Gate 7 is a UK based specialist component manufacturer for the automotive sector; the company’s product portfolio includes decals and vehicle livery for construction and agricultural machinery. The UK division of the company is run by managing director, Kate Wickham (34), who has been with Gate 7 since 2005. Kate, in addition to running the business with a team of 40 staff, looks after overseas export which currently makes up 60% of Gate 7’s revenue.
Commenting on the award, Kate said, “We won a Queen’s Award for International Trade back in 2005 and we have also won local export awards in the past. Being awarded a MBE was completely unexpected – and I am still taken aback by it all now! I have since discovered that I was nominated by UK Trade and Investments who we work with on a regular basis. I had no idea that they made the nomination. I had to call the Cabinet Office to confirm the award was real!”
Kate added, “We work with UKTI when we are looking for information on new markets for example when we started to do business in India we did some work them to look at other manufacturing facilities in India and how they do business in India. One of the more recent things is looking at further opportunities for possible partnerships to have some level of supply or manufacture in India. The UKTI are able to establish a communication and develop relationships with potential partners – but also to give us advise and how to navigate that market.”
Kate added, “Joining the CEA in 2001 was also a turning point for us – the association gave us the confidence to export. It was with the CEA we discovered that overseas exhibitions were the way forward and under the umbrella of the CEA and the UK Trade & Investment we embarked on our journey of taking Gate 7 world-wide.”
When asked if being the awarded the MBE was going to be good for business – Kate had no hesitation in saying, “This award is going to be great for business it’s showing that we are a professional company and we are very successful in what we do, how we do it and how we conduct ourselves. It adds a real level of credibility to what we do.
We hope that we are an inspiration to companies and encourage them to pursue exporting. I have always been very pro export – when you look at our commodity and what we do people think it’s only a decal – surely, we can source that locally! But it’s so much more than that – it’s not just a decal – it’s the level of quality, performance and the service. It’s all those extras that we can provide to our customers which makes us invaluable and not something you can source locally.”
When the company began trading 17-years ago it had three clients, Caterpillar, Komatsu and Manitowoc (formerly Grove Cranes) and all of its business was UK based.
Business for Gate 7 continues to grow world-wide and having weathered the recession, where the company saw a down-turn, their customer base has grown from three to its current 20 which include JCB, Hitachi, Volvo, Bobcat, Doosan and Manitou to name but a few. And when you learn that a single vehicle might have up to 200 decals, from branding to safety information to operating instructions, which the company can produce in 34 different languages, it’s not difficult to understand how the market is worth almost £50 million Worldwide to the Gateshead -based business.
Kate said, “The way our customer base works is we probably have around 20 core customers but of those 20 customers we supply numerous divisions. For example, for JCB there are 13 manufacturing plants we supply worldwide. Kuhn, who are an attachment manufacturer, we supply to seven of their facilities in Europe and Volvo there are six facilities worldwide. So, it’s top-level blue-chip companies and we supply to all of their facilities.”
Gate 7 has also increased its domestic market. “Supplying all of the UK JCB divisions has increased our domestic market.” Reported Kate. “We have also increased our export by 40% since 2012. India is a big market for us through JCB and a few other customers we are working with in India. India is a market that has dramatically increased and we have increased our exports to Sweden, Czech Republic and Germany.”
It was Gate 7’s success in securing foreign business that led to it being presented with a Queen’s Award for International Trade back in 2005. “It was winning this award that led to us winning a large contract with JCB,” said Kate. “JCB were looking for a global rebranding – it was a big decision for such a huge multi-national company to use such a small company. But we were successful.”
Gate 7 also has two manufacturing divisions in the USA (Pennsylvania and South Carolina) which opened in 2008 following a swell in business in America – these divisions are run by Kate’s colleague John Reay who is the vice president in the US. John has been with Gate 7 since the company started and used to manage the US divisions from the UK before moving out to the US in 2008. Both divisions are doing exceptionally well and are a carbon copy of the Gateshead based facility – everything that Gate 7 do on a global scale is exactly the same which includes machinery, ink systems and raw materials, and where possible, their supplier base. The benefit that Gate 7 have there is that the company is able to offer its customers a global quality standard product.
So, what does the future hold for Gate 7?
“We are looking to continue in the markets where we are having real success which are construction equipment and agriculture.” Said Kate. “We are a niche business and these are two areas where our expertise lies and we excel in these markets. We are also going to continue focussing on exporting – the Indian market has great potential for us. In fact, I have a trip to India coming up soon where I am meeting with other manufacturers who are interested in us having seen what we have done with JCB.”
Rob Oliver chief executive CEA congratulated Kate on her award win, he said, “Many congratulations to Kate on her award of an MBE. It is great to have the recognition and testament to you and the team at Gate 7’s hard work. This well-deserved win will also help promote the company too.”