123v celebrates 20 years in business with major investment

A Scottish manufacturing firm is set to move into its new 5000sqft headquarters in Tillicoultry on September 22nd, exactly 20 years after the business first launched. 

123v, a leading manufacturer of car ports, glass verandas and canopies, has invested nearly £250k into the facility doubling its floor space to make way for new products. The move also provides the family-run enterprise with room to expand as it looks to target overseas markets. 

Set up by husband and wife team, Robin and Jayne Marlin in 1997, the company has grown from a two-man operation into an employer of 30 with a turnover of £1.8m (April 2017). 

Now, thanks to Business Gateway Clackmannanshire, the company is working with PolySolar to test its latest product – solar power canopies - sales of which would help the firm break the £2m mark next year.

Robin Marlin, Chairman and Technical Director, said: “Our new premises will cement our reputation as one of Scotland’s leading manufacturing businesses, one which has grown over the past 20 years because it has adapted and evolved its offering. With interest in electric cars and generating and storing your own electricity increasing, we’ve developed a solar powered door canopy and car port with tinted glass and in-built solar panels that will generate electricity. This is where Business Gateway’s help has been fundamental, as its connections led us to PolySolar who will now help us gauge just how much power these products can produce.

“Over the past 18months our Business Gateway adviser’s connections have been immensely helpful, in particular linking us with Scottish Enterprise’s Innovation team which lead to the current R&D support that helps us spread the risk. The next big thing they’ll help us with is widening our market share. Because we now have space to increase production, there is no reason why we can’t replicate what we have done in the UK in Spain, France and America where there is huge potential, particularly for our new solar powered products.”

Alison Davidson, Adviser, Business Gateway, said: “123v is a fantastic success story, highlighting that Clackmannanshire is a great place to base your business if you want it to grow. The company was well established when it came to us for advice, but its management team recognised that our connections and support could help it move the business to the next level. The current R&D assistance will allow the company to fine tune its new products, while further assistance with exporting will help identify and plan how best to target international markets.” 

Having started out in the 1980s as a double glazing salesman, Robin spotted a gap in the market to sell cantilever car ports to the Scottish market. Initially setting up a small fibre glass factory in Coalsnaughton, he and Jayne began to build the business. However, it wasn’t until Robin completed an HND in Civil and Structural Engineering at Falkirk College in 2001 that the business really took off. 

Having completed jobs such as the installation of three canopies at the Atlantis Hotel in the Bahamas (including one for the hotel’s orchid field), the main entrance canopy at Sterling Furniture in Tillicoultry, and a canopy at the entrance to Royal Berkshire Hospital’s A&E department in Reading, the business has gained a reputation for manufacturing and installing high quality, reliable products. 

Robin said: “The business wouldn’t have gone anywhere if I hadn’t completed my HND as it taught me how to design, build and install reliable products and create a scalable business. It also proves that if you know what you need to learn and you go out and learn it, it can make a massive difference to your company. Like all salesmen I am constantly looking for the best product to sell and will create a product to fill a gap in the market - I look at problems and try to find solutions, it’s what I love to do.

“Over the past 10 years the biggest change has been how people buy from us. In 2001 online sales accounted for only 5% of our business, now they make up to 90%. The last decade has seen the firm invest over £500k with Google on pay per click ads and Search Engine Optimisation. Mr and Mrs Jones will always be our most important customer and even more so as we look to new markets overseas, and the Internet will continue to be the quickest and easiest way to attract their custom.”

For more information on the Which? Trusted Trader 123v visit www.123v.co.uk.

To find out how Business Gateway Clackmannanshire can help your business call 01259 208426 or visit www.bgateway.com/clackmannanshire. 

PHOTO: The 123v Family (L to R) William Marlin, Samuel Marlin, Robin Marlin (centre), Jayne Marlin, Zachary Marlin.

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