Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dorset Enterprises

Started in 1914 by a Bournemouth Councillor, Dorset Enterprises was initially set up to provide work for injured soldiers returning from the First World War who would make a variety of wooden objects for use by the council and externally. Over the years it slowly became a disability workshop employing a range of disabled people.

About 10 years ago they wanted a web presence for their two trading arms, DeckchairsUK and Escor Toys. I must say that working with them was one of the most interesting and enjoyable piece of work I’ve done.

Escor Toys as the name suggests made quality wooden toys. After I had set up the website I was stuck by the number of enquiries from parents and even grandparents who had Escor Toys as children and wanted to pass on their toys to their children or grandchildren but over the years figures had been lost and they were asking if they could get a replacements. I don’t think many toys that get passed down the generations these days. These toys were built to last

DeckchairsUK made wooden deckchairs, luggage stands, windbreakers and the like. The luggage stands can be seen in many top hotels around the country and other customers range from the Prince of Wales High Grove estate to a company that I shouldn’t really name, just to say that they have hosted the UK Gov Camp in the past.

Sadly EU regulations on the testing of toys became too expensive and with cheap imports the Escor Toys side of the businesses closed a few years back. Dorset Enterprises has struggled over recent years their turnover reducing by half what it was a few years back. It the last three years they made an operations loss on average of £470,000 a year. Bournemouth Borough Council has decided that it can no longer afford to subsidise the company and has pulled the plug on its funding. It was a sad day when I received the e-mail asking me if I would put a message on their website stating that the company will cease trading on 31st March 2013 after 99 years of trading.

Many people have companied against the closure, citing that the Council could find the £8.5 million to buy a building (the Imax) and then demolish it and spend huge sums on a surf reef that has never lived up to expectations. They asked if the company was given time and with the right business support and sales advice they believed that Dorset Enterprises could return to profitability. Unfortunately their campaigning failed and 30 odd staff, 19 of which have some form of disability (some severe) will loose their jobs at the end of the month.

My overriding memory of Dorset Enterprises will be the tour of the premises I took when I first got involved. Seeing people with severe mental and physical disability operate the huge machinery that I was too scared to go near. They were truly an inspiration.

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