ONE of the oldest manufacturing firms in Leeds is mapping out its future with the help of some of Yorkshire’s best-known beauty spots.
Jonathan Wain, a former chemist, acquired the historic paint firm Hicks and Weatherburn five years ago. It dates back to 1741 and was known as Miers & Co until the late 1880s.
Since taking over the business Mr Wain has relocated it to a new manufacturing site in Meanwood, streamlined the production process and developed a range of premium interior paints inspired by his love of the Yorkshire countryside.
“We’ve come a long way in the last five years and the business has changed enormously,” said Mr Wain.
“We now make over 20 different water based paints and we have products that can confidently compete against leading luxury paint brands.”
The business has diversified into the theatrical market and works with theatres and set building companies nationwide.
“Our biggest theatrical customer this year will be set builder Q Division, based in Cross Green Industrial Estate in Leeds, who we have worked with on numerous projects including some parts of the McBusted arena tour set and the 2014 Commonwealth Games opening and closing ceremonies in Glasgow.
“We also supply West Yorkshire Playhouse, Northern Ballet, Opera North and the City Varieties and co-operate with Prime Studios on Kirkstall Road who have some of the most impressive facilities outside London including a 5000 sq ft sound stage and a 400 sq ft Infinity curve.
“We supplied paints for the film The Rise starring Timothy Spall & Luke Treadstone amongst other projects for Prime Studios including music video productions.”
Now Mr Wain has his sights set on the high end interiors market and, having completed the product development and branding phases, he is currently looking for partners to stock his products and introduce them to the decorating public.
“The response so far has been positive. People are attracted by the fact that our products are handmade and that we can guarantee quality through small scale manufacturing, controlled selection of raw materials and product testing,” he said.
He believes that the fact these new products meet strict EU environmental guidelines and the factory generates virtually zero waste are also good selling points, although he admits that the challenge of competing against big brands that have the lion’s share of the domestic decorating market is no easy task.
“We know we have an excellent product and our task now is to encourage people to try it so that they can experience the quality for themselves.”
A number of the paints are named after Yorkshire landmarks and features. They include Kilnsey Crag, Burnsall Heather, Malham Cove and Hawes Cream.
Mr Wain said the decision to brand the range as being handmade in Yorkshire and use local landmarks in the paint names had been an easy one to make.
“Since the Tour de France, Yorkshire has become an international brand in its own right and we’re proud to promote ourselves as made in Yorkshire and inspired by Yorkshire,” he said.
Mr Wain is about to launch an online shop and is seeking investment to help him expand the business further over the next three years.
His growth strategy includes developing several new products for the theatrical and film sector including tough, durable protective clearcoats.