UTB! Face mask orders flood in after Tees firm diversifies

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A Teesside sportswear firm that has diversified into face masks during the ongoing pandemic has created eight new jobs after receiving its biggest order to date from Middlesbrough Council.

Imprint Applications have taken on new machinists, sales and design staff and brought more staff back from furlough since starting production of bespoke face masks at their new premises on Middlesbrough’s Riverside Park.

And they were thrilled when Middlesbrough mayor Andy Preston personally placed an initial order of 1,000 red and white face masks – each sporting the phrase UTB – that will be given out to members of the public using public transport.

Set up in 2016 by directors Ashley Robinson and Nathan Sutcliffe, Imprint was originally a print and embroidery specialist for the clothing industry but had moved into providing its own range of sportswear, workwear and schoolwear.

While lockdown brought a sudden halt to their sports, work and schoolwear orders, they are confident their traditional business will pick up soon – and they believe demand for their bespoke face masks is here to stay.

The mayor’s order of 1,000 bespoke masks – each embroidered with UTB (short for Up the Boro) – was their biggest single order but has since been matched by a similar order from Wimbledon Football Club.

Orders have flooded in for masks from local takeaways, pubs, salons and restaurants including the Cleveland Tontine, The Oven, Ramside Hall and Acklam Hall.

And Imprint are making a £1 donation to Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation for every mask order they receive, with funds going towards those struggling amid the Covid pandemic.

“We’re massive Teessiders so we’re incredibly proud to be able to produce something from start to finish right here on Teesside, and then see people wearing the masks on our streets and our public transport,” said Nathan.

Ashley added: “The lockdown was depressing, so get back up and running and then have the mayor come in to our new unit to physically place an order has really lifted the mood.

Mayor Andy Preston said: “I’m so pleased that Middlesbrough Council can buy this vital product from a Middlesbrough business that’s creating Middlesbrough jobs.

“It’s brilliant to see local firms innovating like this at a time when their traditional markets have temporarily dried up.

“Masks look like they are set to stay for the foreseeable future so Imprint have a potentially growing market too.”

Imprint’s consultant Mark Holt added: “The orders for face masks are additional work that wasn’t even on our minds before Covid.

“As the government has announced that masks are a necessity and that staff in pubs and restaurants have to wear them, we’ve had a surge of interest.

“It has created an opportunity and possible new business going forward. We don’t know how long demand will remain but we’re buzzing to be back and raring to expand further.”