Steel fabrication entrepreneur creates jobs in Lanarkshire

Name: Lorna McFarlane.

Age: 55.

What is your business called?

Blantyre Fabrications Ltd.

Where is it based?

We occupy a one-acre site in Blantyre, Lanarkshire. We have five bay workshops, a shot blast unit, a paint shop and a separate office block. What’s wonderful about the site is that it’s the same location where my late father, William McPhee, set up his business McPhee Mixers 50 years ago. I’ve memories of this site from childhood – vividly recalling visits to see my dad and being impressed by what seemed like supersized concrete mixers all around the place.

What does it produce, what services does it offer?

We are a steel fabrication business. Our prime focus is the manufacture of bespoke designed, truck-mounted concrete mixers. We also carry out mixer repairs, supply and fit drums and do mixer servicing. We also offer next day delivery on spares and accessories.

Who does it sell to?

Anyone who runs mixers, whether they be the big major companies, independent companies or owner-drivers.

What is its turnover?

We’re a new company and have set ourselves a target of £1 million sales at the end of our third year. I’m confident of achieving that target based on our performance to date. We’ve had a strong flow of orders and work to keep our workshop team busy – it’s all been positive.

How many employees?

We have 20 in our workshop and three in our office. I also employ external support such as accountants, lawyers and marketing specialists.

When was it formed?

I launched the company in May of 2021.

Why did you take the plunge?

My father set up a mixer making business in 1971 and eventually I switched from a career in midwifery after returning from London and not being able to get full time employment in a Glasgow hospital. I worked with dad for nine years and when he died my husband Brinsley and I ran the business. Almost four years ago we sold out and I took a three year break from running a company. To be honest I couldn’t get used to having no structure in my day, so decided to set up on my own. I learned so, so much from my dad over the years we worked together. I had all this expertise and experience bubbling away in my head and thought I really needed to give it a go. Mixers have been part of me since I was a youngster and so it made sense for me to relaunch into a sector I was comfortable and known in.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

I’ve self-financed the project so far. Because of the sale of our previous business I was in the position of being able to invest in the new operation. I have faith in what we are doing and are capable of achieving in the future so I am confident it’s a sound investment. I’m not ruling out seeking finance sources for future expansions plans but we’ll take things one step at a time. And if we do get to that stage then it will be plan, plan and plan more to ensure we’re doing the right thing.

What was your biggest break?

Networking via social media has given an unimaginable boost to business. Because of the years I worked in the business my father established my name is well known out there. I work hard at keeping the business profile active online and focus on the art of networking to keep in touch with those in the marketplace.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Working with the excellent team we have here. Many of our team have years of experience in steel fabrication and in the world of mixer building. I always say every day is a school day and none more so than in this manufacturing sphere. Every day presents a new challenge and the pleasure comes from the learning and achieving good outcomes. I also love working with our customers.

What do you least enjoy?

The administration side of business these days is very time-consuming. It’s of course important but I know I can spend hours with my eyes glued to the computer screen just ploughing through it all.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

My dream is to grow the company to become a significant player in the UK concrete mixer building world. I am also driven by a desire to create good, solid manufacturing jobs for the local workforce. Lanarkshire has a history of manufacturing – sadly over the decades many jobs have been lost. I want to restore some of that great legacy.

What could the Westminster government and/or the Scottish Government do that would most help?

Keep talking to business owners, especially small firms like ours. It’s important for our elected representatives in both parliaments to sharpen their knowledge of the issues facing business owners.

I’m due to meet our local MSP Claire Haughey who proactively contacted me to arrange our meeting that’s scheduled for January. I liked that she had watched our development since launch.

It’s important too for organisations like Scottish Enterprise to thrive as they can be a vital source of grant aid for businesses like mine.

How do you relax?

I spend time with my family and friends, go to the gym and drink the odd gin whenever I switch off from work. I also help to look after our nine sheep which we keep in a field near the house. These sheep have become family pets, each with a name and are very biddable. Being outdoors either walking or tending to the animals gives me real breathing space and a bit of escapism.

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