Newtown yacht equipment manufacturer makes waves with US expansion

A Welsh marine equipment manufacturer has achieved a $5 million boost in export revenue after opening a dedicated international base in the US, thanks to support from the Welsh Government.

Powys-based Makefast Group designs and manufactures equipment for the marine and safety industries, as well as systems for super yachts and luxury boats including retractable sunroofs, awning units, and bathing platforms.

Following soaring demand for its products in the USA, the company opened its first American headquarters in Maryland, and has since secured over $5 million in revenue from US deals alone since opening 12 months ago.

The company has now set its sights on opening an additional office in its second largest market, the EU, to replicate the success of its US base and streamline business for new and existing customers, further growing its international sales.

Exports currently account for two thirds of Makefast’s trade – equating to £1.2m year on year growth – with the company exporting to over 30 countries from its factory in Mid Wales, including Italy, France, Brazil, Taiwan and the USA.

Chris Brown, CEO at Makefast, said: “Exporting is a fundamental part of our business and has played a key role in our growth over the years. The global market for luxury yachts and boats is huge and continues to grow, as in the case of the USA, offering plenty of opportunities for us. Establishing a presence there has helped us to connect with new and existing customers, enabling us to keep up with the growing order books of American boat builders. Sales last calendar year in the region reached $5 million, and we are forecasting for this year $6.25 million.”

Founded in 1974 by husband-and-wife duo, Bill and Brenda Brown, the company was originally focused on producing safety hardware for the marine industry, supplying some of the largest life jacket manufacturers in the UK including the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Soon after, it began expanding its product range to produce higher value items and explored overseas markets as a means to grow the business.

While exports of the hardware products still exist, the company’s main export revenue is generated from marine systems sold into two of Makefast’s largest key markets – the USA, and Italy, a leading manufacturer of luxury yachts in Europe.

Makefast’s export success has been helped by support it has received from the Welsh Government, including assistance moving to its state-of-the-art facility in Powys, and funding to invest in equipment and new projects. The company has also been supported to attend trade missions to meet new customers in new markets, such as Brazil, as well as benefiting from market research conducted by the Welsh Government into prospective new markets to establish the appetite for sales, such as in the case of the US.

Chris added: “We’ve been working with the Welsh Government for over 18 years now, and its export support has accelerated our international growth. Thanks to its International Trade Opportunities programme, we’ve been able to access on the ground experts in new target markets like Taiwan, Dubai and India who speak the language and understand the business customs and etiquette, making it easier for us to concentrate on providing for our customers.”

Following a recent visit to Makefast, Jeremy Miles, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Energy and Welsh Language, said: “Building a more dynamic and productive Welsh economy is one of my top priorities and SMEs like Makefast have a critical role to play in making that a reality. Makefast’s export growth and success is a real inspiration for other businesses across Wales. It was great to visit their mid Wales facilities recently and I’m delighted to have them on board as one of our Export Exemplars.

“I would encourage other current and potential exporters in Wales to get in touch with the Welsh Government’s Export Team, through Business Wales, to explore how we can help their businesses too.”

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