Craig Smith’s rags to riches tale is not a new one. But this does not make it any less impressive. “I was working for my mum and dad’s packing business,” he says. “But they grew too fast and went bankrupt.”
Smith looked for a job but found that the job market was all but dried up. “I spent a year out of work,” he says. “My partner was out of work too. But when she fell pregnant I knew I had to do something myself.”
In May 2007, Smith approached the Prince’s Trust for a small business loan. He was awarded £2,000, repayable over a three-year period. “It was ideal,” he says. And so The Printed Bag Shop was born.
Smith had a company name, a roster of manufacturers but no clients. “I got suited and booted and just went around the north east, knocking on doors,” says Smith. “I was lucky. The first door on the first day gave me some business.”
The business grew organically from then on. “We got ourselves a website and pretty soon we were coming up first on Google for all related search terms,” says Smith. “We had more enquiries coming in from the internet than cold-calling.”
The Printed Bag Shop produces a whole range of environmentally-friendly bags, from polythene and paper to cotton and jupe. Big corporations looking to reduce their carbon footprint began to hunt out these green options for the promotional bags. “I got Coca Cola, Boots, Vivienne Westwood and James Caan all on the phone asking for bags,” says Smith.
And, despite the sheer volume of printing companies out there, The Printed Bag Shop has a couple of advantages over its rivals: range and fast turnarounds.
“We do our manufacturing both here and abroad,” explains Smith. “This means we can turn around most orders within seven to ten days. The last thing people think about when they’re putting on an event or something is bags. When they remember, they want them soon, so we’ll have them done in the UK. If you source them from the Far East, you have to wait weeks.
“Plenty of companies do carrier bags,” he continues. “They don’t all do the range we do. They usually specialise in one kind of product. I spend a lot of time building rapport with suppliers so they can help me get any bag ready in the shortest time.”
From a standing start, Craig Smith pulled in a turnover of £245,000 in 2008 and he’s looking to hit the £1m mark this year.
And how about margins? “Let’s just say they’re healthy,” says Smith. “I don’t want my competitors reading this and stealing a march on me.”
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