PLAYDALE Playgrounds' managing director Barry Leahey has been appointed an MBE for services to UK trade and exports.

He joined Haverthwaite-based Playdale in 2004 as sales and marketing director and became managing director in two years ago.

Mr Leahey has been behind the firm's growth strategy and has formed distribution agreements in 46 countries in fewer than seven years.

The company has won several awards in the last few years, including National SME Exporter of the Year in 2016.

After being named in the Queen's Birthday Honours List, he said: “Receiving an MBE will be one of my greatest achievements and I could not have done it without the support of my team at Playdale and my family.

"When the UK market began to decline six years ago, I made it my mission to explore opportunities abroad and make Playdale a success globally. We still have a way to go but we have increased our export sales from £0 in 2010 to over £2m in 2017.

“I feel incredibly proud to receive this award and it makes all of the hours spent in airports and aeroplanes worth it."

Exporting has been a key part of Playdale's success.

The company has 32 foreign distributors operating in 35 countries. Playdale’s equipment can be found in France, Germany, Spain, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Libya, Israel, Thailand, South Korea, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and the USA, among others.

The family-owned company has been trading since 1978.

The decision to begin exporting was made six years ago, and the plan was to reach 40 countries in seven years. In 2016 it expanded into seven new markets.

Such was the firm's success that it was named as an export champion by UK Trade and Investment and it featured in the GREAT Britain campaign to encourage British companies to target exports.

In 2015, the company was crowned Exporter of the Year at the CN Group Business Awards - which have now been renamed as the in-Cumbria Business Awards.

Run by the The Mail's parent company, the awards recognise the county's most dynamic and innovative businesses.