Switched on

St Leonards on Sea based electrical accessory manufacturer Focus SB tells us all about how the business has continued to grow, innovate and succeed following its support and funding from Locate East Sussex.

Focus SB, a global brand of bespoke premium electrical accessories, has been setting the standard for innovative design for over 40 years. Proud to be a UK manufacturer based in East Sussex, its vision is to be the number one high-end brand choice of functional, beautifully designed, and technologically innovative electrical accessories to adorn the walls of any building.

“Manufacturing has moved on so much over the years. The perception is that it is a ‘dirty’ job of just conveyor belt assembly and machine operation but in truth, it’s so much more."

Gary StevensManaging Director
Focus SB

Switched On

Case Study
Focus SB
May 2022

Aimed at a luxury market, Focus SB products are cutting edge and often specified by architects, contractors and interior designers for high profile installations in celebrity homes or opulent hotels due to its ability to provide a bespoke offering of configurations and finishes to match other installations in the property.

“We often get sent little pieces of metal in the post with a request to match the finish of our accessories to it. It’s exciting and challenging and makes every day in our business different. Doing what we do is both an art and a science”
Gary Stevens, Managing Director, Focus SB

Already having built up a reputation for providing products at a competitive price, in a reasonable timescale, and with excellent customer service, in 2017 it became time to expand its horizons onto a broader market.

With a supply chain already in place, and the belief that its product was unlike any other in that market, Focus SB opted to turn its attention to the Chinese market. But unlike many other products, exporting electrical products internationally requires significant investment. With different plug configurations, and a series of standards to comply with, Focus SB would need to purchase new tooling and obtain accreditation to be able to fulfil its plans.

Managing Director Gary Stevens told us; “We discovered that there may be some funding available to support us with fulfilling this goal, and so we reached out to Locate East Sussex to see if they could help”

At Locate East Sussex we support businesses in East Sussex who are looking to grow by providing advice, connections, and support with accessing funding and commercial property for your business. We also deliver the East Sussex Invest (ESI) loan and grants programme. East Sussex Invest is an East Sussex County Council and Regional Growth Fund (RGF) programme offering grants and loans for capital investment to stimulate business growth and job creation in the county.

Through this programme, Focus SB was able to access a £42,000 loan, and a £15,000 grant to purchase tooling and design a new range specifically for China, resulting in the company making history by becoming the first and only British and European manufacturer in its industry to gain CQC factory accreditation to supply and sell wiring accessories directly from Europe to China.

Focus SB, Hastings
Focus SB, Hastings
Focus SB, Hastings
Focus SB, Hastings
Focus SB, Hastings
Focus SB, Hastings

“Adam Berger from Locate East Sussex has been a great source of support, providing information and help accessing funding, and providing networking opportunities with other businesses and the local authorities. The funding that we received helped us enormously. We wouldn’t have been able to work to the timescales we were aiming for without it.”

Gary Stevens, Managing Director, Focus SB

Since launching the range in autumn 2017, Focus SB has seen a positive reception In China, resulting in an excellent year in both 2019 and 2020. The knock-on effect from the COVID-19 pandemic, and China’s continuing ‘zero Covid’ policy, has slowed demand, but the business is confident that things will improve as time goes on.

People Power

Always thinking forward, something that jumps out about this business is its willingness to foster and embrace change. Focus SB doesn’t rest on its laurels and is always looking at ways to progress and improve. The 58 employees are like a family, all invested in the business and it’s success and all committed to upskilling themselves and those around them. Something important to this business is educating young people on the opportunities and career paths available within manufacturing.

Gary himself started his career as an apprentice and is passionate about apprenticeships/training schemes that support young people in training from the ground up. Focus SB has recruited several apprentices who have proved to be very valuable additions to the team. Gary explained to us how recruitment can sometimes be difficult due to ‘old-fashioned’ perceptions of roles in his industry.

“Manufacturing has moved on so much over the years. The perception is that it is a ‘dirty’ job of just conveyor belt assembly and machine operation but in truth, it’s so much more. Robotic and CAD technology along with automation has led the industry to needing a much wider skillset of engineers, designers and technicians, a skillset that as a whole we should be investing in and encouraging within education.”

Gary Stevens, Managing Director, Focus SB

Something unique about Focus SB is that its products are all manufactured, finished, tested and assembled in-house from its three units on the outskirts of Hastings. This helps to not only train the staff in multiple areas but also means it can be a part of the #MadeinBritain campaign. Hastings has a longstanding reputation for being a hub for hi-tech manufacturing which for this business proves incredibly beneficial.

“Apart from the novelty of being by the seaside (I’m from the West Midlands so I’ve spent my life land locked!), there is quite a thriving manufacturing scene in Hastings and that’s very useful from a networking and supply chain perspective. Developing partnerships with complementary but non competing brands is important to us, to strengthen our combined offering to the markets we operate in and develop new ones.”

Gary Stevens, Managing Director, Focus SB

Completing the Circuit

Whilst it is achieving great success, Focus SB still has future challenges to navigate and overcome to continue to drive the business forward. With increases to raw material, utility, and general overhead costs, and with Carbon Zero at the top of everyone’s agenda, many businesses are looking carefully at their supply chains and how they might be shortened, and Focus SB is no exception. As it currently stands, some of the parts used in Focus SB’s components and raw materials are sourced from abroad, but its long-term goal is to find a way to bring even more of its manufacturing processes to the UK. This would require substantial investment, but long term would be more cost-effective and would contribute to its Carbon Zero efforts.

Achieving environmental credentials is something that is important to Focus SB, but not simply as a tick box exercise, it wants to make sure it is doing everything possible to improve processes for environmental efficiency. It has introduced recyclable packaging, the imminent installation of solar panels on the roof of the main factory, low energy LED lamps, an electric or hybrid company car policy, and has fitted EV chargers at the main factory, all alongside its existing recycling policies.

When it comes to Focus SB’s range, the world really is its oyster. With regular reinvestment into the business, whether that be into new technology or investigating potential new markets, we are sure that this business will continue to go from strength to strength providing innovative, stylish, and hi-specification electrical accessories to homes and businesses across the world.

To find out more about Focus SB products or opportunities in the business you can visit its website www.focus-sb.co.uk/

For more information about how Locate East Sussex can support your business to grow and achieve its goals, Get in Touch

For support and advice on how to progress with your business goals get in touch and one of our team will contact you to discuss you needs.