Even Covid can’t mask Imprint’s progress

Tees Business Digital Media Pack

Diversification and market knowledge means a Middlesbrough firm run by former schoolmates has continued its ambitious expansion plans despite the pandemic.

Set up in 2016 by directors Ashley Robinson and Nathan Sutcliffe, Imprint Applications was originally a print and embroidery specialist for the clothing industry but since the start of 2020 has switched to providing its own range of sportswear, workwear and most recently school wear.

And their ambitious plans show no signs of abating after they moved into new 7,000-sq ft premises on Riverside Park after creating eight new roles – with more to follow.

In its latest innovation, Imprint has now diversified into bespoke face masks during the ongoing pandemic – receiving a big early order from Middlesbrough Council via mayor Andy Preston.

Recent years have seen Imprint establish themselves as leaders in the field for adding print or embroidery to sportswear, mainly for local grassroots football clubs but also for big names such as the West Indies cricket team, England and Saracens rugby teams and Hartlepool United FC.

Now they’ve launched their own sportswear brand they are confident it will prove a big hit across the sports, while they offer an ever-increasing range of customised workwear and, most recently, school uniform too.

Their recent move from Lawson Industrial Estate to premises ten times the size at Riverside Park has allowed them to not only recruit more staff but also to create an impressive showroom to display their expanding range of products, and what they describe as a “Google-style office” featuring meeting pods and a pool table to encourage customers to discuss options in a relaxed environment.

Anyone who visits their new HQ will be left in no doubt that Imprint is on the rise.

Now they’ve had the endorsement of mayor Preston too, the sky’s the limit.

“It’s brilliant to see local firms innovating like this at a time when their traditional markets have temporarily dried up,” said the mayor after personally placing the council’s order for 1,000 bespoke red and white face masks sporting Middlesbrough FC’s ‘UTB’ slogan.

The Imprint directors agree with the town’s mayor that masks look like they are set to stay for the foreseeable future so Imprint has a potentially growing market too.

Orders have flooded in for masks from local takeaways, pubs, salons and restaurants including the Cleveland Tontine, The Oven and Ramside Hall – and, from further afield, Wimbledon FC.

Now Imprint plan to be part of a push to bring more textile manufacturing back to the UK – and have been lifted by the quality of candidates during a recent recruitment drive.

“Everyone tells us that the textile industry is dead in the North-East and one of our main worries was whether we could find the skilled operatives we need,” says Middlesbroughborn Ashley, who studied at Cleveland College of Art and Design and London College of Fashion before starting out in business.

“But the response has been phenomenal. When we advertised for machinists, we had more than 150 applicants, with 45 strong enough to take on tomorrow if we could.”

For now they’ve taken on four in the shape of Kieran Wedlake, Sharon Metcalfe, Janet Bold and apprentice Matthew Holt, together with graphic artist Eddie Turner, head of digital marketing and content creation Lee Waite, former intern and Teesside University graduate Emily Day as creative director and sales, sales executives Carole Bennett, Diane Wilkinson and Ameed Khan and marketing consultant Mark Holt.

“If things go the way we hope they will go, we’re forecasting more recruitment before the end of the year so we’re also investing in the equipment they’ll need,” says MD Nathan, who was raised in the New Marske and Redcar areas before studying sports science in Manchester. “We’ve invested in eight sewing machines to ensure we have everything we need to move forward with confidence.

“We’re massively excited for the future, buzzing to be back and raring to expand further.”