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Norwich’s LJ Create eyes international expansion after management buyout

PUBLISHED: 09:54 05 August 2015 | UPDATED: 10:55 05 August 2015

The management team at LJ Create following its management buy-out. From left to right, Chris Rowe, managing director; Chris Turner, product director; and Paul Goldsworthy, finance director. Picture submitted.

The management team at LJ Create following its management buy-out. From left to right, Chris Rowe, managing director; Chris Turner, product director; and Paul Goldsworthy, finance director. Picture submitted.

Archant

A Norwich business has fired the starting gun on an international expansion after sealing a management buyout which has brought the company back into UK ownership.

LJ Create, the educational products manufacturer, has revealed bold plans to break into the Chinese market and strengthen its business in the USA and South America.

While the far-reaching blueprint will be rolled out over the next 12 years, turnover is still expected to grow “substantially” to £6.5m by the end of 2015.

It comes in the wake of the MBO deal with its former Dutch parent company Infinitas Learning Group, which snapped up LJ Create in 2012 to gain its expertise for an apprenticeship contract in Germany.

The MBO – which was finalised on July 24 – sees the business coming under the direct ownership of the senior management team, including managing director Chris Rowe who founded the company with his father Larry Rowe in the late 1970s.

The father-and-son team first expanded the business back in 1979 when they won a competition with the Eastern Daily Press and the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce to take up a year’s free office space, which allowed them to move the business out of the family home.

Chris Rowe said its long-term growth strategy would build on the success it has already seen in overseas markets, which includes a multi-million pound deal earlier this year to supply curriculum materials to a military technical college in Oman.

“Over the last few years we have shipped product into six different countries around the world, so our target for the next three years is expanding back into many of these countries.

“We are forging a new partnership in China. We have a partner there who supplies us with products for the USA and UK market and is now looking to fit these into the Chinese education system as well.

“We have already done lots of business there, but this is where we see the expansion in the future.”

The company manufactures and designs models, products and software programmes to use in schools and education centres. It recently agreed a deal to bring a Chinese robotics kit into the UK to capitalise on the push to teach computer programming in British schools.

It currently employs 67 people in the UK and eight at its US office in Orlando. It also has a base in Mexico City.

Mr Rowe added: “We want to grow in the USA and consolidate in Central and South America, because all of our products can be translated into Spanish. We are looking at substantial growth in Peru and Columbia.”

He said the firm was committed to Norfolk, but has not ruled out moving to bigger premises close to its current base in Francis Way in Bowthorpe.

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