Thriving South Tyneside firm could create new jobs after it buys up rival

A thriving South Tyneside craft supplier and cake decorating products company has found a new ingredient for success – the purchase of a major rival.

By Gareth Crickmer
Sunday, 26 May, 2019, 16:51
Katy Sue Designs' CEO Sue Balfour and chairman Neil Stephenson, pictured front centre, with staff.

Award-winning Katy Sue Designs has snapped up Hertfordshire-based Craft Creations in an acquisition that could create 10 new jobs within a year.

It moved fast after Craft Creations, which was founded in the mid-1980s and makes paper and card products, shut down to allow owners Paul and Jenny Kearley to retire.

Ambitious bosses at Katy Sue Designs, based in Henry Robson Way, South Shields, say the purchase has doubled the size of their enterprise.

The enlarged business is expected to turn over £3million annually, mainly through internet sales at home and overseas.

Further investment in new digital platforms for Amazon and eBay this year are likely to create added business growth.

Chairman Neil Stephenson said Craft Creations’ assets had been bought and transferred to South Tyneside.

He described the craft market as "fragmented" but one where rival businesses were aware of those competing in the same field.

And he added: "We’re going to build an amazing business here – some of that will involve growing what we’ve already got, and the rest will be expanding our portfolio."

Sue Balfour, CEO of Katy Sue Designs, added: "This acquisition will double the size of our business and build on our silicone mould business broadening into the larger and more lucrative paper craft market.

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"We would like to thank Paul and Jenny for all their help and support during the transition of the business and wish them well in their retirement."

To support Craft Creations’ move to South Shields, Katy Sue Designs has doubled its manufacturing and warehouse capacity, with the support of South Tyneside Council.

Katy Sue Designs was founded as Katy Sue Dolls in 1994 by Doreen Thompson and her daughter Sue Balfour, and specialised in making miniature porcelain dolls for collectors.

After 12 years of success in which they sold in 28 countries, they sought a new challenge, and switched to papercraft.

Renamed Katy Sue Designs Ltd, they began manufacturing and designing market-leading craft products, including their renowned Flower Soft® brand.

In late 2012, they diversified by creating a range of food safe silicone moulds for the decorating market which are now old in over 40 countries

The company’s seahorse mould design achieved fame during the last series of Channel 4’s Great British Bake Off, with contestant Kim-Joy tweeting her liking of it.

Mr Stephenson said the business, which before the acquisition employed 19 people in South Shields, could have a workforce of around 100 if it meets its turnover target.