DesignXpress wins six-figure investment from UKSE

Dominic Bernard
Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Large-format and commercial printer DesignXpress has won funding worth hundreds of thousands of pounds from UK Steel Enterprises (UKSE), a subsidiary of Tata Steel.

Juliette Brown (L), director, DesignXpress with Sarah Thorpe, UKSE regional manager
Juliette Brown (L), director, DesignXpress with Sarah Thorpe, UKSE regional manager

DesignXpress won the £210,000 investment from UKSE in July 2022, and will use the money to try to reach its goal of £1.5m turnover.

Director Juliette Brown, who founded the company in 1995, told Printweek she had already invested in new equipment, including a Summa S-series cutter from Perfect Colours, and a Xerox C90 digital printer from Integrated Office Systems (IOS).

The investment has likewise allowed DesignXpress to restructure debt that it took on to expand before the pandemic, when it had originally started pursuing its goal of turning over £1.5m annually.

Brown said: “We had quite a strong growth plan in place at that point and the business was going from strength to strength. We were winning competitions, we were flying, we were on cloud nine.”

As part of the growth plan, DesignXpress took on an Inktec Jetrix LXi7 3.2m LED flatbed and a Canon Colorado 1650 roll-to-roll printer.

DesignXpress’ turnover was hit hard during the pandemic, however, and the company was forced to adapt during what was supposed to be a growth period.

“We remained open, we remained resilient, and we used that time quite wisely, to look at what else we could be doing,” Brown said.

This included focusing attention on marketing, taking coaching leadership and management courses, and making use of recovery schemes and grants to win new business, such as for the NHS and Covid testing centres.

After the pandemic, however, Brown wanted to turn the business towards expansion again, and approached UKSE, which had helped DesignXpress relocate to its current site in Consett, near Newcastle, in 2015.

“We’re ready to go on that road again, hopefully to hit that £1.5m target,” she said.

“So we revisited all our forecasts on a new two to three-year plan and went to UKSE and they looked at what we were intending to do, and the journey we’ve been on.”

Following the investment, DesignXpress has been able to bring much more of its digital short-run work in-house, and eliminate bottlenecks with the new cutter.

“We’re outsourcing the very minimum now,” Brown said.

UKSE’s funding has also allowed the company to restructure its debt on much more favourable terms, and increase its marketing spend.

Sarah Thorpe, regional manager for UKSE, said: “We already had an established relationship with Juliette and her management team through our previous investment. 

“DesignXpress is in a strong position with a reputation for quality, value and innovation and a sound growth plan. We are pleased to back the company with this second investment, supported by the government-backed Recovery Loan Scheme.”

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