Barnsley steel company shines
7 November 2011
A small Barnsley company which makes architectural metalwork faces a bright future after winning several contracts in London as the city gets ready to host the Olympics.
Zebra Steel Fabrications was expanded and rebranded earlier this year by its directors, husband and wife John and Katie Murphy, in a bid to beat the recession.
The firm has since undertaken a number of high profile projects including work on the John Lewis department store at Westfield Stratford City – the largest urban shopping centre in Europe and gateway to the Olympic Park.
Zebra’s range of bespoke products include staircases, balustrade, handrails, gates, railings, balconies and canopies and it also offers a structural steel service.
John has over 20 years’ experience in the industry and he and Katie started their own business, Zebra Steel Solutions, eight years ago. At the end of last year, as some of their competitors folded due to the recession, they decided the way forward was manufacturing as well as installation, and Zebra Steel Fabrications was formed.
Katie said only a year ago, the firm was run from the couple’s home, at Darton, which they share with children Thomas, eight, and Ava, four.
Now the firm has moved to premises at Carlton Industrial Estate and has two employees and six sub-contractors on its team, with hopes to take on more staff.
Katie said the company’s fortunes had really taken off with the majority of new work centred on building schemes in the London area as the city prepares for the Olympics next year.
She said: “I think if we hadn’t taken the decision to diversify into manufacturing, we might have struggled to survive the recession, but now we’re handling very high-specification orders and the plan is to build on these relationships and expand further.
“Clients are pleased with our high quality standards of work, fair pricing and John’s hands on approach to site installation when necessary We’re currently in the process of patenting a manufacturing technique which will help us to be even more competitive.”
Zebra made and installed stainless steel handrails to four staircases in the John Lewis department store as well as fitting posts and glass to its atrium – the central escalator area - and coffee bar.
It carried out the work for main contractor Wates Retail, part of the construction services company Wates Group. The store is the anchor for the Westfield development which opened in September with more than 300 shops and is expected to attract around seven million customers during the Olympics alone.
Zebra has received finance and human resources coaching and help with the development of a new website from Enterprising Barnsley, which supports local companies with growth potential.
Enterprising Barnsley is a partnership between Barnsley Development Agency, Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre and the University of Huddersfield’s Barnsley Campus.
Katie said: “Free support from Enterprising Barnsley has made all the difference by allowing us to get the new brand up and running to a professional level very quickly and we can’t encourage other companies enough to use their services.”
The Enterprising Barnsley programme has attracted £2.89m investment from the European Regional Development Fund as part of Europe’s support for the region’s economic development through the Yorkshire and Humber ERDF Programme.
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