PRODUCTS designed to ease stress in the office, promote businesses and even assist mountain bikers helped provide a new lease of life for a shoe factory in Furness.

Just over 20 years ago The Mail was looking at progress made at Askam by Urofoam - a firm which had started life in Cheshire back in 1988.

The firm produces a wide range of moulded foam items from polyurethane using factory space and equipment once used by the Kendal-based K Shoes.

Urofoam gained a national reputation and much publicity for its squeezy  stress balls - made as corporate stressbuster giveaways or as promotional products in a wide range of shapes and sizes.

But the easily-shaped foam from Askam proved to have many other uses - in wheelchairs, bar furniture and even as ear plugs for horses.

The Mail, on Saturday, November 13 in 1999, noted that Mike Stables took over management  and later bought a firm based in Congleton which specialised in making footballs and tennis balls for schools made from polyurethane.

He said: “It was difficult and expensive to expand down there and because I knew this area I thought there would be opportunities here.”

That opportunity came in the shape of a 90,000sq ft former shoe factory in Askam - after looking at potential sites in Teeside and Liverpool.

The Askam works came with skilled people and even had the fume extractors and moulding room needed to work polyurethane chemicals.

The article noted: “Mike went to the Victoria Grammar School in Ulverston and then read biology at York University before taking a laboratory job with a Yorkshire animal feeds firm. Eight years later he was the manager of a new Liverpool feed mill.”

Mr Stables travelled the 100 miles between a rented home in Furness and the family home in Cheshire.

Asked what provided the spark to become an entrepreneur, he said: “It would be the desire to be your own boss and control what you do. You also need an opportunity, which is sometimes a matter of luck and sometimes a matter of hard work."