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Andrew Dark is Director and co-owner of the Newcastle-based printwear and branding specialist Custom Planet. Here, he explains how the company has developed in the last decade, and where he hopes to take it in the future.

This year, we’re celebrating the 10-year anniversary of our printwear and branding company Custom Planet.

In 2008, John Armstrong and I were studying at university when we decided to set up our own business. We started out by using iron-on transfers to create slogan T-shirts that we listed on eBay. While these didn’t fly off the shelves, we started to receive requests for custom designs and, when we started to offer this option, business began to boom.

To begin with, we were both working part time jobs to support ourselves through university and make money that we could put back into the business we were building. After a while, we were getting so many orders that we had to spend more time fulfilling them, so we soon quit our bar jobs and set up shop in the spare room of my mum’s house. When we put our first advert in the Yellow Pages our sales quadrupled, so we put more ads in other sections of the book, which resulted in us getting calls from anywhere and everywhere.

In the early days, we would agree to take on any job and work out how to fulfil it along the way. We were outsourcing screen printing and embroidery work, but soon realised that we were paying over the odds and the quality wasn’t always the best. That’s when we decided to start doing everything in-house and Custom Planet was officially born.

At a time when more than half of businesses fail in the first five years (ONS), we’re incredibly proud that we’ve been able to run and develop our company for a decade, and we’re ecstatic that’s it’s continuing to thrive. We now have a turnover of £1.2 million and have invested more than £200,000 in machinery. We also have 15 full-time members of staff and will be extending our factory into another unit at the end of this month — it’s crazy to think that this all started in that little spare room.

We have some big plans for the next five years, too. We want to earn a reputation for being the best at what we do and, to get there, we’re going to be investing in the latest screen printing, embroidery, and digital technology. We also have plans to move into bigger and better premises as time goes on, so we can fulfil bigger jobs quickly and to the highest possible standards. Plus, we want to continue creating a positive working environment where our employees have a great level of job security — that’s the most important thing to us.

We’ve had a fantastic 10 years, but we still feel like this is just the beginning. It’s an incredibly exciting time for our business, and we’re pleased to say that the future certainly looks bright.

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