Hibiscus Plc Killerby family directors

Thirty years on and the family-owned business, which manufactures labels for the hazardous chemicals sector, operates from a 21,000 sq ft facility in Leeds, employing more than 30 people and has its sights set on exporting to mainland Europe.

It recently recorded its most successful trading year to date, reporting a turnover of just over £3.2m in the year to the end of October 2011, up 26 per cent on the previous year, and pre-tax profits of £401,200, a rise of 34 per cent.

New Legislation boost

The figures were boosted by changes in global legislation which mean that the same criteria applies for classifying hazardous chemicals worldwide, rather than differing according to geographical region. Some of these new regulations are still coming into effect.

James Killerby, director, said the business has changed “immeasurably” since its launch in 1981 by his parents, Dorothy and Brian, and his grandparents Irvin and Betty. “We made £74 profit in the first year. I remember the first company website being made, and we did a newsletter celebrating 30 years that was distributed to about 3,500 people which is a huge change from where we were.

“We started off with a Margaret Thatcher small business loan. I think we are one of two in the area which have survived.”

In 1986, Hibiscus Plc moved to its current site in Hudswell Road, Leeds, and in 2004 it expanded the premises, tripling its size.

Europe base

Today, most of the firm’s customers are UK-based companies which operate globally, but Mr Killerby said the long-term plan was to set up a base in mainland Europe, possibly in Germany. He said: “We’ve lost out in the past to gaining business in Europe because of carriage costs. Our unit price is competitive, not that we are in a particularly price dominated industry, but it’s still a factor. But it costs us more to get it there.

“We’ve done some market research and a lot of the chemical industry that we’ve seen is based around the belt of France, Germany and slightly into Austria. Europe’s good as there’s a lot of industry there, it’s physically quite close so we operate the same business day to within an hour. And it’s customer service as well. We know from past experience that we can, from Leeds, service a customer there.”

Currently, about 12 per cent of the firm’s work accounts for exports to Europe, but Mr Killerby said he hopes this can increase to around 25 to 30 per cent in the next five years.

New markets

Meanwhile, the company is also expanding into new markets thanks to its increased involvement in software development.

Hibiscus Plc is currently investing in software which classifies chemicals, detailing what information is needed on the label. “It’s allowed us to look into larger companies,” said Mr Killerby.

The firm’s label enterprise system, which has been on sale for 18 months, is a label creation, editing and management software, which Mr Killerby said is “a solution that we can take into the European market”. Both systems help companies conform to the new global legislative requirements for hazardous chemical labels.

The business is also in the process of installing a new management information system (MIS) to allow it to run more efficiently. Mr Killerby said: “We are looking to expand our IT department in the next 12 months, we are looking to finish the MIS system implementation and then we’ll look at what areas need more staff.”

Hibiscus Plc is owned by Mr James Killerby and his parents, Dorothy and Brian.

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