yarmouth

Signwaves, Yarmouth

Archant

Sign manufacturer, Signwaves of Great Yarmouth is celebrating 25 years of production as business continues to report healthy growth.

The company, set up by father and son Ashley and Mark Ford, now employs just under 100 staff with an annual turnover in excess of £8m. It started life in the Ford household, with the front room serving as an office and the garage as the workshop.

Now, 25 years later, Signwaves is regarded as one of the market-leading players with a 50,000sq ft factory and offices and a list of clients most would envy including Walls Ice Cream (for 25 years), The National Lottery (since 1989), BP, Tesco, Ben and Jerry’s, Rombouts and Currys, to name a few.

The company was set up by Ashley, then 59, and son Mark, then 29, in Lowestoft when they both had been hit with redundancy. Both had previously worked in graphics signage, and using their combined expertise, saw an opportunity in the market in the field of A-boards and pavement signs. Today, Ashley, 84, remains chair man of Signwaves and Mark is CEO.

Mark said: “We started off with a home-made screen printing press and that’s no exaggeration. It was literally in the garage. We started from nothing with the sales office in my front room and the buying and accounts department on my father’s landing.”

The business got its first break when in its first month they secured an order from the then UK’s largest video rental store, Ritz Video Film Hire.

Mark added: “This was our first order and we literally had nothing: no brochure, no marketing material, nothing. My stepmother who was an old-school graphic designer, prepared a felt tip pen and pencil artist’s impression of an A-board. I somewhat gingerly presented this to Ritz and to my amazement, secured an order for 50 units.”

There have been changes to the business model to respond to market trends and production efficiencies.

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