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Connect Yorkshire members Ian Whitfield and Katherine Fox have clear growth objectives for Leeds based marketing and engagement firm, Alpha Card; with the acquisition of a German distributor and creation of a US subsidiary set to take place within a matter of weeks.

Specialists in the manufacture of Z folding cards and other marketing & communications products all aimed at creating engagement with content, Alpha Card based in Guiesley aims to bridge the gap between the digital and conventional print worlds, offering an interactive and innovative way of displaying information in a compact and reusable format.

From its standing start in 2013, Alpha Card has now comfortably surpassed the £1m turnover point, boasting 25% year on year growth, and a team of seven specialist staff members, dedicated to supporting the growth of the business and Alpha Card brand.

Its exports account for 30% of annual sales and now the duo are now focusing on overseas growth. As a result, 2018 is penned as the most exciting year to date, through the acquisition of a German distributor and expansion into the US.

All products are created from the firm’s own UK manufacturing facility. Alpha Card’s customer base ranges from large corporations, right through to charities, education establishments and SMEs.

The duo first started working together in the print industry during 2005, after Fox decided to sell her own business and work alongside Whitfield to develop the innovative firm.

Fox had purchased her own business, a sandwich shop,  at 20, leaving her economics degree behind to follow her business dream. Battling with staff and suppliers failing to take her seriously, and growing customer demands, she learnt the hard way; but her determination paid off and she enjoyed many years growing her day-time trade.

She said: “Starting my own business at the age of 20 was a brave move – but one that I am incredibly proud of. It was a steep learning curve, and as a young adult, I simply wasn’t taken seriously by many in the initial months and years, but this just made me more determined to continue the success of the business, which I did for many years.”

Whitfield excels in growing and developing manufacturing firms. He qualified as a chartered accountant in 1988, his early experience saw success within the food industry, where, in the late 80s and early 90s, he was instrumental in the growth of a specialist popcorn and nut manufacturer; increasing turnover from £4m to £40m through organic growth and acquisition.

He replicated this level of success with the purchase and growth of a frozen Yorkshire pudding manufacturing business in 1993, which was sold just six years later having increased sales from £1m to £30m through organic growth, diversification and a merger. Major clients included Yorkshire based supermarkets Asda and Morrisons.

Whitfield said: “From a young age, I’ve always worked extremely hard and thoroughly enjoy the challenge of building and growing a business. Working within the food manufacturing industry certainly taught me a lot about how to run and develop businesses, particularly from an operations perspective. This, to me, was highly valuable, as I started my career as an Accountant and Financial Director, and therefore had no clue as to how to actually run a business.”

It was the experience of growing manufacturing businesses that led him to the print sector – where, after selling the Yorkshire Pudding manufacturing business he joined a Leeds based print business looking to diversify and grow. Ultimately, he established his own print firm, and was soon approached by the brand Z-Card, to become its European Manufacturing partner.

By this time, they had joined forces and worked hard to build the print firm from the ground up, and for years achieved great success and a multi-million-pound turnover in tandem with Z-Card.

Between 2005 and 2012, they had successfully manufactured and distributed throughout Europe over 300 million Z folding cards, reaching a turnover of £7m. By 2012, however, the relationship with Z-Card suddenly and unexpectedly ended, leaving Ian and Katherine to quickly establish the Alpha Card brand within the print, marketing and advertising sectors both in the UK and mainland Europe.

“For years, we worked under the Z-Card umbrella as their European partner, which meant our customers from across the UK and Overseas were largely unaware of our existence – and more importantly, our extensive product offering, industry knowledge and attention to detail.”

“When the relationship with Z-Card ended, Katherine and I reverted back to humble beginnings and worked tirelessly to promote and increase awareness of the Alpha Card brand amongst key target audiences. It was at this point that we decided to separate the manufacturing facility from the sales team so that we could focus on Alpha Card as a product, and its almost limitless application, both at home and abroad, together with a strong business development strategy.”

Fox added: “We have worked really hard to develop long-term relationships with our customers, where we boast an excellent repeat business rate, whilst recognising the potential for growth in different target markets across the UK and overseas. To help build long-term relationships, several of our team members are bi-lingual, therefore ensuring both British and foreign customers receive the same level of care and attention.

“2018 is certainly going to be an exciting year for Alpha Card, and both Ian and I are looking forward to expanding our footprint on a global scale.”

Article via thebusinessdesk.com