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Sunday, 31 August 2014

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Candle firm is a shining example

THE great and the good turned out to celebrate the best of Cumbria’s business at the CN Business Awards.

Lindal-based Wax Lyrical was the toast of south Cumbria picking up a double whammy of awards with the best business (medium) and director Mike Armstead being named as businessman of the year.

The award has topped off a five-and-half year transformation of Wax Lyrical and cements both Mr Armstead and the firm’s reputation as among the most exciting names in South Cumbrian business.

The awards, in association with Barclays and Invest in Cumbria, took place at Rheged in Penrith.

Mr Armstead was given the award due to the transformation of the then Colony Gift Company into Wax Lyrical.

When he took over the firm in 2006 it had debts of £14m and was losing £5.5m a year.

Despite fierce competition from cheap Chinese imports Mr Armstead has transformed the firm from a mass importer to an export expert, shipping its products to 40 companies and increasing the number of products made at its Furness factory from 45 per cent to 85 per cent.

Mr Armstead, who was nominated for four awards, was overjoyed to have picked up arguably the biggest prize of the event.

He said: “We’re delighted – we’ve worked really hard for five-and-a-half years to completely turn the company around.”

Speaking in a typically modest manner Mr Armstead told the Evening Mail: “I would have hated to have won businessman of the year and not business of the year.
“It was not just me that turned around the business.

“Everybody has made a contribution to us getting the award.

“Does a business owner turn around a business on their own? It doesn’t work.

“You can only work with the raw material you have got.

“It’s top quality staff that got us to where we are today.”

Around 150 members of staff are employed at the company’s sites in Lindal and Sowerby Woods, Barrow, and the company is the largest producer of home fragrance in the UK.

A former BP executive Mr Armstead has invested £2m in the firm’s IT and production capabilities as well as winning major licenses including Jelly Belly, Fired Earth and The Royal Horticultural Society.

The recent investment will allow the firm to increase its overall output by 30 per cent and the number of glass jar candles has increased to 2.5 million items per year, which is around a quarter of the firm’s previous output.

The transformation of the business was complete when the company began to turn a profit and Mr Armstead’s nominations in this year’s awards reflect the company’s turnaround in fortunes.

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