What was your first break in business?
I ran my first injection moulding department at the age of 19. This involved the condition setting of 19 thermoplastic and 26 thermoset machines. I was the only female in the department and where my love of the plastic industry first developed. I also studied for an Ordinary National Certificate and Higher National Certificate in Polymer Technology on day release during this period.
What did you want to be growing up?
I wanted to swim with dolphins, but this morphed into wanting to be a vet. By senior school I wanted to do something that included science, but I was unsure in which field.
What made you set up your own business?
I had worked for a material supplier as technical support, which enabled me to visit a lot of other moulders and I soon recognised that many were unwilling to produce low volumes of components. They were also reluctant to mould using more exotic materials, so I started my first business to fill this gap in the market.
What is your company’s mission?
At Tyne Valley Plastics, our mission is to provide our customers with the correct design and manufacture of customer specific, plastic injection moulded components, conforming to the required level of quality, environmental and health and safety standards. We will perform this mission in accordance with our company objectives and values, while maintaining a high level of competence through investments in people, technology and software.
How do you get the best out of your staff?
Some of our staff have worked for us for many years and, in the last three years, we have employed three apprentices. We are keen to train, support and develop our employees and hold regular staff meetings, carrying out staff appraisals – at least annually. We also have an ‘open door’ policy so that all staff can come and talk to us about anything – be it positive or negative.
What’s been your career highlight?
I have had many highlights in my career. The first was setting up my own business from scratch. But certainly, the most recent highlight was receiving the North East Businesswoman of the Year Award in the STEM category. It felt like recognition of all the hard work for the entire TVP team.
What has been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge, other than setting up the business, was when the factory was completely flooded out by Storm Desmond in December 2015. I had to outsource production so as not to let any customers down. It was a massive risk in case we lost our valued customers, but it turned out to be an unforeseen opportunity, as we now subcontract for some of the suppliers we used.
Who or what inspires you?
I am inspired because when I started the business, it was quite an unusual trade for a woman. And now – I run a successful manufacturing company in the plastics industry.
What are your company short and long-term goals?
Our short-term goal is to move into new premises, so that all sections are under one roof, rather than under the current four. That way, we can streamline production and achieve faster growth. Our long-term goals are continued growth and the purchase of more machines, so that we can offer our customers more solutions for their technical problems.
How do you achieve a good work/life balance?
When my children were young, I had a good work/life balance but now I am guilty of work becoming my top priority. However, I recognised this has been an issue for the past few years, so I have just employed a production manager and an office apprentice to help us meet the challenges ahead.