A traditional ironwork business is gearing up to move premises, improve productivity as well as teach the next generation of blacksmiths thanks to a loan from the Development Bank of Wales.
This will be the second time Poplars Forge has received funding from the development bank following a fast-track loan to purchase new equipment in 2018.
The company makes high quality bespoke iron gates, railings, balconies and banisters from their workshop in Mold, Flintshire. Following the £20,000 micro loan, the company will be able to buy more machinery and increase their production.
It will also support Poplars Forge in its move to a new site on the prestigious Gladstone Estate at Hawarden, where it is taking over the old sawmill this Summer.
The new site is an apt location for the company and should prove more attractive to its clientele who buy its high end, bespoke products. It also has enough space to enable Poplars Forge to open a blacksmiths’ school, where it will offer courses for up to six aspiring blacksmiths at a time.
Steven Gillard, Founder and Managing Director of Poplar’s Forge said: “Gladstone Estate is very grand and as a location, is a perfect base for us. We do have some high-profile customers and do lots of bespoke work, so this location will give customers a better experience when they visit us.”
Steven set up the business around 25 years ago. He was a metal plater and fabricator at the time who went on to teach himself blacksmithing. He started making sculptures and took a qualification as a 17th-century blacksmith at Hereford College of Arts.
The company specialises in hand-forged and heritage work, and has two qualified blacksmiths, a qualified cooper (the company does barrel work as well as iron work), and two other members of staff. A bespoke piece like one of the company’s distinctive dragon sculptures can take two or sometimes three men up to six weeks to complete. While most of the company’s orders come from the UK it does get enquiries from all over the world. It is well known for its dragon sculptures which have been bought by customers as far afield as Australia, New Zealand and the south of France.
“We aim to design everything with our clients’ input; however, we find that they don’t always know what they really want until they come here and see for themselves what we produce. It will be good to welcome them to the new site” said Steven.
Steven plans to turn their existing website into an e-commerce site to make it easier and more accessible for customers to make orders.
“We’re lucky to be in a position where we can choose which jobs we want to take but we also value our local customers. Some elderly people come in with things that need repairing and we’re more than happy to help,” said Steven.
Steven was pleased with the support he received from the development bank when accessing the funding: “When we needed additional funding the development bank was our first stop. They had been so helpful in the past and this time they simply explained the criteria we had to meet and everything ran smoothly.”
Donna Strohmeyer, Micro Loan Investment Executive for the Development Bank of Wales said: “We know that things can change very quickly in business so enabling businesses to access finance quickly so they can meet customer demands is important. Poplar’s Forge has a global customer base that keeps on growing through word of mouth. The move to new premises allows them to fulfil that demand.
“We’re also delighted to support a company that’s keeping a traditional skill such as blacksmithing alive by training the next generation.”