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Whenever guitarist Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin decides to place one of his pieces of priceless rock memorabilia in storage, he relies on a business which is based in Yorkshire’s former mining heartland.

Page uses storage boxes made by Really Useful Products, a company which was started in a spare bedroom and is set to reel in £30m this year. The company was founded more than a decade ago by former accountant Mike Pickles, who is proud of the role he has played in bringing jobs to an area that suffered badly when the coal mines closed.

Really Useful Products, which is based in Normanton, West Yorkshire, employs 190 people and is set to hire more as the company increases its market share.

It produces storage boxes for the home and office market and has won big contracts with major companies including Staples and Walmart.

Mr Pickles, who is the managing director, bought the company name for £100, 12 years ago. It has a manufacturing base in Normanton and warehousing in the West Midlands and Chicago, along with sales outlets in Europe.

Mr Pickles said: “My strategy is to take advantage of opportunities. I’d learned how to count money. I then learned how to make money. I thought, ‘Why not create a plastic storage box, that could be used for maintaining your archive records?’ ”

Using the equity from his house, Mr Pickles embarked on a business career.

He recalled: “Twelve years ago it was a new business in a new market. I had never been involved with plastic boxes in my life. In the first 12 months of trading we achieved about £1m of turnover. Now, 12 years on, we should do around £30m this year.”

In the early days, he delivered the boxes to stores in places like Hull in a car with a trailer attached.

Mr Pickles believes innovators are likely to achieve greater success during a period of economic turbulence.

He said: “If everything is good in retailing, why should a buyer take a chance? But if sales are tough and they’ve got to fight for every pound of sales on the high street, they’re going to make sure their selection is optimised.

“A recession shakes people out of complacency. People are much more open to new ideas in a recession. Great ideas sell, but as Apple have shown, you’ve got to be able to market it. You’ve got to have a route to market. We sold to Staples in Germany, Canada and America.

“We are continually looking to recruit additional people. But we are a global business.

“We are almost at full capacity here. The next stage is to look at other opportunities. The next thing we will do is manufacture directly in America.”

Last year, Really Useful Products was the winner of the award for Yorkshire SME of the Year, sponsored by Santander Corporate Banking, at the Variety Club’s Yorkshire Business Awards.

Mr Pickles said: “Although my mum describes me as an entrepreneur, I’m just an average guy, from an average area, and I’ve just been lucky.

“The great thing about storage is that everybody needs it. Staples tell me they have famous footballers coming in to the store and buying boxes.

“Jimmy Page keeps all his archive in our boxes. He’s a great guy, very down to earth. It creates a buzz for the employees, because it really endorses the product.

“I’ve invested my money in a product that everybody needs. It’s a massive market. If I get one per cent of it, I’m smiling. There are many opportunities out there, it’s just a question of seeing them.”

The latest phase in the company’s development is the Boxes Made with Love logo. Mr Pickles recalled: “I was at an industry event and the MD of a leading Japanese electronics company asked me why our boxes were different. I said that they were made with love. He said that sounded good and we should use the tag line.”

From: Yorkshire Post
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