Belfast Telegraph

Firm earning £30m started by bike sale

BA Components in Co Tyrone exports to 23 countries and manufactures and distributes 70,000 doors every year.

And in the 2014 Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards, the Cookstown company won Established SME. It is now marking 25 years in business.

The award was a phenomenal achievement for a firm that started out when Brian McCracken started his own company when he was just 21.

However, he was unable to convince anyone else he had the business acumen to turn his idea into a success.

So he was forced to sell his beloved motorbike - a Suzuki GSX750 like the one below - to finance his dream. A quarter of a decade on, he employs more than 230 people at two UK sites and the firm has an annual turnover of £30m. David Caulfield, sales and marketing director at the firm, said: "Brian was a young guy who always wanted to start up his own business. He had experience working in the industry and an understanding of how to put together furniture components which is where the idea for the business came.

"However, he had to self-finance his idea because at the start no-one was interested.

"The banks weren't interested, Ledu wasn't interested, so he decided he would sell his motorbike.

"It was his pride and joy, he had customised it himself and took it to shows but he sold it for £3,000 and used it to start up his own business.

"He has a lot of motorbikes now."

Starting out, Mr McCracken rented a space in an industrial unit in Magherafelt.

"He had to turn the machines off to answer the phone because everything was in one room," said 58-year-old Mr Caulfield.

"In the very beginning, he bought second hand equipment using the money from selling his motorbike.

"He started out making kitchen doors for the general public and saw an opportunity in making components of these doors and selling them to other retailers.

"He went to a trade show at Alexandra Palace in London, hung doors up in the space he had rented and took orders.

"He had no idea how he was going to produce them, but he took the orders anyway."

It was a gamble that paid off and the company expanded quickly.

"Brian is the most meticulous person I know, he pays such attention to detail," said Mr Caulfield.

"I don't think you can make it in business if you don't take risks but Brian does so much research before he takes risks, so they're calculated risks."

As the business expanded, Mr McCracken built a factory in Cookstown that has subsequently been expanded three times.

A further extension is currently under way and five years ago, BA Components acquired a company in Doncaster.

Mr Caulfield said: "It was one of our suppliers and it had gone into administration on two occasions and we realised we could either buy it or find someone else to supply us.

"There is a risk buying a company that is in administration, particularly as you have to move as quickly as you can and you don't get the chance to be as diligent as you would if you had four or five months.

"When we took over the staff had all their wages cut by 10% three weeks before and the very first thing we did was put their wages back.

"It was three days before Christmas.

"We also painted the factory green so it resembled BA, it was little things like that to get across the message that we were serious and we weren't planning to strip it down and move on."

Once again, the risk taken by BA Components paid off.

Their reputation in the industry and investment in the company ensured they retained existing customers and attracted new business as well.

The Doncaster plant broke even within the first year and was profit making within two years - and now accounts for half of the firm's £30m annual turnover. They also have an office in Shanghai.

Mr Caulfield said winning the Ulster Bank Business Achievers accolade was "very important" for the employees.

"It is recognition of their hard work, without them we wouldn't be where we are today. A lot of our employees have been with us for years and we're planning our 25th anniversary party for November.

"The company has come so far - we have a picture of the first invoice which was for £23."

Belfast Telegraph