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Interview: Why the founder of Bristol-based Fraser Besant Lighting has brought manufacturing back to UK

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Written by: Admin | Posted 16 November 2017 8:35

Interview: Why the founder of Bristol-based Fraser Besant Lighting has brought manufacturing back to UK

Fraser Besant owns one of the oldest independent electrical companies on Gloucester Road. This year he launched a lighting business and is manufacturing all the products in Bristol. Here, he talks about the challenges of Brexit, designing a robot for Morgan Motor Company and the secret to his success

Ten years ago, when Fraser Besant was 22, he began working in his father’s electrical shop on Gloucester Road.

The family-run company, Ablectrics, which is one of Bristol’s oldest independent electrical wholesalers, had been trading since 1974.

By 2015 Fraser had acquired the business from his father, but he was keen to explore the lighting market after designing and creating his first LED lamp the year previously.

That first lamp, he says, “did really well”, and he decided to set up Fraser Besant Lighting which began trading in May 2017.

The company is on track to turn over £80,000 to £100,000 in its first financial year and the online business is growing by 20 to 25 per cent every month.

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Fraser says he took the decision to bring manufacturing back to the UK after the company experienced a “spike in buying costs” following Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

“We felt it was about time to stop looking abroad for lighting. I wanted to source the best and most reliable components. No plastic parts; all metal and all hand built.”

All the lights are now made in Bristol in his workshop on Gloucester Road.

But success hasn’t been without its challenges. Brexit has pushed up import prices and Ablectrics has seen increases in its costs by over 25 per cent in last year and a half.

“The cost of lighting and electrics has gone up dramatically,” explained Fraser. “I have seen a significant change in business and we have found the last 18 months very tough.

“We are working on ways to continue to grow our business but I think the next 18 months will be equally as challenging.”

One of the greatest highlights of 2017, says Fraser, was designing a robot light for prestigious British car brand Morgan Motor Company after meeting the company’s sales director.

“He’d bought a house in Bristol and it needed some TLC. We worked on a design for him and supplied the lighting for the house.

“He was so impressed with our service and workmanship he asked if we would like to build a bespoke light for a Morgan charity event.”

Fraser, who was “delighted” to be asked, says what began as a “modest floor-light piece”, grew into “quite a project”.

He said: “Nearly half a car was dropped into our workshop and we designed and created a transformers-inspired robot floor light, which we named Morgforma.”

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The light sculpture, pictured, stands at 7ft tall and is able to play music through Bluetooth speakers.

“It was taken up to Malvern and sold at private auction to raise money for the British Heart Foundation – and it ended up being bought by a Russian businessman and being shipped out to Denmark and placed in a museum.”

Fraser says he can’t think of a better city than Bristol to set up a company. “I love Bristol. We have a great reputation across the rest of the UK and when people think of the city we have some amazing and very positive stories. For me, I can’t think of a better place to set up a company.”

Looking to 2018, Fraser says he will be focusing on “connecting the brand and the products with the end user”.

“We plan to attend several trade shows such as Grand Designs live. Now we have our trade stand built we will use this to showcase our lighting across the UK.”

So what’s the secret to success?

“In all honesty, when things get tough you simply have to work hard and push yourself. There is no substitute for hard work and staying focused.

“Every business has good and bad times but I always try to remember that things could always be worse. Many things happen that are out of my control and I work hard to keep my customers happy and my competition at bay.

“Like anything in life, if you want something you simply need a plan and the strong will to follow that plan.” 

My inspiration

I enjoy Friday evenings in the local. Nothing better than a pint and some time to reflect on the week. People love to chat about projects in the pub and if you have a social relationship with someone you can often work well with them. 

Most of my ideas come to me in the shower. I drew the Fraser Besant logo on the glass in the shower, then photographed it and sent it to the designer who was creating our business cards. 

I go to the gym four nights a week and have recently taken up boxing. I want to have a fight next year and this gives me something else to focus on and a new area to push myself.

I’ve loved cars since I was young. I have a classic Lotus Esprite SE tucked away in the garage and although it’s a lottery if she starts, which is frustrating, she is a stunning car.

 

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