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22-10-2009

Mabe Designs

This week Barbara has a tale of local enterprise, discretion and far more.

Two local working mothers, Mary Shelton and Bernadette Potter, who couldn’t find a stand which would store and display their pendants without knotting the chains, decided to design one themselves.

They got a prototype made to back their application for a Lloyd’s Trustee Bank loan which would fund the initial manufacturing batch and set up a company. Ma-be Designs now sells the stands online.

They managed to keep news of this enterprise from their husbands for eighteen months before presenting the prototype on the dining table - no mean achievement. Later their daughters helped with sales at the launch as their sons gave out leaflets in the streets outside The design has been registered, pending the award of a patent.

It is good to hear such stories - but this one has a far more significant component.

Mary and Bernadette were placed under great pressure by the firm which made the prototype to get the stands made far more cheaply in China – a country with which the firm was already doing a lot of business.

Their reaction was: “people are losing jobs here and need employment, so why go elsewhere?”

Having no links with industry they approached Business Link which never got back to them but the West Midlands Manufacturing Advisory Service was very helpful and found a manufacturer: C.J.Tool and Mouldings Ltd in Stourbridge. The sales and packaging is done next door by Porter and Woodman Ltd.

Inward investment – money coming into a community – can flow abroad to owners and shareholders very quickly but the policy of Ma-Be Designs means that a higher percentage of spending power stays within the region.

The New Economics Foundation and Localise West Midlands advocate ‘Plugging the Leaks’ by creating economic linkages between local businesses, labour, and public bodies, because money circulating within a locality or region has a multiplied impact the more it circulates and strengthens the economy of the area.

Employers & managers of some larger firms like Smethwick’s Professional Polishing Services also see the wider picture. Instead of focussing on maximising profits by manufacturing abroad, they consciously decide to be content with a far smaller return, retaining their employees in productive work which sustains their families.

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