Victoria Fitzgerald took a trip to Special EFX in Stratford-upon-Avon, the trophy manufacturers responsible for half a decade’s worth of TMMX awards.
Nestled in the stunning Warwickshire countryside, Special EFX, produces bespoke awards; trophies; plaques, and medals for a range of customers from the UK and beyond.
The family-owned trophy manufacturer was established in 2004 and employs 31 people at its 14,000 sqft production site at Ettington.
Sales director, Melanie Osbourne, was my tour guide for the day and as we sauntered around the facility,
Osbourne explained that the firm has its origins in silver-smithing, starting out in the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter of the 1970s.
However, for the past decade the company has been fully focussed on creating pieces for clients across a breadth of different sectors, including financial; publishing; retail; manufacturing; charity; government; sport; hospitality, and entertainment.
Orders vary from global giants to small organisations and individual commissions, with design briefs ranging from custom-made awards for in-house recognition schemes; prestigious industry awards; trophies for major sporting occasions and events; to themed awards for workplace Christmas parties.
One of my first stops on the tour was the trophy room, it featured wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling display cabinets, and teamed with a vast array of awards, in every colour, size, and shape imaginable.
Osbourne told me this is just the tip of the iceberg. At first glance I clocked awards for the British Grand Prix, Barclays and Mercedes-Benz, to name a few.
The wide variation of briefs is something Osbourne is really motivated and challenged by.
She told me, “What’s exciting is the variety and colour of the requests from clients that we get. There is a great thrill in coming up with a design that people absolutely love, to the point where they order one year and then come back in subsequent years.”
Osbourne is proud of the way the business has flourished and explained that the firm’s influence has grown with the demand of the awards sector over the years.
Special EFX weathered the storm of the recession by responding to the market at the time.
Osbourne elaborated, “Throughout the recession we’ve had to respond well, to still be creative and produce stunning awards for a lower price.”
The company managed to successfully expand after the credit-crunch and in 2015 growing sales were £3.3m, split 90% UK and 10% export.
Special EFX continues to invest extensively in new technology and in 2015 invested £472k in new kit, including an acrylic laser cutting machine; UV printer, 3D scanner; acrylic polishing machine; two laser engraving machines, and a water treatment plant.
To meet the specifications of the broad variety of briefs, Special EFX utilises several key processes comprising: 2D & 3D CAD design; rapid prototyping; 3D machining; CNC turning; water-jet and laser cutting; polishing; electroplating; laser engraving; digital UV printing; and assembly.
Osbourne is also pleased with the company’s commitment to renewables. She explained, “The Special EFX manufacturing site is also home to Futurenergy, a manufacturer of micro wind turbines.
“The site features a newly installed water recycling plant and extensive solar panels, which serves both companies. The new water-treatment plant has reduced the volume of wastewater by 90%, as well as, delivering overall cost savings for the plant.”
So what does the future hold for the firm, aside from Special EFX producing the 2016 TMMX Awards trophies?
Osbourne is keen to continue the organisation’s upward trajectory. She said, “To continue innovating to research into new processes, new materials and to keep our existing customers happy.
“Also, we want to expand into other markets, particularly overseas. The world is getting smaller and people are finding us more easily, so there’s lots of areas to build on there.”